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Simple Apologies Make or Break Relationships

Update Date: Jul 15, 2014 06:01 PM EDT

Saying "sorry" really does help. New research reveals that a simple apology does make things better after an argument.

Buying a bouquet of flowers might also help mend a broken relationship, according to psychologists.

Researchers said that saying "sorry" could be the difference between making up and breaking up, and apologizing can turn vengeful thoughts into forgiving ones.

A new study done by researchers from Miami University, Minnesota University and University of California at Los Angeles found that saying sorry and buying gifts like flowers is almost foolproof when the transgressor is trying to make up with the victim.

"Conciliatory gestures, such as apologies were associated with increases in victims' perceptions of their transgressors' relationship value and reductions in perceptions of their transgressors' exploitation risk," researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers explain that apologies make victims feel like transgressors still value the relationship and are less likely to make the same mistakes again.

Apologies also help relieve feelings of revenge and promote feelings of forgiveness in victims, according to researchers.

"These results strongly suggest that conciliatory gestures facilitate forgiveness and reduce anger by modifying victims' perceptions of their transgressors' value as relationship partners and likelihood of recidivism," researchers added.

"Conflict is an inevitable component of social life, and natural selection has exerted strong effects on many organisms to facilitate victory in conflict and to deter conspecifics from imposing harms upon them. Like many species, humans likely possess cognitive systems whose function is to motivate revenge as a means of deterring individuals who have harmed them from harming them again in the future," researchers wrote.

"However, many social relationships often retain value even after conflicts have occurred between interactants, so natural selection has very likely also endowed humans with cognitive systems whose function is to motivate reconciliation with transgressors whom they perceive as valuable and nonthreatening, notwithstanding their harmful prior actions," they concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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