Why Refusing To Apologise Feels Better Than Apologising

Why Refusing To Apologise Feels Better Than Apologising

Nobody really likes to go through the act of apologising for a mistake. In a recent paper in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found that the reason might be that the act of not apologising actually makes us feel better than when we apologise.

Picture: Andrew Yee/Flickr

The paper surveyed 228 Americans about whether or not they apologised for a wrongdoing. Then, they divided the group at random and asked them to compose emails where they apologised or refused to apologise. Researcher Tyler G. Okimoto shares the results:

When you refuse to apologise, it actually makes you feel more empowered. That power and control seems to translate into greater feelings of self-worth.

Ironically, Okimoto said, people who refused to apologise ended up with boosted feelings of integrity.

Of course, while refusing to apologise might make you feel better about yourself, it can cause serious problems with your social life. Gracefully apologising for an error can save a relationship, which is a heck of a lot more useful than a few hours of empowerment.

Why Not Apologising Makes You Feel Better [NPR]


  • Why would you have more feelings of integrity when you’re apologising for your wrongdoing? That would really only be if you meant what you said or did and are not sorry — which is pretty much saying what you said or did wasn’t wrong.

  • I think it’s simpler than the ’empowerment’ described. Not apologising mentally absolves people of an admission of failure. Consistently avoiding admissions of failure leads to the (false) sense that they’re doing better than they really are. That leads to overconfidence, which leads to the unjustified sense of ‘integrity’ mentioned: they think not apologising has never done them wrong, so why compromise that consistency/integrity now by admitting to a failure? It’s all illusory.

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