Saying "I'm Sorry" After Rejecting Someone Can Make Them Feel Worse, Study Finds, So Here's What To Do Instead

Ad failed to load

Getting rejected by someone you like can feel terrible. Because of that, it's not uncommon to feel the need to soften the blow when you're in the position to let someone down. I mean, how many times have you started or even ended a rejection with an, "I'm sorry"? But according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, your good natured attempts at trying to make someone feel better during rejection might actually make them feel worse.

"When someone apologizes for rejecting another person it's like a one-two punch," NYC-based Relationship and Wellness Coach, Shula Melamed, MA, MPH tells Bustle. "First, you're getting rejected. Then, the person rejecting you is offering you some pity through an apology? Ouch."

In fact, researchers from Dartmouth College recently conducted a study on social rejection. Unlike previous studies that put focus on the person being rejected, lead author, Dr. Gili Freedman was more interested in examining the rejector. "Most people have had the experience of wanting to minimize the hurt of the person they are rejecting," Freedman said in a press release. "But how exactly do you do that?"

Ad failed to load

For one part of the study, Freedman and colleagues surveyed over a thousand people and found that 39 percent of people said attaching an apology to a social rejection, like going on a second date, was a "good way of saying no." However, when asked to put themselves in the rejected position, those same people reported to having higher levels of hurt feelings. So despite thinking it's helpful when you're the one rejecting someone, they don't actually believe it's helpful when the tables are turned. Researchers conducted two follow-up experiments and found that not only do rejected people feel worse after being given a "pity" apology, they're also likely to feel like they have to forgive the rejector before they're ready. One experiment even found that hidden feelings of resentment may even cause the rejected to seek out subtle forms of revenge.

So apparently saying, "I'm sorry" after letting someone down isn't really going to do anything for anyone. Unless, of course, you have other motivations for your apology. "When people apologize after they reject someone it is more likely designed to make the rejector feel better about potentially hurting someone rather than caring for the rejected," Melamed says.

When it comes to your love life, if you are going to turn down a date or someone who likes you it's important to be civil, direct, and respectful. Since apologizing isn't the way to go, here are better ways to turn down someone who likes you.

Ad failed to load

1Show Flattery And Gratitude

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Even if you're not interested, it always feels nice when someone likes who you are as a person. So as marriage and couples therapist, Erin Wiley, MA, LPCC tells Bustle, it's totally OK to say, Thank you. "It's great to express your appreciation that they had the guts to ask you out in the first place," Wiley says. "That's really risky emotionally for people. Letting them know you are flattered they asked is also a nice way to soften the blow of rejection."

2Emphasize Your Platonic Feelings For Them

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

If a friend asks you out but you're not interested in taking it to that level, that can definitely make things awkward. But as Wiley says, "Letting someone know that you don't see them as potential dating material, but just more of a friend let's them know you have a friendship that isn't ruined by them asking you out."

3Practice The "Golden Rule"

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

"Ask yourself how you would like to be left down gently, and craft a response along those lines," NYC-based matchmaker, Shlomo Zalman Bregman tells Bustle. If you don't want someone to keep you hanging, ghost you, or to lie to you, then don't do that to someone else. Nobody wants to get rejected. But if you're going to be in that position, you'd want someone to do it in a kind, clear, and honest way. So be sure to do that with the person you're rejecting.

Ad failed to load

4Do The "Build-Break-Build" Method

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Jess McCann, Relationship Coach and author of Was It Something I Said: The Answer to All Your Dating Dilemmas designed a simple "Build-Break-Build" method to let someone down, which goes like this: "I had a nice time with you tonight. You are a very interesting person (the Build-up). I don't feel like there was a romantic connection between us, and I'm sure you felt the same way (the Break). But I did enjoy dinner! Thank you for making me laugh and feel comfortable with you (the final Build-up)."

So you ease into the conversation with a build-up like a compliment, you break it to them gently, and you end the conversation with another build-up. That way you're honest, polite, and don't leave them feeling pitied in any way.

