I'm British and we're famous for how frequently we say sorry.
If we sneeze, we say sorry. If we stop someone to ask for directions, we say sorry. If you're rushing around like a reckless fool and you crash into us (your fault, not ours), we'll be the one to say sorry. It's like a verbal tic on a national scale.
Remarkably, the British eagerness to apologize for something we haven't done is matched by a reluctance to apologize for what we have done. When guilt comes into the equation, we go on the counterattack or get defensive. If you want to see this in action, check out the Jeremy Kyle show. It's like the British version of Jerry Springer only with way more confrontation and bleeped profanity.
Part of the problem is that we're a nation of Thinker-Judgers (76 percent of the British population are Thinkers and 62 percent are Judgers, according to research by OPP). And if there's one thing TJ's struggle with, it's apologizing. Is it arrogance? Overconfidence? Obstinacy? None of these. The reasons for the chronic non-apologizing excuses of TJs are more complex than you think.
Apologizing is always about emotions
Let's think about the sentence "I'm sorry!" Literally, it means: "This situation causes me suffering. I blame myself and feel shame that my behavior has resulted in these consequences. So, I confess my regret because I caused sorrow, disappointment or hurt for someone; I understand that my actions have caused someone to feel pain. And I hope that it will give him relief if I admit my guilt and assure him that I am sympathetic."
In this respect, "sorry" is never just a word of apology. There's a major difference between expressing regret that a situation exists ("I'm sorry you had to work late last night") and admitting you were wrong ("I'm sorry I said mean things about you behind your back"). The first is a statement of fact, no empathy required. The second is a proper apology. It demands that you address the repercussions of your actions. And this type of apology is always, always about feelings. Specifically, it requires you to understand the nuances of why someone feels upset, what the heck it is you've triggered in them, and what they need from you to heal the hurt. The merit of apologizing to appease all these feelings may seem obvious and automatic to Feeling types, but TJs? We're not known for being that sensitive.
The problem here is that TJs recover easily from their own emotional wounds and assume that this is also the case for others. We live with the constant urge to tell people to grow up and get over themselves. If someone is needing an apology for emotional soothing, there's a pretty good chance that they're not going to get it from a TJ. We're always going to act from the logical viewpoint anyway, which is gasoline on the flames when someone's looking for caring, not outsmarting. Most of us have learned the hard way that it's better to keep your mouth shut and admit nothing than to go down the route of a "feelings" apology.
The truth doesn't just matter to TJs; for some of us, it is everything. If we objectively are wrong, we will admit that we're wrong – and we'll do so gladly. What we will never do, is apologize insincerely. What's the point of an apology if you don't mean a word of it? We are not hypocrites. We don't believe in sugar coating (a.k.a lying) just because you can't handle the cold, hard facts of a situation. We love the truth too much to depreciate it with a lie.
One thing all TJs have in common is that we're very deliberate in our actions. We rarely do things that we don't intend to do, and we certainly don't go out of our way to upset others. What this means is, if someone thinks we need to say sorry, they're going to have to logically explain to us – with good arguments! – what we did wrong. We need this information before we can even weigh up the merits of an apology. And yes, that usually means deciding whether keeping the peace (which we don't especially care about) will benefit us enough to veer from the absolute truth of a situation. Being forced to say sorry when we're not factually wrong is like we're torturing ourselves; it causes real pain.
Mistakes, what mistakes?
This may shock you but basically, TJs are right rather than wrong. We go out of our way to avoid making mistakes and when we do get something wrong, our instinct is to see it as a learning opportunity. If we work our ass off and it doesn't work out, why should we say "sorry?" We did everything we could to make it work; there's no reason to feel guilty if it didn't. TJs have a high tolerance threshold for mistakes because it lets us change course and improve something.
Unless they have done something truly catastrophic, TJs will never apologize for "learning" mistakes. Which, when you think about it, is virtually every mistake you'll ever make. Arrogance feeds our intelligence. We have no problem with admitting to a genuine mistake but this is not apologizing – it's improvement. We can't feel remorse for that.
It's a control thing
If TJ's feel great internal resistance to apologizing, it's because not saying sorry gives them a greater sense of control. The fact is, most apologies exact some toll on the offender. The natural consequence of apologizing is that it transfers power from the transgressor to the person they've transgressed, who can then choose whether accept or reject the apology. This transfer of power depreciates the transgressor's status, expertise or reputation. This is especially damaging for TJs whose value systems turn on such things.
Of course, there's an argument that admitting guilt and showing remorse should enhance the image of the transgressor in the eyes of others because it shows that you're capable of doing the right thing. This may be true. But for TJs, it's a massive trade off between doing what's right (as others expect) and feeding our own need for independence, power and mastery of our subject. By refusing to apologize, we preserve the thing that give us our sense of authenticity and self-worth. Apologies are not cheap when they sacrifice some of our personal values.
We don't dwell, we move forwards
People don't always realize this because it happens in secret, but TJs – especially the intuitive ones – are putting themselves through a self-judging and self-reflecting process all the time. We set very high standards for ourselves and are quick to beat ourselves up if there was something we could have done better. If we look inside and find our actions wanting, then we will inwardly acknowledge our failings.
There's no benefit to verbally speaking of this process, however. By the time we've acknowledged a failing, we've already gone beyond a simple "I'm sorry." We've created the action plan for moving forwards. We can apologize in the most sincere, heart-exposing terms someone likes but it will always feel shallow. Why? Because it's more important to us that we make amends. Surely it's better to make things right than to harbor useless feelings of remorse over something that's already happened?