There are many ways to communicate bad news. The MUM effect (Tesser & Rosen, 1975), which is keeping mum and not transmitting the bad news at all, is only one of many possible approaches. Using P. Brown and Levinson's (1987) politeness theory, an experimental study was conducted to address not whether bad news is being transmitted, but how bad news is being transmitted. The results show that most communicators tend to use politeness strategies when communicating bad news. Moreover, using politeness strategies to couch the message did not attenuate the informative value of the message. Focused contrasts revealed two strong interactions between gender and communication direction on strategy use. First, power differences more strongly predicted strategy use for men, whereas distance differences more strongly predicted strategy use for women. Second, men used most politeness strategies when the combined effect of power and distance was the highest (as the politeness theory would predict), but the trend was reversed for women. This finding suggests that politeness theory may not be an accurate model for describing female communicators.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 1993
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