5Don't Be Afraid To Be Direct And Honest

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

You're not responsible for anyone else's feelings but your own. You can't control what other people are going to think or how they're going to react to what you tell them. "No matter what you do or say, some people are going to be overly invested in the outcome," Dating Expert and Advice Columnist, Deborrah Cooper tells Bustle. "People do not have the power to 'make' anyone not feel hurt. It puts too much responsibility on a person to protect another's ego and feelings at the expense of their own."

Instead, Cooper advises to acknowledge the request, express gratitude, and decline the invitation clearly and firmly. "People have to learn that they are not obligated to go out with anyone just because they ask," Cooper says. "If the rejected party decides that his or her feelings are hurt, that is their choice."

When it comes to rejecting someone, there's really no need to make excuses, put it off, or feel bad about it. Rejecting someone isn't fun, but as long as you're honest and clear, you've done your part.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

11 Ways To Stay Positive When Dating Feels Like The Worst, According To Matchmakers

With every first date that leads to nowhere or every non-relationship that ends up being a waste of your time, finding love can seem far from possible. It can also be pretty rough on your self-esteem if you continually put a lot of effort into dating…
By Kristine Fellizar

I Tried Venus' New Facial Hair Removal Device & Will Never Get My Upper Lip Area Waxed Again

I remember the first time I realized I was growing hair above my upper lip. It was when a very rude seventh grader decided to point it out in front of my friends and me during our lunch break. He wasn't wrong — just mean — and ever since then, I've b…
By Sara Tan

Here Are The Exact Steps To Take If You Want To Travel All The Time & Work Remotely

When I first decided I wanted to become a digital nomad — someone who travels non-stop while working remotely — I was terrified and unsure if I would actually go through with it. I worried my work would suffer from all the travel and time zone change…
By Suzannah Weiss

7 Ways To Celebrate Your 30th Birthday That Are Feminist AF

Turning 30 is a pretty major milestone; it's one of those birthdays where large parties, floods of presents and many bouquets from besotted admirers seem to be in order. And as a woman and a feminist, I'm here to offer some additional 30th birthday i…
By JR Thorpe

Here’s Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In April

As the virtual shelf life for non-original Netflix programs grows shorter and shorter, fans of the streaming service are bidding woeful goodbyes to their favorite titles left and right. So, for those who need some time to prepare, here's everything l…
By Angelica Florio

Is Amazon's Alexa Making Our Relationships Weird?

Earlier this year, I started dating a guy who was in a very codependent relationship with Alexa. Alexa helped this guy (I'll call him "Paul") decide where to eat dinner and reminded him to work out. Alexa handled his to-do lists, restocked his toile…
By Sophie Saint Thomas

You Can Get Too Faced Mascara & Tarte Lipstick For HALF OFF At Ulta This Month

It's finally here! Ulta's 21 Days of Beauty Sale runs from now through Saturday, April 7 and is the retailer's epic "event" of the year. The promotion features "Beauty Steals," which means 50 percent off specific products for a single day. It also in…
By Amy Sciarretto

7 Things My 20s Taught Me About Toxic Relationships

I'll be turning 30 in less than a week, and while I'm trying to get all the habits of my twenties out of the way ASAP, I'm also reflecting on the what I learned over the past decade. And top of the list is the lessons I learned about toxic relationsh…
By JR Thorpe

7 Surprising Things That Happened When I Went A Month Without Drinking

If someone asked you if you could take a break from drinking alcohol, would you be able to do it? You may think it’s no big deal to take a month off from drinking, or you may think it’s a *huge* deal, as alcohol seems to be the center of many social …
By Natalia Lusinski

I Wore 'Dad Shoes' For A Week & They Were SO Much Cooler Than I Thought They’d Be

It’s no secret that fashion loves a good polarizing trend. Not too long ago, Birkenstocks made their high fashion runway appearance at Céline and Crocs followed suit on the runways of Christopher Kane and Balenciaga. Now, it’s time for the "ugly" sne…
By Dale Arden Chong

8 Ways Younger Millennials Communicate That Older Millennials Don’t Get

When comparing the ways our parents grew up communicating and the way we all grew up communicating, it seems like their generation and ours grew up in a different world. The technology our parents grew up with was so basic, it's ancient in comparison…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

