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Disagreements & Complaints


Disagreements

Disagreements can be very uncomfortable situations and require a lot of pragmatic skill. In fact, many language learners tend to avoid conflict and even accept what is happening because they do not have the pragmatic skills needed to disagree.

Take a second to think about the last time you disagreed with someone. What was the situation like? How did it make you feel? Would you have felt comfortable handling it in Spanish?

While there has not been a lot of work done addressing disagreement in Spanish, there are some general tendencies we can explore in this section. These should serve as a starting point for your own exploration of this communicative act.

 

Direct and Indirect Strategies

One of the key elements to learning to disagree appropriately in Spanish is understanding the different supporting strategies you can use to assert your point without being offensive. As a general rule, direct strategies are often used, but indirect conversational strategies are very important. By learning to integrate these supporting moves into your own discourse, you will be better equipped to handle disagreement situations. Below you have a list of some of the most common direct and indirect strategies taken from a study conducted in Venezuela (Edstrom, 2004).    

Direct Supportive Strategies

    • Olvídate...
    • No te creas...
    • No, no, no (multiple use of 'no')...
    • No es...
    • No, pero...
    • No, bueno...
    • ¿Tú crees? No creo...

Indirect Supportive Strategies

    • Pero...
    • Ni siquiera...
    • Muérete...
    • Mira...
    • Oye...
    • Sí, pero...
    • Claro, pero...
    • Bueno, pero...
    • ¿A veces?
    • Te voy a dar un ejemplo...

Direct and Indirect Strategies

In order to get a better idea of how these strategies are used in disagreements, let's look at an example. Play the conversation between Iker and Gemma (two good friends from Northern Spain). As you watch, pay special attention to the use of indirect and direct supporting strategies. How many can you find of each?

 

Would you say that Iker and Gemma use more direct or indirect supportive strategies? Explain your answer.

How does this conversation compare to what you do in English? Do you tend to use more direct or indirect supporting strategies?

Some Additional Considerations

In addition to understanding how to use different supporting strategies, there are a few other tendencies that are important to understand.

  1. Confrontational styles in Spanish tend to be different from those in English. In a comparison study, results revealed that native speakers of English tended to be brief and very orderly in their turn-taking. On the other hand, native speakers of Spanish from Argentina and Chile tended to use overlap to keep or take the floor (interrupting), demonstrated a willingness to be involved by using questions and asserting ideas while another was talking, and challenged the other speakers view when necessary (Cordella, 1996). For an example, play the conversation between Iker and Gemma again. This time pay special attention to their conversational styles. You will notice a lot of overlap and constant involvement.

  2. Males and females in Chile share many strategies in their argumentative discourse. However, the choice of strategies is somewhat dependent on the composition of the group (e.g., more females, more males, or equal). Overall, females tend to prefer overlap, back channeling, supportive strategies, and repetition of others. They also tend to adapt to male strategies in balanced groups. When males are the majority, they tend to exercise more power. (Forbes & Cordella, 1999)

Complaints

Very little pragmatics research exists addressing complaints. What we do know is that the types of strategies used for complaining vary in situations where the interlocutors know one another and where they are strangers. Social factors play a very important role.

angry face

In cases involving strangers, attention getting devices (e.g., Señora), requests for repair, and moral commenting are common strategies. Between friends, it is more common to give warnings (e.g., La próxima vez, en el futuro) and directly complain about the person (e.g., Eres irresponsable).

 

 
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