Compliments at the Crossroads: A Discursive Analysis of Compliment Interactions between Opposing Forensics Competitors

Sponsor: Interpersonal Communication Division
Sun, 11/22: 8:00 AM  - 9:15 AM 
Asynchronous Event  
Room: Asynchronous Session 
The current study explored how individuals make sense of ingratiatory messages (Jones, 1964) in the competitive context of intercollegiate forensics. Specifically, a discursive approach (Tracy & Robles, 2013) was used to investigate forensics participants' (n = 34) qualitative accounts of their experiences with receiving compliments from competitors of opposing forensics teams. A series of open-ended survey questions asked participants to describe a compliment interaction they previously experienced with a competitor of an opposing team, their initial reactions and response to the compliment, and the reasons for their particular response. Thematic analysis revealed four themes identifying the primary factors to which participants attributed their reactions and responses: the speaker's nonverbal behaviors, distal factors outside of the immediate context of the compliment interaction, in-the-moment experiences, and the participant's own feelings. Further, while Herbert's (1986, 1989) typology of compliment responses was used to code subjects' initial reactions to receiving compliments, the typology was insufficient for categorizing a number of responses that included both agreement and nonagreement towards the compliment message in one singular account. Despite the current study finding that compliment interactions appear to be a common communicative phenomenon in the intercollegiate forensics community, previous research providing a contextualized understanding of interpersonal competitor interactions is scarce. The current study takes a step in filling this scholarly gap.


Benjamin L. Davis, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  - Contact Me