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Being an Apologist Has Its Rewards

Can saying "I'm sorry" more often aid your career? That's the implication of a recent survey by the respected Zogby polling organization.

The Zogby International survey of 7,590 Americans found a strong positive association between income and willingness to apologize in a variety of situations.

"People earning over $100,000 a year are almost twice as likely to apologize after an argument or mistake as those earning $25,000 or less," Fortune magazine reported in outlining the survey findings. When subjects were asked if they'd apologize when they were fully, partly or not at all at fault, in each case "a person's willingness to apologize was an almost perfect predictor of their place on the income ladder."

For instance, the proportion saying they usually apologize when completely at fault declined uniformly across five income groups, going from 92 percent of those making more than $100,000 to 52 percent of those earning less than $25,000. "Even when they believe themselves to be completely blameless, 22% of the highest earners say 'I'm sorry,' compared to just 13% of those in the lowest income group," Fortune said

The magazine sees several possible explanations: Successful people have stronger people skills, are more willing to learn from their mistakes, are more disposed to take risks without getting permission first, and are more secure and less likely to get defensive when something goes wrong.

So, although "groveling" isn't the route to success, Fortune senior writer and workplace expert Anne Fischer concludes that "taking the high road - acknowledging one's share of blame, or even accepting some blame when it isn't justified - is a trait shared by many great leaders, because it tends to build solidarity with the troops."

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