Coercive potential and face-sensitivity: The effects of authority and directives in social confrontation

Jennifer L. Vollbrecht, Michael Elwood Roloff*, Gaylen D. Paulson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Individuals sometimes feel compelled to confront a rule-violator. Because the goal of a confrontation is to stop the objectionable action, the violator may feel that his or her autonomy is being threatened and may resist complying. To reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes, confronters are advised to engage in discourse that makes them appear face-sensitive. However, we argue that the authority of a speaker and the type of directive (imperative or suggestion) that is spoken interact so as to affect the degree of face-sensitivity attributed to a confronter. We conducted an experiment to test this notion. Consistent with our position, authorities are perceived as more sensitive when expressing suggestions and are attributed coercive potential regardless of the directive enacted. Peers, however, are attributed greater coercive potential when communicating imperatives, while face-sensitivity is unaffected by the type of directive. Implications for confrontation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-251
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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