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Owning Your Emotions: Reactions to Expressions of Self- versus Other-Attributed Positive and Negative Emotions

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Abstract:

This investigation tested the notion that speakers should own their emotions by using I-messages rather than You-messages when conveying their feelings. In Study 1, hypothetical self-attributed (I) emotion messages were compared to other-attributed (You) messages, with an I-You message added in Study 2. In both studies, the effect of both positive and negative emotion statements on perceived politeness, effectiveness, and emotional reactions were assessed. No differences were found in reactions to the message forms for negative emotions, but both studies provided evidence for differences in respondents' reaction to positive emotional expressions. These results suggest a self-serving bias; recipients do not distinguish between ways of phrasing negative emotions expressed to them, but apparently appreciate being given credit for speakers' positive emotions. Implications for therapists, communication consultants, and practitioners are discussed.

Keywords: Attribution Theory; Effectiveness; Emotional Expressions; Emotional Reactions; I-Messages; Politeness; You-Messages

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0090988042000318503

Publication date: February 1, 2005

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