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Abstract

Failure to receive credit when credit is due can sometimes lead to interpersonal conflict. Prompting, defined as a strategic communication tool meant to elicit a specific response, works to retrieve that missing credit. People can prompt by using either indirect or direct speech. Directly asking for a thank-you is the most efficient way to receive thanks, as it clearly addresses the missed gratitude. However, research suggests that engaging in such behavior could enhance social conflict by causing offense to the other party. It could be seen as taking credit for oneself and forcing appreciation from the would-be thanker rather than it being freely given. On the other hand, indirect speech is ambiguous in nature and could be interpreted in more than one way, bringing people to a dilemma: They could either be clear in their intentions and risk offense, or they could be indirect and risk the possibility of miscommunication. We investigate what strategy people report favoring in real life. In Studies 1 & 2, we find that indirect speech acts are more often preferred than direct speech acts when prompting for gratitude. In Study 3, we found that favor doers believe direct prompts (compared to indirect ones) would make the prompted expressions of gratitude seem less sincere and feel less satisfying. Favor doers also expected that favor recipients would be less likely to thank following a direct compared to an indirect prompt. Thus, favor doers seem to prefer the risk of failing to elicit gratitude with indirect prompts than the risk of offending their counterpart with direct prompts. This finding contributes to the literature on social communication and psycholinguistics, particularly on the mechanisms of politeness and relationship maintenance.

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