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Conversational messages - Essay Example

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I’m sorry if I forgot to bring the book I borrowed from you. I helped out my sister in her homework that’s why I was late. My meeting with the directress was extended, that’s why I was not able to come in to class on time. These…
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Conversational messages
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I submitted the paper just two hours late! I’m sorry if I forgot to bring the book I borrowed from you. I helped out my sister in her homework that’swhy I was late. My meeting with the directress was extended, that’s why I was not able to come in to class on time. These are all examples of apologies and excuses. Everyone is familiar with giving excuses and apologies. And we are always hoping that our excuse or apology will be accepted. Excuses and apologies are called accounts. The use and process of giving accounts depend on one’s social values. How we give out accounts and how it is accepted or not depend on one’s culture. We tend to use the different types of accounts whenever our behavior or action is subjected to a valuative inquiry, which is a request for an explanation for an inappropriate or unexpected behavior, or failure to adhere to an expected or appropriate behavior (Cody & Dunn, p. 263). That is exactly why accounts are based on cultural and social expectations.
The use of accounts is associated with the politeness theory. The politeness theory considers two concepts, face work and politeness forms. People prefer apologies as preferred speech acts for receivers compared to excuses, justifications and denials (Cody & Dunn, p. 266). The face work is an important concept in the politeness theory. There are two types of face work, the positive face and the negative face. Positive face reflects appreciation and respect for each communicator’s role while the negative face reflects one’s desire to be free of constraints or obligations (Cody & Dunn, p. 266). This can be better understood through a sample situation. Let’s say you arrived late for a meeting and you say, I’m sorry I’m late. I know how important your time is so let’s get started immediately. That is a positive face. A negative face will be like this, I’m sorry for being late but the heavy traffic caught up with me. You have made an apology followed by an excuse that indicates you do not have control over what happened. You wanted to be free of the negative consequences of being late.
The use of apologies and excuses depend on the cultural and social values important for the communicators. The expected behavior of Americans may be different from the expected behavior of Japanese when it comes to giving apologies. In an American or British setting, formality may be perceived as impolite among intimates, like family members, because it may appear as sarcasm or a mockery (Ogiermann, p. 37). Japanese preferred saying nothing to avoid confrontations, especially when it involves strangers, their relational closeness increases the likelihood that they will say something (Cody & Dunn, p. 270). Americans preferred a more direct and public approach, perceiving them as more sincere than just displaying correct character that Japanese are concerned about (Cody & Dunn, p. 270).
The politeness theory is also connected with image restoration as one uses apologies rather than excuses, justifications or denial in order to shift from negative to positive face (Ogiermann, p. 51). With apology, compared to excuse, there is an attempt to restore balance between the communicators. Another theory that can explain the use of accounts is the attribution theory. This theory explains why we tend to accept excuses that have uncontrollable reasons rather than excuses that are intentional and controllable (Cody & Dunn, p. 273). For example, telling your boss you were late for the meeting because the cab you were riding had a flat tire is more acceptable than telling him you were late because you woke up late.
Apologies and excuses cannot be removed from our daily communication. We would always use them. What is important is that we know and understand that the use of these accounts have consequences and are dependent on our actions and the values that both communicators have. And the important question we have to answer is: how do we make sure that we are only using these accounts to restore balance and not to disrupt it even more, according to the image restoration theory, attribute theory and politeness theory.
Works Cited
Cody, M. and Dunn, D. “Accounts.” Pp. 263 – 284. Ed. Whaley, B. and Samter, W. Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2007.
Ogiermann, E. On apologizing in negative and positive politeness cultures. PA: John Benjamins, B.V., 2009. Read More
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