Social support is a vital component of well-being and a principal benefit of having close, positive personal relationships. When offers of social support are perceived as unwanted or burdensome by recipients, however, they can carry implicit threats to the recipients’ positive and negative face needs. Moreover, declining such offers requires recipients to manage probable face threats to providers. The present study explored offers of undesired social support—and responses to those offers—from the perspective of politeness theory and face threats. A total of 503 participants described situations when they were offered social support they saw as undesirable and burdensome. Reasons for not wanting social support (including face threats to receivers) were codified. The most common reasons for not wanting offered support were perceived threats to receivers’ negative face, a mismatch between the need and the support being offered, and a perception that providing support would be burdensome for providers. Participants evidenced all five forms of facework in their responses to such offers, with positive politeness being the most common strategy.
Source: Journal of Social and Personal Relationships