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Regret or Apology?
When does saying you\'re sorry go from an expression of regret to an apology? The sad thing about this is that some people don\'t know the difference. Deborah Tannen, a professor at Georgetown University, reports
"The First Lady… \'I regret very much that the efforts on
health care were badly misunderstood, taken out of context,
and used politically against the Administration. I take
responsibility for that, and I\'m very sorry for that\' she said.
The first part of the quote clearly indicates that the fault was
not with her actions... but rather with the way they were
received and distorted by others. But because she said the
big bad \'S\' word, all hell broke loose. One newspaper
article quoted a political scientist as saying, \'To apologize
for substantive things you\'ve done raises the white flag.\'"
This political scientist obviously took this statement of regret out of context.
Previously stated was a comment about "raising the white flag" which symbolizes retreat, defeat, and weakness. "I think those brave enough to admit fault would find a... power at home: It\'s amazing how an apology, if it seems sincere, can dissipate another\'s anger.... Erich Segal got it exactly wrong. Love doesn\'t mean never having to say you\'re sorry. Love means being able to say you\'re sorry..., being strong enough to admit you were at fault." Tannen boldly stated (109). I agree with her, I don\'t think that saying you\'re sorry and admitting you were wrong makes you weak at all. In my family I was taught that admitting that you were wrong made you a stronger, better person. Not everyone was raised the same way I was, in a household of nothing but women, so I guess that that is one possible reason men may find it hard to admit guilt.
Why does it seem to be more of a task for men, well, not all men, to apologize and admit they are wrong? Tannen says, "One C.E.O. found that he could avoid it entirely: His deputy told me that part of his job was to make the rounds after the boss had lost his temper and apologize for him." (107). Men in power, especially, tend to have this problem with apologizing a little more frequently than average people. A great example is our own President Bill Clinton, in reference to the Monica Lewensky scandal, refused to apologize for the embarrassment of the office on national television.
Tannen later said, "... apologizing is seen as a sign of weakness. This explains why more men than women might resist apologizing, since most boys learn early on that their peers will take advantage of them if they appear weak. Girls in contrast, tend to reward other girls who talk in ways that show they don\'t think they\'re better than their peers." (108). Why is it that our society believes that it is expected that women say they are sorry for their mistakes but men are thought to be weak for doing this very same thing? I think that women in our culture were originally expected to be submissive to their husbands. People need to wake up and move their expectations from the eighteen-nineties to the nineteen-nineties. Today\'s women are just as strong willed and independent as men are now, so why are we still raising our boys to believe that it is weak and girl-like to apologize and cry?
Another point that needs to be addressed is why people say they are "sorry"? Some use the phrase for more trivial things such as bumping into you. Deborah Tannen gives us an excellent example: "…the depth of remorse should be commensurate with the significance of the offense. An offhand \'Sorry about that\' might be fine for an insignificant error like dropping a piece of paper, but if you drop a glass of red wine on your host\'s brand new white couch, a fleeting \'Sorry about that\' will not suffice" (107). Many people are very lax about using the phrase "I\'m sorry" because they tend to use it in a very different manner. Listen very carefully the next time someone apologizes to you. Do they apologize because they regret having been caught, your reaction to what they had done, or are they actually felling bad and being apologetic for
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Cognitive dissonance, Etiquette, Non-apology apology, Obfuscation, Sorry, Deborah Tannen, Stolen Generations
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