The secrets to a good apology

“Results indicated that relationships recovered significantly when offending partners used behaviors labeled as explicit acknowledgment, nonverbal assurance, and compensation.”

Therapists and theologians claim that the process of forgiveness is essential to the restoration of damaged relationships, but this possibility has received limited empirical attention. Furthermore, the role of an offender’s communicative behavior in the forgiveness process remains understudied. This project first analyzed an inductively derived list of communication behaviors to develop a taxonomy of forgiveness-seeking approaches used by 186 romantic partners. These were interpreted with reference to face-management, uncertainty reduction, and rule-negotiation approaches to relationship recovery. Associations between the types of forgiveness-seeking communication and several different measures of post-transgression relationship change were examined. Results indicated that relationships recovered significantly when offending partners used behaviors labeled as explicit acknowledgment, nonverbal assurance, and compensation. Significant communicative effects remained after the effects of transgression severity were controlled. Results are interpreted as partially supportive of the assumption that forgiveness-seeking communication facilitates recovery from relational damage.

Source: “An Investigation of Forgiveness-seeking Communication and Relational Outcomes” from Communication Quarterly, Volume 53, Issue 3 August 2005 , pages 339 – 358

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