According to a recent study, apologies don’t soften the blow of rejection. The research finds that despite their good intentions, people are going about it the wrong way. They often apologize, but that makes people feel worse than they have to forgive the rejecter before they are ready. There can be times when people cannot accept all invitations or wish to avoid a social encounter, but little is known about how they can protect the feelings of those being rejected.
Social norms dictate that we should forgive someone if they apologize, which puts the target of social rejection in a difficult position if they aren’t ready to do this or think the apology is insincere. Over a thousand people who were approached in a town for various festivals, it was found that 39% of people included an apology when asked to write a ‘good way of saying no’ to a social request, such as being able to meet up or to be roommates again. When asked how they would feel when putting in this position themselves, those people shown a rejection containing an apology reported higher feelings of hurt.
The findings indicated that those, who offered an apology when rejected from a set of group tasks, which included a taste test of hot sauce, exacted revenge by allocating more sauce to the person who had rejected them.