Want people to trust you? Apologize

Want to be successful? A thought leader? Well-liked by your peers and trusted by your leadership? Try apologizing.

A new study by Alison Brooks (Harvard), Hengchen Dai (University of Pennsylvania), and Maurice E. Schweitzer (University of Pennsylvania), showed that people were much more likely to lend a stranger their cell phone when the stranger first apologized for the rain — something that was clearly outside of his control. The difference was significant: Only 9 percent of strangers handed over their phones without the apology, but 47 percent did when the person apologized.

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4 thoughts on “Want people to trust you? Apologize

  1. What an interesting study! I will pay attention the next time someone asks for my help, to see if they use it:) Saying sorry is the most difficult word to say, whether it is before or after a situation. And it’s easier to get past a problem (for instance – a coworker having a bad day and behaving badly or saying nasty things) when the person apologizes (with or without an explanation) than it is if they act that way and do not say for their words or behaviour!

    1. One thing I thought was interesting (but didn’t write about) is how women are more likely to apologize for things beyond our control than men are. We’re criticized for this and told to stop being wimpy. But, maybe we’ve just figured out that by apologizing, we get people to help us.

      And frankly, I like people to help me.

  2. Thanks Suzanne! I think the more “human” a manager is, the better. I’ve met so many bad ones, it’s amazing. Apologizing for anything would be TOTALLY out of their comfort zone. From your comment above, I wonder if woman make better managers because of asking for help, being more empathetic and more “human”? Are there any studies?

    1. I have had women managers who are not good managers (or maybe just in my opinion) because they were not empathetic and never said sorry for their behaviour…. maybe because they didn’t want to appear wimpy. But really they came across as being cold-hearted. But maybe the good ones have figured out the ’empathy’ part and are genuinely treating their staff as human! 🙂

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