349 Apologies & Timing

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Research by Frantz, C. M., & Bennigson, C.  (2005).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone and were not sure when to apologize? Either right after the disagreement or later? In two studies, researchers assessed whether those who received apologies later would be happier after the conflict was resolved.

In study one, 24 college students described real conflicts, answering questions about timing, apologies, and outcome satisfaction. In study two, 83 participants read one of three hypothetical conflict situations where an apology occurred at the beginning, end or not at all in a follow-up conversation. They then described their feelings if they were in that situation and rated the outcome.

The results? Both studies supported giving later apologies. Apologies that were later and occurred after the victim felt heard and understood had the highest impact on victim satisfaction.

So, next time you are in a disagreement, take some time! When detecting another person is upset with you, ask what you said or did that hurt them.  Listen and tell them what you understand you did to hurt them.  Acknowledge their hurt and your responsibility. Then apologize.  Express regret. Say you’re sorry for your mistake and hurting them. Ask what further can you do to make amends.

Reference:

Frantz, C. M., & Bennigson, C.  (2005). Better late than early: The influence of timing on apology effectiveness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 201-207.

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About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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