Voicing vulnerable wants in close relationships




Burdick, Suzanne Michelle

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This project explicates the interpersonal communication process of “voicing a vulnerable want.” Voicing a vulnerable want is conceptualized as a combination of a self-disclosure and a request. A questionnaire administered to 200 adults in a close relationship asked individuals to describe an instance when they voiced a vulnerable want, to recall what they wanted from their hearer, and to identify the concerns they had about voicing their want. The questionnaire included measures of relational power, relational closeness, and request imposition to produce a composite FTA-size (face-threatening act) score. Measures for vulnerability, face wants/concerns, influence goal(s), and perceived message effectiveness were also included. Using thematic analysis, a typology was built that describes common interpersonal goals individuals have when voicing their vulnerable wants. Results also showed that individuals had a variety of influence goals during the interaction. Findings further revealed that individuals had multiple face threat concerns when voicing their vulnerable wants. A logistic regression indicated that the level of imposition interacts with vulnerability in predicting whether an individual will express self-approval when voicing their vulnerable want. Additional regressions revealed that directness, pressure, and self-approval each positively and significantly predicted how effective individuals’ perceived their message to be. These findings are discussed in light of request-making and self-disclosure theorizing.


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