Benoit’s Five Major Strategies

In Apologetic rhetoric on May 31, 2007 at 11:54 am

Based on the work done by Ware and Linkugel, William Benoit introduced perhaps the most comprehensive account of apologetic strategies in his book “Accounts, Excuses, and Apologies.” Benoit’s theory consists of five major strategies used by speakers: denial, evading responsibility, reducing offensiveness, corrective action, and mortification. In addition, Benoit offers subcategories for each.

The first strategy—denial—consists of two forms: 1) simple denial, in which the speaker denies the act or, at least, denies taking part in it; and 2) shifting the blame, which is also known as scapegoating.

The second strategy—evasion of responsibility—consists of: 1) provocation, suggesting that the accused responded after being provoked; 2) defeasibility, suggesting that a lack of either information or control is actually to blame; 3) accidents, suggesting it was an accident; and 4) good intentions, suggesting that the accused performed the act with good intentions, despite the negative outcome.

The third strategy details how apologists attempt to reduce the offensiveness of their wrongful acts by using: 1) bolstering, such as describing the positive attributes and qualities of a person; 2) minimization, attempting to decrease the audience’s negative view of the situation; 3) differentiation, focusing on how a particular situation differs from similar, yet much worse acts; 4) transcendence, discussing the act in terms of abstract values and group loyalties; 5) attacking the accuser to undermine his or her credibility; and 6) offering compensation to the victims.

The fourth strategy—corrective action—describes how apologists offer to repair damages caused by their actions, as well as take steps to prevent the event from happening again.

Finally, the fifth strategy—mortification—is based on Burke’s discussion of mortification in which the accused “admits wrongful behavior, asks for forgiveness, and apologizes.”

  1. […] the email evades responsibility by claiming that the entire error was an accident (which is a strategy described by William Benoit in numerous articles and in his book “Accounts, Excuses, and […]

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