An investigation of forgiveness-seeking communication and relational outcomes

Douglas L. Kelley, Vincent R. Waldron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Therapists and theologians claim that the process of forgiveness is essential to the restoration of damaged relationships, but this possibility has received limited empirical attention. Furthermore, the role of an offender's communicative behavior in the forgiveness process remains understudied. This project first analyzed an inductively derived list of communication behaviors to develop a taxonomy of forgiveness-seeking approaches used by 186 romantic partners. These were interpreted with reference to face-management, uncertainty reduction, and rule-negotiation approaches to relationship recovery. Associations between the types of forgiveness-seeking communication and several different measures of post-transgression relationship change were examined. Results indicated that relationships recovered significantly when offending partners used behaviors labeled as explicit acknowledgment, nonverbal assurance, and compensation. Significant communicative effects remained after the effects of transgression severity were controlled. Results are interpreted as partially supportive of the assumption that forgiveness-seeking communication facilitates recovery from relational damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-358
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Forgiveness
  • Reconciliation
  • Relationship Change
  • Relationship Maintenance
  • Relationship Quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


Dive into the research topics of 'An investigation of forgiveness-seeking communication and relational outcomes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this