Although expressions of affection may be regarded as a form of support between relational partners, affectionate communication has the potential also to be threatening to senders’ and receivers’ face needs, especially in nonromantic relationships. On the premise that a given communicative act can support positive face needs while simultaneously threatening negative face needs, this study applied politeness theory to the task of predicting receivers’ responses to affectionate messages from adult platonic friends. Results indicated that direct, unequivocal affectionate messages were the most supportive of positive face and also the most threatening to negative face, while indirect, equivocal messages supported positive face and threatened negative face the least. A curvilinear relationship emerged between the directness of affectionate messages and receivers’ intentions to reciprocate them, with the most direct and most indirect messages being most likely to be reciprocated. The implications of these findings both for affection research and for politeness theory are discussed.
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