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Apologies in Close Relationships: A Review of Theory and Research

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This article summarizes current theory and research related to apologies in close relationships. Eight studies examined predictors of the occurrence and effectiveness of apologies, and 7 studies investigated outcomes associated with apologies. Two studies investigated predictors and associated outcomes of apologies. Findings indicated that characteristics of the victim (e.g., willingness to empathize), characteristics of the transgressor (e.g., gender, personality), and specific contextual factors (e.g., relational closeness) influence the occurrence and effectiveness of an apology. Several factors, including the transgressor's ability to adopt a self-focus or self-other focus when apologizing, were associated with positive relationship outcomes. The review highlights a lack of consensus in apology conceptualization and the need for additional research on the role of apologies in maintaining close relationships.
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... After committing a transgression, romantic partners often look for ways to repair damaged relationships. Apologies play a critical role in encouraging reconciliation and repairing relationships (e.g., Lewis, Parra, & Cohen, 2015). However, many transgressors resist apologizing to partners (Schumann & Dweck, 2014). ...
... Apologizing after committing a transgression is an important step to facilitate forgiveness and repair damaged relationships (e.g., Lewis, Parra, & Cohen, 2015). Results from this study indicated that, after committing a transgression, self-esteem predicted transgressors' apologies, but this depended on their self-image goals. ...
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Little research has examined the role of the self in relation to apologies in close relationships. This study (N = 77 couples) tested how self-esteem following a relational transgression predicts apology, and whether this association is moderated by self-image goals toward partners. Results indicated that self-esteem after committing a transgression and self-image goals did not uniquely predict apology. However, self-image goals and self-esteem interacted, such that those with lower transgression-related self-esteem were more likely to apologize when they had lower self-image goals; self-esteem was unrelated to apology when self-image goals were higher. These findings suggest that there is a synergistic effect between self-esteem and self-image goals that may facilitate apology. Future research should further consider the role of multiple aspects of the self in apologies in close relationships.
... Further, Lewis et al. (2015) contended that "there are likely important quantitative and qualitative differences between apologies in close and nonclose relationships" (p. 48). ...
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... Because of the unclear personal impact, it is plausible that participants may have deemed this scenario less severe than other integrity offenses such as lying or stealing, and severity is known to impact apology effectiveness (Bennett and Earwaker, 1994). Restoration of a damaged relationship is also more likely if there is a close personal relationship between the apologizer and recipient (Lewis, Parra, & Cohen, 2015), and it is plausible that participants were more forgiving because they were in proximity to the entrepreneur at the time of transgression in contrast to the online-only customer relationship in the botched server scenario. Because of these limitations, our contrary findings about the impact of severity on apology effectiveness should be viewed conservatively. ...
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Entrepreneurs are expected to seek forgiveness from stakeholders for a transgression. While research has shown that apologies issued by entrepreneurs can be an effective tool for obtaining forgiveness, there is no assurance that an apology leading to stakeholder forgiveness will also necessarily restore future cooperation. We contend that entrepreneurial apologies are an effective mechanism for entrepreneurs to receive forgiveness and that forgiveness mediates the relationship between the apology and the restoration of future cooperation by reducing the amount of retributive justice sought by stakeholders. Quantitative analysis of data from a questionnaire administered to 268 U.S. university students and 120 U.S. participants on Mechanical Turk supports our contention, with participants found to be significantly more forgiving of an entrepreneurial transgression after receiving an apology and also more willing to engage in future cooperation with the new venture if forgiveness was restored. We also demonstrate the mediating effects of forgiveness on an apology, suggesting that restorative and retributive justice elements inherent in an apology interact to increase the overall effectiveness. Finally, it was also uncovered that compensation offers were significantly more restorative than non-explicit statements of contrition, explicit statements of contrition, empathy, and responsibility acknowledgements.
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While apology has only a secondary role in restorative justice (RJ), an apology is prevalent in the RJ process. This is promising, but problematic is that there seems to be a gap in the perceived sincerity of apology between victims and offenders. Since less is known about why this gap exists, this paper extends our knowledge about under what conditions a sincere apology is possible in RJ. More specifically, this paper seeks to identify the key components of a sincere apology that are pertinent to RJ as well as the promoting and inhibiting factors for a sincere apology in RJ. This paper provides future research implications about the relationship between RJ and sincere apology. 114 words
... This suggests that apologies or acknowledgments on their own may not be enough to repair the rupture of intimate racism, and that deeper reconciliation work may be necessary. This is coherent with literature on public apologies for racial injustices and atrocities (Govier & Verwoerd, 2002;Tarusarira, 2019) as well as literature on ruptures and repairs within close relationships (Lewis et al., 2015). Future qualitative work will probe into partner's repair attempts and their implications. ...
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... Additionally, it has been shown to shift the injured partner's perceptions of the likelihood that a similar transgression may recur (Davis & Gold, 2011), and reduce the likelihood of negative consequences within the relationship such as punishment (Lewis, Parra, & Cohen, 2015). Research on forgiveness has demonstrated across the board that expression of repentance in the form of an apology combined with the admission of responsibility 13 has a positive effect on forgiveness (Schmitt, Gollwitzer, Förster, & Montada, 2004;Eaton, & Struthers, 2006;Hodgins & Liebeskind, 2003;Exline & Baumeister, 2000;Weiner, 1986) interact with each other. ...
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