Emotion-identity talk in aggressive interactions and in reflexive accounts

Rakefet Sela-Sheffy*, Rotem Leshem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proceeding from the assumption that emotional competencies are vital components of identity work, this article focuses on emotion talk in interactions as conducive to the speaker's maintaining dignity and forming desired relatedness with their counterpart. We compare the same speaker's emotion-identity management in two different yet related encounter types: (1) an aggressive bargaining, where his dignified self is threatened and (2) his reflexive account of this event. Thereby we aim to identify alternating emotion-talk strategies as cultural resources in coping with specific encounters' constraints and tasks. Materials are drawn from a study on talk-in-interaction of young Israeli men. Extensive discourse analysis is conducted of the speaker's performance throughout the two encounters. Findings reveal two sets of emotional-discursive strategies in constructing the speaker's self-in-relations and in retrospectively positioning himself vis-à-vis his own past experience. The speaker's competence of maneuvering between two self-in-interaction models—aggressiveness and detachment—is demonstrated, using or avoiding emotion talk in accordance with his different encounters' tasks, eventually producing a coherent, morally justified image of himself throughout the sequence of events. Linking emotion talk to the construction of a dignified self, analysis points at the ambivalent status of emotion-discourse as a resource of identity-work, hinging on specific encounter rules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-466
Number of pages19
JournalCulture and Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Emotion
  • affective performances
  • conversation analysis
  • culture research
  • emotion management
  • identity work
  • reflexive accounts
  • self in interaction


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