Overcoming Obstacles to Interpersonal Compliance A Principle of Message Construction

Michael Elwood Roloff*, CHRIS A. JANISZEWSKI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Scholars recognize that language can be used to accomplish goals. If so, messages should be constructed so as to overcome obstacles to the achievement of interpersonal objectives. Based upon this perspective, six hypotheses were deduced that predicted the linguistic features of help‐seeking messages from obstacles associated with (a) the type of request (borrowing favors) and (b) relational intimacy. The results of a study that tested these hypotheses are reported; support for each was found. Specifically, messages seeking to borrow a resource proposed contractual arrangements aimed at reducing the costs of lending. On the other hand, favor‐seeking messages included more inquiries about the costs of compliance to the target and offers of compensation. Relational obligations and resulting facework were also studied. As predicted, when seeking to borrow a resource, intimacy was negatively related to communicated facework; when seeking a favor intimacy was positively related to facework. Finally, when a request to borrow a resource was rejected, intimacy was positively related to counter persuasion cues and negatively related to expressed forgiveness; however, when a favor‐seeking message was refused, intimacy was positively related to communicated forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-61
Number of pages29
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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