Chinese and American University Students' Perceptions of Public Apologies



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The purpose of this study was to examine Chinese and American students? perceptions of public apologies issued by Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and Akio Toyoda, the CEO of Toyota. The researcher conducted two independent studies by collecting both quantitative and qualitative data through two survey questionnaires and four focus group interviews. The findings indicated that Chinese and American participants evaluated the effectiveness of public apologies based on their cultural schemas of the verbal and non-verbal cues used by the apologizer. The participants? perceptions of recognizing the effectiveness of the apology were related to their cultural perspectives regarding the key elements of public apologies. Related to the verbal strategies for conveying sincerity, both groups indicated that offering compensation is an important component of a sincere apology. However, each group has different cultural perspectives regarding non-verbal cues such as making eye contact, dress code, facial expressions, setting, body posture, and tone of voice. For example, Chinese emphasized the importance of professional dress code, having remorseful facial expressions, formal setting, bowing a head, and lowering voice tone. In contrast, Americans emphasized the importance of maintaining eye contact, body posture embodying attentiveness, and varying intonation to convey the apologizer?s feelings. They indicated that the choice of clothing may be changed according to the severity of the offense, the relationship between the apologizer and the offended person, and the location of the apology.