Why Is It So Hard for
(Most) Men to Admit Mistakes?
By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
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From a woman's perspective, when it comes to admitting mistakes, men seem to have plopped down on earth from an alien culture.
What woman has not been exasperated by her man refusing to admit that he has made a mistake until he’s painted into a corner?
What woman has not been perplexed by her man refusing to ask for directions when he clearly does not know where he’s going?
What woman has not been pained by her man refusing to apologize or express remorse for what he has done or not done?
It’s not unusual for women to be confused about what’s going on in that opaque brain of their man. Hence, they may assume that their loved one is insecure, or has a severe character flaw, or is not playing with a full deck. Before you diagnose your man, however, entertain the possibility that he is simply a man, much like other men who view certain aspects of life in a different way from you.
Mistakes? Ignorance? Weakness? For most women, these vulnerabilities are not hard to admit.
Indeed, I know women who say “I’m sorry” many times a day. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate a friend’s need, or they missed a shot on the tennis court, or they didn’t respond in a timely way to a text. Admitting such goofs is no skin off their back. In fact, in a reverse kind of way, it tends to embellish their self-esteem (“I did right”) and enhance their relationships (“I expressed my regret for my mistake”).
For a man, however, admitting mistakes, revealing ignorance or displaying weakness is viewed differently. A mistake is not simply a mistake. It’s a manifestation of vulnerability; it’s a demonstration of failure; it cripples his self-esteem; it diminishes his relationships (or so he believes).
Hence, when most men are put on the spot, they’ll do what they’re used to doing to protect themselves: dance around the topic, duck the question, dodge the bullet, distort the discourse, deceive the questioner, discontinue the dialogue, double-talk, attack the attacker or simply lie.
This may sound pretty bad but it makes sense if you appreciate that the male psyche is founded on staying the course, toughing it out, standing your ground, riding out the storm, going it alone heroically. An embattled holdout is better than admitting fault. A facade of strength is preferable to showing a soft underbelly. A pretense of wizardry is superior to shrugging one’s shoulders and admitting ignorance. A “fake it till you make it” outweighs confessing your ignorance.
So, women, next time your man frustrates you by his inability to admit a mistake, ask for assistance or say he’s sorry, don’t judge him as a hopelessly flawed human being. Though some aspects of the male psyche may seem alien to you, understanding it can explain behavior that you may otherwise view as unacceptable, unreasonable, and unfair.
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.