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The scientific reason why you should stop apologizing

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Photo: Stocksy/Alberto Bogo

In today’s world, “I’m sorry” gets thrown around 24/7. But the reality? If your apology is more about trying to make someone feel less hurt rather than actually being sorry, it’s better to completely banish the word from your vocabulary.

According to a new study, researchers found saying sorry to someone isn’t really doing them any good. In terms of rejection, for instance—whether that’s a breakup or turning someone down for a job—it’s actually just making the person feel like they have to forgive you, and that can make the whole ordeal even more difficult for them to get over.

“It puts them in a situation where they feel like they have to respond by saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay,’ even if they don’t feel that way at all.”

“It puts them in a situation where they feel like they have to respond by saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay,’ even if they don’t feel that way at all,” lead author Gili Freedman told Real Simple. “When those feelings don’t match up, it can make them feel worse.”

To find this out, researchers talked to a little over 1,000 participants at local festivals and asked them to write down a “good way of saying no” to someone. Out of the responses, 39 percent included an apology. What’s funny, though, is when the roles reversed and the same participants were asked how they would feel if someone apologized during a rejection, they admitted they would feel more hurt.

So you might have good intentions when you tell someone you’re sorry (or, let’s be honest, just want to make yourself feel better about the situation), but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right thing to do. Be nice, but give it to them straight; it will be better for both of you in the end.

Need help getting over a breakup? Here’s the best science-backed way. And if difficult people are getting you down, try these tips for dealing with them (said ex included!).