I recently encountered an individual that was involved in an argument with a group of my friends. I had no dog in the fight, which allowed me to do my most favorite thing in the world…people watch! It is very interesting to watch how people behave, argue, respond to stress, etc. And how a person argues reveals a lot about that person’s character. But what truly reveals the type of person is their willingness to say “I am sorry.”
In my experience, those that are quick to apologize or at least entertain the possibility that they need to apologize are those with high levels of character. While those that are reluctant to apologize show very low character.
This fact shows itself to be true over and over.
I have learned that those that are reluctant to apologize are usually closed-minded, insecure, stubborn, selfish, envious, emotionally unstable, etc. Now this is my experience and I base this assessment on my memories of people that I have known that were non-apologists. But if you think about it yourself I am sure you will find most of these traits to be common for this type of person.
But why are some people so reluctant to even consider apologizing? I found these 5 reasons on Psychology Today:
- Admissions of wrong doing are incredibly threatening for non-apologists because they have trouble separating their actions from their character. If they did something bad, they must be bad people; if they were neglectful, they must be fundamentally selfish and uncaring; if they were wrong, they must be ignorant or stupid, etc. Therefore, apologies represent a major threat to their basic sense of identity and self-esteem.
- Apologizing might open the door to guilt for most of us, but for non-apologists, it can open the door instead to shame. While guilt makes us feel bad about our actions, shame makes them feel bad about their selves—who they are—which makes shame a far more toxic emotion than guilt.
- While most of us consider apologies as opportunities to resolve interpersonal conflict, non-apologists may fear their apology will only open the floodgates to further accusations and conflict. Once they admit to one wrongdoing, surely the other person will pounce on the opportunity to pile on all the previous offenses for which they refused to apologize as well.
- Non-apologists fear that by apologizing, they would assume full responsibility and relieve the other party of any culpability—if arguing with a spouse, for example, they might fear an apology would exempt the spouse from taking any blame for a disagreement, despite the fact that each member of a couple has at least some responsibility in most arguments.
- By refusing to apologize, non-apologists are trying to manage their emotions. They are often comfortable with anger, irritability, and emotional distance, and experience emotional closeness and vulnerability to be extremely threatening. They fear that lowering their guard even slightly will make their psychological defenses crumble and open the floodgates to a well of sadness and despair that will pour out of them, leaving them powerless to stop it. They might be correct. However, they are incorrect in assuming that exhibiting these deep and pent-up emotions (as long as they get support, love, and caring when they do—which fortunately, is often the case), will be traumatic and damaging. Opening up in such a way is often incredibly therapeutic and empowering, and it can lead them to experience far deeper emotional closeness and trust toward the other person, significantly deepening their relationship satisfaction.
I know that many non-apologists do not consider apologizing because they feel that they will forfeit the upper hand or lose control of the situation. They must always be in control and maintain a sense of power and they do this by refusing to admit any wrong doing or blame.
They view apologizing as a sign of weakness, whereas, the truth is apologizing is a sign of tremendous strength and a sign of high character.
If you are a person that is reluctant to apologize, please spend some serious time in introspection. It is not an endearing trait and is probably costing you friends and favor with colleagues. It is not only the reluctance to apologize that puts people off, but the other character traits that exist in you that cause you to be a non-apologist.
Just thinking out loud…