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Relations Among Apology, Forgiveness, and Communicative Responses to Hurtful Messages
Unformatted Document Text:  Forgiveness and Communication 7 revenge or avoiding the partner, the hurt individual is motivated to repair the relationship by using conciliatory behavior. In support of their conceptualization of forgiveness involving a motivational shift, McCullough et al. (1998) found that people who had not forgiven their partners for hurting them reported being more motivated to avoid the errant partner and seek revenge while those who forgave their partners were more motivated to take conciliatory action. Research suggests that these motivations toward revenge, avoidance, or conciliatory behavior are manifest in communicative behaviors. Indeed, McCullough et al. (1997) found forgiveness to be related to increases in positive forms of communication along with decreases in avoidance and negative forms of communication. They also found that people were more likely to forgive their partners and to report engaging in conciliatory responses when they felt close to the partner prior to the offense. Conversely, people who were less close and committed to their partner prior to the offense were less likely to be forgiving and more likely to report engaging in revengeful communication. Research also suggests that forgiveness can break the cycle of reciprocal negative behavior that often accompanies and follows hurtful events, while an unwillingness to forgive can preserve this negative cycle. Specifically, in a study of married couples, Fincham and Beach (2002) found that when hurt partners were unforgiving, their spouses tended to report using more psychological aggression. In contrast, when husbands reported forgiving their wives, the wives reported using more constructive communication. Husbands reported using more constructive communication when their wives showed both a willingness to forgive them and a decreased motivation to retaliate. Despite these findings, scholars have yet to determine how specific types of communicative responses vary as a function of forgiveness. In the studies by McCullough and his colleagues, conciliatory responses, vengeful communication, and avoidance were each measured with unidimensional scales. In Fincham and Beach’s (2002) study, constructive

Authors: Bachman, Guy. and Guerrero, Laura.
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Forgiveness and Communication 7
revenge or avoiding the partner, the hurt individual is motivated to repair the relationship by
using conciliatory behavior. In support of their conceptualization of forgiveness involving a
motivational shift, McCullough et al. (1998) found that people who had not forgiven their
partners for hurting them reported being more motivated to avoid the errant partner and seek
revenge while those who forgave their partners were more motivated to take conciliatory action.
Research suggests that these motivations toward revenge, avoidance, or conciliatory
behavior are manifest in communicative behaviors. Indeed, McCullough et al. (1997) found
forgiveness to be related to increases in positive forms of communication along with decreases in
avoidance and negative forms of communication. They also found that people were more likely
to forgive their partners and to report engaging in conciliatory responses when they felt close to
the partner prior to the offense. Conversely, people who were less close and committed to their
partner prior to the offense were less likely to be forgiving and more likely to report engaging in
revengeful communication. Research also suggests that forgiveness can break the cycle of
reciprocal negative behavior that often accompanies and follows hurtful events, while an
unwillingness to forgive can preserve this negative cycle. Specifically, in a study of married
couples, Fincham and Beach (2002) found that when hurt partners were unforgiving, their
spouses tended to report using more psychological aggression. In contrast, when husbands
reported forgiving their wives, the wives reported using more constructive communication.
Husbands reported using more constructive communication when their wives showed both a
willingness to forgive them and a decreased motivation to retaliate.
Despite these findings, scholars have yet to determine how specific types of
communicative responses vary as a function of forgiveness. In the studies by McCullough and
his colleagues, conciliatory responses, vengeful communication, and avoidance were each
measured with unidimensional scales. In Fincham and Beach’s (2002) study, constructive


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