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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 24-Nov-13

 


Sunday 24-November-13

Apology and trust

When should you apologize? Most naturally, when you know you have done something wrong and it has inconvenienced, embarrassed, upset or harmed them.

Apology can repair relationship damage and restore trust in what may be called the 'apology-forgiveness effect'. It is a simple and effective social mechanism that we all use (and expect from others).

It gets trickier when you think you have done nothing wrong but the other person is indignantly saying you have done or said something that has upset them. This implies you should apologize, though you may feel this is unnecessary and perhaps they are just trying to manipulate you. In such situations, notice how you are feeling and try to think logically about what is going on. If the person is playing control games, then fighting back may be the best option. However, if in doubt, an apology is the best approach.

Woods et al (2013) made an interesting discovery, that apologizing for something that is outside your control, even for bad weather, has the effect of increasing how much others trust you. What seems to be happening is that the apology-forgiveness effect is being triggered. All you have to do is apologize and trust goes up. Maybe also when you apologize, people feel you are showing care, and as this is a component of trust, you get the benefit.

Maybe the lesson is 'if in doubt, apologize'.

And maybe also try apologizing for things outside your control and see what happens.

Reference:
Alison Wood Brooks, Hengchen Dai, and Maurice E. Schweitzer (2013). I?m Sorry About the Rain! Superfluous Apologies Demonstrate Empathic Concern and Increase Trust. Social Psychological and Personality Science


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