The Importance of an Apology

A friend of mine recently shared the following article on Facebook about a study that was just published by Dr. Roy Lewicki and others at the University of Ohio on the subject of what constitutes an effective apology:

The Six elements of an Effective Apology, According to Science

While the information contained in Dr. Lewicki's study is certainly relevant, it is more or less a rehash of the material which Dr. Gary Chapman presented in his book The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships, which was published ten years ago.

The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships

Five of the six points in the OSU study's "new research" are directly lifted from Dr. Chapman's points - and they are almost verbatim quotes. To show just how closely Dr. Lewicki's points are to Dr. Chapman's, I will present the OSU study's list in the first column below, and then I will present the matching points from Dr. Chapman's book in the second column:

OSU Study Dr. Chapman's Book
1. Expression of Regret 1. Expressing Regret
2. Explanation of What Went Wrong n/a
3. Acknowledgment of Responsibility 2. Accepting Responsibility
4. Declaration of Repentance 4. Genuinely Repenting
5. Offer of Repair 3. Making Restitution
6. Request for Forgiveness 5. Requesting Forgiveness

That being said, the OSU study ultimately draws the wrong conclusions; the OSU study suggests that there is one formula for apologies which works in all situations, whereas Dr. Chapman's book demonstrates that what is most-important in an apology for one person may not be for another.

For example, taking responsibility is of paramount importance to me, but not so much for my spouse. However, requesting forgiveness is extremely important for her, and yet Dr. Lewicki suggested that you could leave out the request for forgiveness entirely. If my wife and I were to follow the OSU study's recommendations, she and I would be apologizing to each other in ways that do not align with the other's communication needs, which will undoubtedly result in additional strife at a time when effective communication is most critical.

In contrast to the OSU study's conclusions, Dr. Chapman's recommendation is that each partner in a relationship learn their partner's expected form of apology and strive to address their partner's needs when expressing their apologies. Attempting to pigeon-hole the communication requirements for every relationship based on a single formula as the OSU study suggests is ludicrous.

So ultimately the OSU study is heavily plagiarized from Dr. Chapman's pre-existing research, and yet that study still manages to arrive at an incorrect outcome.

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