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In the article, In the wake of transgressions: Examining forgiveness communication in personal relationships, styles of forgiveness communication are examined in association with determinants of forgiveness. Research is done examining how forgiveness is communicated, the type of forgiveness style, and the association of overall relational satisfaction as it relates to these. It is found that as severity of an issue and blameworthiness of the offender increases, the forgiveness style tends to grow more toward conditional or indirect forgiveness, which lowers relational satisfaction, while direct forgiveness and sincere acknowledgement promotes the strengthening of relationships. This paper observes how forgiveness is interrelated with keeping relationships in existence or in specific states, and in repairing and reconciling relationships, based on the forgiveness styles portrayed and the circumstances in which the offender behaves.
In the wake of transgressions: Examining forgiveness communication in personal relationships
This article examines the use of forgiveness styles as direct, indirect and conditional. Direct forgiveness is forgiveness in a straightforward manner. Indirect forgiveness is expressed by downplaying the offense and conditional forgiveness is forgiving accompanied with the placing of stipulations. The determinants of forgiveness are categorized into social-cognitive, offense related, relational, and personality level. Social-cognitive is composed of the level of blame or empathy placed on the offender. Offense related deals with the severity of the offense and the sincerity of the apology. Relational has to do with the quality of the relationship, and personality level is related to the level of agreeableness the offended partner associates with the offender. The author states that the social-cognitive and offense-level are most proximal to offended persons decisions to forgive. (80).
Taking into consideration the factors of offense severity, offender blameworthiness, and sincere acknowledgement, the first 6 hypotheses are examined. The first hypothesis is associated with offense-severity, or the level of hurt resulting from the wrongdoing. H1 states that offense-severity will positively predict direct and conditional forgiveness, and negatively predict indirect forgiveness. The second and third hypotheses are related to offender blameworthiness, or the degree in which the wrongdoer is viewed as being responsible for the hurtful action. H2 states that blameworthiness will positively predict direct and conditional forgiveness, and negatively predict indirect forgiveness. H3 states the level of blameworthiness is positively associated with the severity of the offense, predicting the more hurtful the action, the higher the blame placed on the wrongdoer. The fourth, fifth and sixth hypotheses attend to sincere acknowledgement, or the sincerity of the apology and acceptance of the responsibility for the hurtful actions. H4 states that sincere acknowledgement will positively predict direct forgiveness and will negatively predict indirect and conditional forgiveness styles. H5 and H6 state that sincere acknowledgement will be positively associated with offense severity and will negatively be associated with blameworthiness (due to remorse). The next set of hypotheses (7-10) relates to relational damage and satisfaction, or how relational quality is affected by indiscretions and the forgiveness of them. H7 states relational damage will be negatively predicted by direct and indirect forgiveness and positively predicted by conditional forgiveness. H8 and H9 state the severity of offense and blameworthiness positively predicts relational damage, due to lower trust and the negative impact associated with it. H10 states relational damage will negatively predict overall relational satisfaction.
In the experiment, 365 participants were selected, from two different universities, which attended interpersonal communication courses. They were each asked to recall a time when someone (whether a friend, romantic partner, or family member) hurt their feelings, and were forgiven of this instance. The average length relationship was 9.52 years, and the average age of the partner was 27.10 years. The participants were asked a series of questions indicating the offense severity, sincerity of acknowledgement, blameworthiness, the forgiveness communication style applied to the situation, and questions regarding the relational damage and satisfaction. These questions were based on a 7 point scale to determine the degree in which the message hurt them, the degree in which the offender sincerely apologized or showed remorse, the level in which the party intended to hurt them, how this instance affected their relationship, and how satisfied they were with their overall relationship.
It was found that direct forgiveness was used most often followed by indirect, then conditional. It was found that direct forgiveness was used when the wrongdoer sincerely acknowledges the offense. A direct apology is strongly associated with direct forgiveness because direct speech increases closeness. When the offender shows they place a high significance of the relationship, there is more appreciation of the apology and more empathy involved in the decision to forgive. Unlike in direct forgiveness, conditional forgiveness causes more damage and less overall satisfaction in the relationship. This is because the receiver of conditional forgiveness often feels manipulated. In cases regarding conditional forgiveness, it can be found true that the offending party is held at high blame, and the offended party sets stipulations to deduce the risk of being hurt again, however sometimes this style is used because the offended party wishes to hold a sense of entitlement, or to receive a form of repayment for the hurt imposed on them before officially forgiving the offending party. It was noted that conditional forgiveness and its direct relation to relational damage is purely situational rather than simply conditional. Indirect and conditional forgiveness styles had minimal differences. Indirect forgiveness was found to be used in cases of more trivial offenses, but was sometimes found to be used as an “add on” to direct forgiveness as a way of minimizing the perceived effect on the offended party or to show forgiveness of the issue after some time and mitigating its apparent hurtfulness in order to repair the relationship further.
When I am the victim in situations as this, in which someone hurts my feelings, I usually use the direct forgiveness style. I think that confronting the individual with the facts and bringing to attention why I was hurt is an important aspect of them understanding my side of the situation in which they can acknowledge the wrongdoing and sincerely apologize for the hurtful actions. I feel this is necessary in order to directly forgive them for their transgressions.
Merolla, Andy J., In the wake of transgressions: Examining forgiveness communication in personal relationships, Personal Relationships,18 (2011), p 79-95
Zhang, Shuangyue, In the wake of transgressions: Examining forgiveness communication in personal relationships, Personal Relationships,18 (2011), p 79-95
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