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Relations Among Apology, Forgiveness, and Communicative Responses to Hurtful Messages
Unformatted Document Text:  Forgiveness and Communication 23 escalation, which encompasses behaviors such as ending the relationship, threatening to date others, and letting the relationship slowly fall apart, can be construed as constituting both a vengeful and avoidant type of response. Indeed, the ultimate way to punish the errant partner may often be to end the relationship, and ending the relationship also puts maximum distance between the hurt person and the errant partner. Other general forms of revenge, such as plotting to get even with the partner, appear to be manifestations of unforgiveness, as McCullough et al. (1997, 1998) theorized. These findings add specificity to McCullough’s interpersonal model of forgiveness by suggesting that forgiveness is most manifest in a reduction of behaviors designed to de-escalate the relationship and/or seek revenge, rather than simply in behaviors that are avoidant and/or aggressive. The pattern of findings for de-escalation and revenge also provided partial support for McCullough et al.’s (1997, 1998) argument that the relationship between apology and destructive communicative responses is mediated by forgiveness. Thus, it appears that apologies are most likely to associate negatively with de-escalation and revenge when they are met with forgiveness. If the hurt person decides that the errant partner feels bad and is sorry, this perception alone might not always diminish the hurt person’s desire to de-escalate the relationship or seek revenge. Instead, the extent to which the hurt person experiences less motivation toward de- escalation or revenge may rely more squarely on whether the apology is accepted and forgiveness truly granted. For example, if the errant partner committed a particularly severe relational transgression, apologies may be rejected and the motivation to de-escalate the relationship and/or seek revenge may persist. Integrative Communication Of the three conciliatory responses, integrative communication showed the strongest associations with forgiveness and apology. Integrative communication involves talking about

Authors: Bachman, Guy. and Guerrero, Laura.
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Forgiveness and Communication 23
escalation, which encompasses behaviors such as ending the relationship, threatening to date
others, and letting the relationship slowly fall apart, can be construed as constituting both a
vengeful and avoidant type of response. Indeed, the ultimate way to punish the errant partner
may often be to end the relationship, and ending the relationship also puts maximum distance
between the hurt person and the errant partner. Other general forms of revenge, such as plotting
to get even with the partner, appear to be manifestations of unforgiveness, as McCullough et al.
(1997, 1998) theorized. These findings add specificity to McCullough’s interpersonal model of
forgiveness by suggesting that forgiveness is most manifest in a reduction of behaviors designed
to de-escalate the relationship and/or seek revenge, rather than simply in behaviors that are
avoidant and/or aggressive.
The pattern of findings for de-escalation and revenge also provided partial support for
McCullough et al.’s (1997, 1998) argument that the relationship between apology and destructive
communicative responses is mediated by forgiveness. Thus, it appears that apologies are most
likely to associate negatively with de-escalation and revenge when they are met with forgiveness.
If the hurt person decides that the errant partner feels bad and is sorry, this perception alone
might not always diminish the hurt person’s desire to de-escalate the relationship or seek
revenge. Instead, the extent to which the hurt person experiences less motivation toward de-
escalation or revenge may rely more squarely on whether the apology is accepted and
forgiveness truly granted. For example, if the errant partner committed a particularly severe
relational transgression, apologies may be rejected and the motivation to de-escalate the
relationship and/or seek revenge may persist.
Integrative Communication
Of the three conciliatory responses, integrative communication showed the strongest
associations with forgiveness and apology. Integrative communication involves talking about


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