Always trying to Be More Beyoncé, Terri-Jane Dow is bored of apologising.
I apologise too much. I use “sorry” in place of “excuse me” and “pardon,” I preface questions with, “Sorry, but…,” and I would much rather leave all decision making to someone else. It’s very British of me, apparently, but more than that; it’s very specifically female. In 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, John Wayne stated that one should “Never apologise. It’s a sign of weakness.” It’s a statement that seems to have hit Wayne’s hyper-masculine target audience, but outside of that demographic? Not so much. There have been a lot of articles recently regarding studies into feminine language – in short, compared to men, women are both more apologetic, and more concerned with others’ perception of their actions. Women are twice as likely to suffer from both anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders. There are studies into the reasons behind this; women are far more anxious to be perceived as being “nice”, whereas men, generally, are differently conditioned to prosociality. A study at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, found that when they’re in the wrong, men are equally as likely to apologise as women; it’s that they just don’t feel like they’re in the wrong as often. If, then, there’s no scientific evidence for women apologising more, it really is a case of social conditioning. Alongside this knowledge is the fact that the most successful people I know – the ones who speed, spider-monkey like, to the top of the ladder, and manage to juggle the work / life balance with ease – are also the least apologetic.