Conversational Analysis: Request and Response

Within conversational analysis (CA) it is common to analysis peoples request as well as people’s response to a request in the context of a conversation. In this post, we will look at the categories that these requests and responses commonly fall into.

Request

Requests are a specific type of question in conversational analysis. Request almost always involve some sort of action. Either the person asking the request wants to do something or the speaker wants the listener to do something. As such there are only two categories in which request can be classified and they are…

  • Action request
  • Permission request

Action Request

An action request is made when the speaker wants the listener to do something.

A: Can you turn off the light?

Permission Request

A permission request is made when the speaker wants to perform an action and is seeking approval from the listener.

A: You mind if I turn off the light?

Response to Request

The response to a request can be positive or negative. However, when a response is negative it is often indirect.  As such, there are three categories in which a response to a request can be placed.

  • Accept
  • Reject
  • Evade

Accept

Accepting is to grant permission either for the speaker to do something or that the listener will perform the request.

A: Could you turn the light off?
B: No problem

Reject

Rejecting means that a person states directly that they cannot do something

A: Can you turn the light off?
B: No, I can’t

Evading

Evading is the art of saying “no” indirectly to a request. This is done through giving a reason why something cannot be done rather than directly responding

A: Can you turn the light off?
B: I’m busy with the baby

In the example above, person B never says no. Rather, they provide an excuse for not completing the task.

Conclusion

We all have used these various ways of requesting and responding to request. The benefit of CA is being able to breakdown these conversational pairs and understand what is happening beyond the surface level.

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