Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Science of Apologies: What Is the Best Way to Say Sorry? (By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D)

I chose this article because it ties into the strategy of “Mortification” in the image restoration theory. Mortification involves an individual/ organization giving an (public) apology to their offender and is considered the best thing to do. It is the best because apologies can resolve conflict, repair hurt feelings, improve all types of relationships and promotes forgiveness. It shows responsibility, courage and integrity and increases loyalty and trust.
Unfortunately in some cases, apologies don’t always work. This may be due to the wrongful act being unforgivable or the victim is not looking to forgive the accuser. However can be also be due to the fact that the person may be apologizing the wrong way.
A new set of studies has shown that different types of apologies appeal to different types of people and that the key to giving the most effective (right) apology can be found in thinking carefully about who your audience is.

Researchers identify three distinct forms of apology:

    1.) Offers of Compensation- attempt to restore balance through redeeming action. Compensation is sometimes tangible and/or can be emotional or socially supportive. (Ex. I’ll pay for the damages,) 2.) Expressions of Empathy- Involves recognizing and expressing concern offer the suffering you caused. This type of apology helps victim feel understood and valued in the relationship. 3.)Acknowledgment of violated rules/ norms- Admitting that you broke the code of behavior of the organization, social group or society you identify with.
These three types have been shown to be most effective when delivered to people who view themselves in particular ways

Independent Self-Concept: People who focus mainly on their own rights and needs. This type of people respond more favorably to apologies offering compensation.

Rational Self-Concept: People who see themselves as primarily defined by their relationship with others (friends, spouse, colleague). More common among women, this is most effective when it includes expressions of empathy rather than giving compensation.

Collective Self-Concept: People who see themselves as members of important groups, organizations and cultures that they identify themselves with first. Wrongdoings are experienced as betrayal of the relationship or code of behavior of group. Group rules govern the way you are to behave.

When creating an apology, ask yourself: “Who am I talking?”, “What are they looking for in the apology?”,

Knowing something about your audience will give you the clues you need to identify what is bothering them and how to give the most effective apology that will bring forgiveness.

Article Source: "The Science of Apologies: What Is the Best Way to Say Sorry? "  By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D

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