Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


When we say the wrong thing...repairing the message


The minute the words are said, the regret sets in.

Communication scientists from Case Western Reserve University and Kent State University have studied how and why people choose certain ways to repair the damage done once hurtful words are spoken.

According to Jane R. Meyer from Kent State and Kyra Rothenberg from Case, most people offered an apology, spurred by guilt to mend any offense their remarks might cause in an intimate relationship. Following the offer of an apology, the next popular ways people choose to smooth over the offensive message were to excuse or justify why the words were said. When embarrassed, people tended to avoid the message’s receiver instead of making excuses or apologies.

The researchers discuss communication strategies in the article, "Repairing Regretted Messages: Effects of Emotional State, Relationship Type, and Seriousness of Offense," in Communication Research Reports, which sought answers to several questions:

  • Does the seriousness of the regretted message predict a certain response?
  • Is the type of repair strategy linked to the kind of relationship the person has to the message’s receiver?
  • How do emotions like guilt, shame, sadness, fright, anxiety or embarrassment affect the choice of response?

The researchers surveyed 204 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 54 at a Midwestern university, asking them to recall a regretted conversation and write down what happened. The participants rated the seriousness of the offense and characterized their relationship with the person who heard what was said. Participants also checked off the strategies they used to repair the damage.

Meyer and Rothenberg discuss eight strategies people employ to smooth over the discomfort of the situation: an apology or concession, an excuse, a justification, a denial, silence, words to offset the harm, non-verbal reactions (like covering one’s mouth after the words are said) and a change of subject.

The researchers also looked at whether the context of the situation--seriousness of the offense, the relationship of the speaker and hearer and the speaker’s emotional state--influences which strategy is used.

They found that serious offenses generate apologies, with additional concessions, along with silence, occurring as the severity of the damage increases. An excuse was inadequate for a seriously regretted message, said the researchers.

What actions a person takes also depends upon the relationship--how intimate it is, how much the two people like each other and how much authority the receiver has over the message deliverer. In an intimate relationship, people tend to use justification but not always concessions to mend the mistake.

In addition to the study’s publication, early findings from the research were presented in 2004 at a meeting of the Central States Communication Association.

Susan Griffith | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht New population data provide insight on aging, migration
31.08.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht PRB projects world population rising 33 percent by 2050 to nearly 10 billion
25.08.2016 | Population Reference Bureau

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>