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Latest update: September 28, 2000

Could Compliments be Adversarial?
Withholding Compliments:
From Theory to Praxis to Statistical Analysis

Part of the Teaching Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Participating Students, September 2000.
"Fair Use" enouraged.

  1. Where's the meat?
Notice how easy it is for you to conclude there is no statistical analysis when there is no quantitative analysis. Yet qualitative analysis is an essential component in reflecting on the theoretical position which guides us, on the fit of that position with the respondent's perception of the situation, and on the reflexive position of searching for our own biases and limitations in the consideration of alternative measures.

On Sunday, September 24, 2000, Raquel Waight-Smith wrote:

In the essay "Withholding Compliments In Everyday Life and the Covert Management of Disaffiliation", Ryave, Rodriguez, and Tracewell make a number of suggestions.

The three authors suggest that a compliment can "enhance affiliation". They did not give any quantitative statistical evidence as to how many people actually operate this way in their every day lives. Personally, when I give someone a compliment, I do it on a whim, solely on a whim. I do not use a compliment as a basis for initiating conversation. Others, I know, would agree.

It is conniving to give someone a compliment with the underlying intention to "affiliate" with them. This does occur often, as I have experienced, in circles where there is an " under dog", or in situations of "brown nosing" and " rubbing elbows". In these types of situations, people degrade themselves as a suppossed " means to an end". The rationality or end, ( which these authors state in a more complex manner) is that if one appears to like and care for someone, they will like you and thus, do favors for you.

Truth be told, these types of people want more than "favors", as the professors state: "People are striving for the promotion and maintenance of face and affiliation". People who are consciously negotiating face and affiliation have been interactive in constructing the social [sic] structures in which they are operating this way (in search of face and affiliation). Such structures are formed by people who are advocates of constructing a society in which it takes "who you know" and not "what you know" to get ahead.

Not only do they want to have favors done by these people who they want to "affiliate" with, but they place a huge responsibility on others to introduce them to society, (cliques), and, preferably, the affluent. Since, "People are striving for the promotion and maintenance of face and affiliation", Ryave, et al.. maintain that people are willing to withhold compliments because their focus is not on emotions, rather, their focus is fitting into a niche or "normative structure" which will allow them to maintain a social bond ( within the preferred niche). Basically, their argument is that people need to 'save face' " in the face of "competing and hierarchically generated interests". Therefore, being practical, one cannot give compliments to everyone, especially those who offer no assistance in upward social mobility or maintenance.

I will stop here and elaborate on the other two major points that I will focus on from their essay at another time.

On Thursday, September 28, 2000, jeanne finally found the time to respond:

Raquel, this is well thought out and well said. Note that I added "quantitative" to your comment on "no" statistical evidence. It is important that we address "qualitative" analysis as well as quantitative. Qualtiative analysis gives us the "meat" of substance. Quantitative analysis gives us the "meat" of computer-generated numbers that impress people, regardless of the underlying substance.

II. Look, Ma! I discovered Content Analysis!

On Wednesday, September 26, 2000, Carolyn Gilmore wrote:

Carolyn Gilmore and Helen Clark are sitting in lab reviewing quanititive and qualitative data, and we are practicing how to pull out important variables, first. For example, in the article on Withholding Compliments there are 22 narrative reports (called "instances" in the article), and we've trying to put them into quantitive cateogries. This is just practice so we will feel comfortable with finding what is important and to put them in the appropriate dummy table practice. This became a table conversation with Jenny and Jeanne.

On Thursday, September 28, 2000, jeanne responded:

Great response, Carolyn. And how wonderful that your discussion expanded to include the whole row! That's how learning happens! I'm very pleased that you went on to a discussion of dummy tables and how they can help identify important points in your readings. I'll try to get up the material on dummy tables over the week end.

The process that you and Helen went through, in trying to break the narrative accounts into categories is called "content analysis." See how, instead of being afraid of statistics, you DISCOVERED a major statistical technique all by yourselves, and then shared it with Jenny and Jeanne.

You all have an A for Wednesday night lab!