This Is The ONE Sign That Won’t Be Affected By Mercury Retrograde This Month

It really doesn't seem fair that one astrological sign can ever enjoy the benefit of escaping the wrath of Mercury retrograde — that is, of course, unless that sign is your own — but it happens. Occasionally, the stars just align in the right way for…
By Kaitlyn Wylde

Why My Boyfriend & I Started Couples Counseling 6 Months Into Our Relationship

Right away, Kurt and I agreed on almost everything. We had met through a mutual friend in 2015, but we didn't start dating until we came across each other on Bumble a few years later. That's when we discovered that we were on the same page when it ca…
By Rachel Simon

This Primer & Mascara Combo Literally Doubles The Length Of My Eyelashes

Even as someone who loves beauty, I was never been particularly passionate about finding the perfect mascara. And then I got lash extensions for the first time. While I enjoy the long, full lashes that lash extensions provide, I always found myself j…
By Olivia Muenter

I Accidentally Fell In Love With My Friend With Benefits & It's Painful

Against my better judgment, I have fallen in love with my friend with benefits. I think I may have fallen in love with him month ago, but being stubborn AF, I fought against those feelings, tooth and nail, and, when it was suggested by a couple close…
By Amanda Chatel

This Viral Post About A Woman Breastfeeding In Public Actually Has A Happy Ending For Once

And today in things that will warm even the coldest of hearts, we have this: A story recently posted to the r/TwoXChromosome subreddit about a dad’s response to his daughter shaming a breastfeeding parent is everything. Posted by Redditor u/starsonwi…
By Lucia Peters

These March Beauty Launches Require Your Immediate Attention

I write one of these beauty editorials every month (feel free to check out January and February 2018 if you're in need of even more products to shower yourself with). Sometimes, I get worried that there won't be enough newness to share — especially b…
By Amanda Richards

Here's How You’re Most Likely To Get Your Heart Broken, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

Getting your heart broken can be one of the most painful experiences you can have in your life. But if you're into astrology, being familiar with your zodiac sign can be pretty helpful. For instance, when you know the ways you're likely to get your h…
By Kristine Fellizar

How I Learned Losing Your Job Isn't The End Of The World

Two and a half years ago, I was taking a day off from my marketing job at a San Francisco tech startup to host a friend when I got a call from the CEO. Apparently, I'd missed a pretty big day: 80 percent of the company, including the whole sales and …
By Suzannah Weiss

Meghan Markle's First Appearance With The Queen Included An Homage To Princess Diana

Fashion pundits love keeping a close eye on what the women of the monarchy are wearing, especially when there's an overlap with Princess Diana's sense of style. We're nothing but nostalgic when it comes to Princess Di and her on-point aesthetic. Find…
By Marlen Komar

Why Arizona's Exit From 'Grey's Anatomy' Is A Huge Blow To The LGBTQ Community

Whenever I re-watch Grey's Anatomy, I don't start with Derek Shepherd waking up in Meredith's apartment after their first hookup. I start with Season 5, when Callie first meets Arizona in a bar. I start here, because I want to watch someone like me f…
By Martha Sorren

I Couldn't Find A Beauty Campaign With Plus Size Models, So I Made One Myself

In the fall of 2015, I visited relatives in my hometown, a small suburb of New Jersey. There isn't much to do there, apart from dining at Applebee's or hitting the mall. As a plus size woman, cruising through a shopping mall is a mixed bag. Certain d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

The 21 New Books That Goodreads Users Are Most Excited About This Spring

Despite the fact the Northeast is being pummeled by yet another storm that threatens to trap the region in snow and ice for eternity, winter is finally almost over, and you know what that means. No, I'm not talking about April showers or May flowers …
By Sadie Trombetta

If You’re Addicted To Rewatching ‘The Office,' There’s An Actual Reason For That

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I was looking for fans of The Office who can't stop, won't stop rewatching the series, and that they should email me if they'd like to contribute to an article about their obsession. By the next morning, I had 32 messa…
By Lia Beck