An apology for something beyond anyone’s control, such as the weather, has the effect of making others trust the apologizer, says a team led by Alison Wood Brooks of Harvard Business School. For example, when a young man approached strangers in a train station on a rainy day and said, “I’m so sorry about the rain! Can I borrow your phone?” he was successful 47% of the time, compared with just 9% if he simply asked to borrow a phone. Past studies have shown that when culpability for negative situations is ambiguous, people reward those who take blame more than those who express remorse.
SOURCE: I’m Sorry About the Rain!: Superfluous Apologies Demonstrate Empathic Concern and Increase Trust