London, Feb 6 (IANS) "Sorry" is the hardest word to say even though it eases guilt feelings and help restore a wrongdoer's image. But declining to apologise might actually be good for our self esteem, says a new Australian study.
Apology is derived from Greek apologia - meaning a defence or an explanation - and the issue of when to apologise is one that has always vexed humans.
Plato's Apology, ostensibly the text of the speech his teacher, the great Greek philosopher Socrates, gave in his defence at his trial for corrupting the youth of Athens, maintains this classical meaning of the word, the European Journal of Social Psychology reports.
However, apology in the modern sense has come to mean an admission of wrongdoing, with none of the defensive implications of its etymological root, according to the Daily Mail.
Elton John had a hit in 1976 with "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" - a song about a doomed romance - and Henry Kissinger once declared "You are you and that is the beginning and the end - no apologies, no regrets".
More recently Lance Armstrong, the cyclist stripped of seven Tour de France titles for doping, protested his innocence long and hard before finally saying "sorry" in an Oprah Winfrey interview last month.
Tyler Okimoto, from the University of Queensland Business School, wanted to figure out why people often refuse to say sorry despite apologies being an easy way to reduce blame and punishment.
The participants involved 228 adults aged from 18 to 77 years.
Some were asked to think about a time they had upset someone and apologised, others a time when they upset someone and refused to apologise and others a time when they upset someone and neither said sorry nor refused to.
Participants who had refused to apologise reported having felt greater power and greater levels of self-esteem than those who had made an apology.