Friday, October 5th, 2012

Research conducted by McCrindle Research highlights what Australians think makes an acceptable apology and what doesn’t cut it! 

Australians are excellent at apologising with 93% indicating they always or mostly offer an apology for something they’ve done wrong. 2 in 5 are even quick to apologise if they are not 100% sure they are the one to blame (42%).

Some demographics were more likely to apologise quickly and in a humble manner. Below are three key groups for whom saying sorry seems to come a little easier.

1. Women

Women are more likely than men to quickly admit they made a mistake, with 48% of women stating they are quick to apologise, compared to just 39% of men. Women were also more likely to respect someone for saying sorry, due to the courage and humility it would take to do so (89% compared to 82% of men). Men were more likely than women to be satisfied with the “non apology” (as outline below), while women were more likely to prefer the “unreserved” apology (also outlined below).

2. Older Australians

Older Australians are far more inclined to say sorry than the younger generations. 48% of Builders (aged 66 and above) say that would apologise quickly even when they aren’t sure it’s their fault. This compared to 41% of Baby Boomers, 44% of Gen Xs and just 37% of Gen Ys! Similarly, 93% of Builders said they would respect someone more for apologising, compared to just 76% of Gen Ys.

3. Those with a significant other

Perhaps having learnt the art of swallowing your pride, those with a significant other were more inclined to apologise quickly. 43% of this demographic would apologise quickly, compared to 40% of those without a partner.

It’s all in the wording

It’s not just making an apology that matters, but how you say it as well. Below are the key apology styles and how likely they will be accepted. 

 1. The ‘unreserved’ apology:

The most acceptable apology in the eyes of Australians is the most humble. 94% of us said that the best apology is one that leaves no room for pride and the apologiser acknowledges that they were wrong and are sorry for it. Moreover, they ask for forgiveness.

2. The ‘thorough’ apology 

This type of apology is still acceptable for many Australians with 89% likely to respond well to the wording, “I’m sorry for saying those things about you - please forgive me”. This approach sees the one saying sorry taking ownership over what they said and again, asking for forgiveness. However, unlike the last apology, the apologiser does not admit that they were wrong. 

3. The ‘disclaimer’ apology

In this type of apology, the culprit admits that the words they used weren’t good but there is no further admission beyond that – with a statement like “Please accept my apologies for the words that I used”. Even though this type of apology doesn’t really get to the heart of what has been done, 76% of Australians still think it is appropriate. 

4. The ‘share the blame’ apology:

Moving further away from apologies that admit wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, this type of apology simply admits regret for the other person’s hurt with a statement like “I regret that my words may have hurt you”. 3 in 5 Australians still believe this sort of apology is fine, compared to 2 in 5 who do not.

5. The ‘non-apology’

The non-apology is not so much an apology, as a message to the offended to “get over it”. The non apology, expressed with a statement like “If any offence has been taken from my words then this is unfortunate”, is disliked by nearly 8 in 10 Australians and only considered acceptable by 22%. Good examples of a non-apology are phrases like, “mistakes were made” with no indication of by whom!

Respecting those who say it:

Not only are Australians quick to say sorry, but we respect others who humbly apologise. 85% of Australians respect someone more for saying sorry, while for a further 15% it doesn’t change their opinion either way. Only 1% of respondents would think less of the person.

The research supporting this summary was conducted by McCrindle Research in 2012 through a national study of Australians which received 828 completed surveys. For comment, or a copy of the full release, please contact Mark McCrindle on 0411 5000 90 or Francesca Dalton on 02 8824 3422. Alternatively email: [email protected]