A few weeks ago, Karyn Polewaczyk had plans to meet a friend for coffee. At the last minute, the friend canceled the date by way of a flurry of apologetic texts: "Ugggggggh” then “You’re going to kill me” then “Please don't hate me.” Polewaczyk’s friend was a woman. And so, in the wake of the digital sorryfest, she has turned to Jezebel to implore all women to quit saying they’re sorry so much. “It’s a she thing,” Polewaczyk writes. Women apologize more frequently than men do, and so women have got to stop.
Sorry, but I’m not going to stop saying I’m sorry. First, it’s not an established fact that women apologize more than men. Polewaczyk cites one highly circulated 2010 study of a small group of Canadians who were asked to record their daily offenses and apologies in a diary. The women recorded more of both. But in I Was Wrong: The Meanings of Apologies, Nick Smith surveys the wider academic record on apology rates for men and women and finds no consensus on how often we send our regrets. One researcher found no discernible difference in how often men and women take the blame. Others relied almost exclusively on anecdotal evidence and interpretation. And none of these studies agree with one another on the definition of an apology—is it accepting blame for an event or just saying “I’m sorry”?