Health & Spirit

When apologies backfire

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

Last April, when United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued apology after apology for the forcible ejection of Dr. David Dao from a flight he was seated on, the repeated mea culpas did nothing to quiet public reaction to the incident. Social media lit up with outrage at the inadequate responses, and millions viewed various videos of the incident on YouTube.

That wouldn't have surprised researchers who recently published a study in Frontiers in Psychology. They found that apologies are not the most effective way to ease someone's damaged feelings when you have turned down or rejected them.

The researchers conducted a series of experiments with around 1,000 people. In one scenario, people shown rejection letters found the ones containing apologies to be more hurtful. In another, researchers told people that they were being rejected from a hot-sauce-tasting event, but allowed those barred from the activity to decide how much hot sauce participants had to eat. Those who had received apologies ("I'm sorry, I don't want to work with you.") took more revenge on the hot-sauce qualifiers.

So next time you have to reject (or eject) someone romantically, professionally or socially, explain your reasoning and be friendly and polite. Accept responsibility for your action. But don't say, "I'm sorry." That will just make the rejection sting more and put you in the hot seat. Save "I'm sorry," for when you are in the wrong and need to make sincere amends, but don't ask for forgiveness -- that's not up to you. Then it works wonders.


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2017 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Hi and Lois Master Strokes: Golf Tips Rugrats Cathy Rubes The Barn