After you hurt someone’s feelings or do something wrong, it turns out that saying sorry might not be the best solution. In fact, an apology might just add fuel to the fire, a recent study by researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Texas has found.
To assess the impact of apologies after social rejections, researchers approached thousands of people and asked them questions and had them participate in experiments. When asked to write “a good way of saying no,” 39 percent of participants included an apology in their notes with the belief that they’d lighten the situation. However, when they were put on the receiving end of these apologetic notes, they reported feeling more hurt.
Apologies can actually anger people and trigger them to seek revenge, the researchers found. In another experiment, they conducted face-to-face rejections in order to understand how rejectees actually felt after an incident.