Interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflict is an almost unavoidable part of romantic relationships, and resolving or managing these conflicts can be a tricky task. According to a new study due to be released in the Western Journal of Communication early next year, the timing of an apology for a relational transgression appears to matter. The experiment, led by Dr. Amy Hubbard, Communicology Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, originated in her graduate-level conflict management course with the help of graduate students Blake Hendrickson, Keri Fehrenbach, and Jennifer Sur. Hubbard and her associates invited sixty couples involved in a romantic heterosexual relationship to discuss a recurring conflict in a scheduled videotaped appointment. In one condition, one of the romantic partners acting as a confederate apologized earlier in the conflict discussion while the partner-confederate apologized later in the conflict discussion. The research demonstrates that relational satisfaction was greatest when participants who were able to finish their conversation in the time allotted apologized later in the conversation. For participants who were unable to finish their conversation about the conflict in the given time, satisfaction was highest when the apology came earlier. The level of perceived sincerity of the apology and the extent to which recipients felt they were understood also influenced the amount of communication satisfaction experienced. The results of this research project, according to Hubbard and her associates, have implications for theory on conflict management and practitioners in mediation.


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