The Normative Context of Advice as Social Support



    1. Daena J. Goldsmith is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 244 Lincoln Hall, 702 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801; telephone: 217–333–0141; e-mail:
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    1. Kristine Fitch is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
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  • The authors wish to thank Steve Duck, Wendy Amato, Paul Davilman, Joby Jacobus, and Stacy Reiss for their assistance. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 1994 meeting of the International Communication Association, Sydney, Australia. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to the first author.


Much of the existing research on social support overlooks the communicative processes that link supportive acts to beneficial effects. The present study represents an alternative approach: The authors document the multiple goals and implications of advice and the situational, conversational, and cultural context far the evaluation of advice among some White, middle-class, U.S. Americans. On the basis of observation of 112 advice episodes and interviews with 18 informants, the authors identify three dilemmas of seeking, receiving, and giving advice: Advice may be seen as helpful and caring or as butting in; advice may be experienced as honest or supportive; and seeking and taking advice may enact respect and gratitude, yet recipients reserve the right to make their own decisions. The identification of these dilemmas provides the basis for future research on the characteristics of more and less effective advice and for comparative research on advice in other speech communities.