Is Narrative a Mechanism for the Development of Empathy and Humility when Overcoming Interpersonal Failures?

In this multi-site international research project, we employ an innovative mixed-methods design to examine whether the type of narrative that individuals construct after committing an act of interpersonal failure leads to the development of empathy and humility over time. We define acts of interpersonal failure as the mistakes and wrongdoings individuals commit during their romantic relationships. We focus on interpersonal failure as a certain degree of conflict is expected in most relationships and can offer individuals an opportunity to reflect on the type of partner they want to be in the future. We investigate this question crossculturally with a qualitative study to examine whether the cultural narrative that influences how people narrate stories of adversity, challenge and failure is equivalent in the UK and USA. We further develop culturally sensitive coding schemes to use in a prospective longitudinal quantitative repeated-narration design, tracking 400 participants in romantic relationships over the course of one year to investigate whether intra-individual variation in the narrative construction of interpersonal failure over time leads to increases in humility, empathy and greater engagement in pro-relationship behaviors. Thus, this research project examines whether narration is a mechanism for learning from interpersonal failures to develop and flourish within relationships.