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Can’t I be honest? Rebuilding trust after an integrity-based violation
Transgressions involving trust violations often occur in negotiations, leading to a breakdown in exchange and future interaction. When the violation is integrity-based, research has shown that denying culpability is the most effective path toward trust recovery; an apology admits culpability and supports the perception that the perpetrator has little integrity. Yet a dishonest response may not be ideal for all individuals and relationships, and we propose that the initially negative reaction to an apology may improve with time. We conduct two studies that examine whether apologies issued after an integrity-based trust violation in a negotiation between two parties rebuild trust after a two-day (Study 1) and two-week (Study 2) delay. Our results indicate that the impact of apologizing on the transgressor’s perceived trustworthiness and victim’s willingness to cooperate improves with time. Thus, our findings offer an alternative, more honest path to rebuilding integrity-based trust: apologize and give it some time.