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This research examined interpretations of messages as a function of whether they are equivocal or unequivocal, whether they protect self-face or other-face, and whether the perceivers of the messages are directly involved in the conversation or overhear it. The role of self-monitoring and gender were also assessed. Results of Study 1 (N=463) revealed that equivocation is perceived as more polite but less honest and less competent than unequivocal criticism. Equivocation addressing other-face is the most polite, and criticism of the other is the least polite. Females perceive equivocation as more polite than do males. Ego-involvement influences perceptions independently and through its interaction with equivocation. No support was found for the role of self-monitoring or the notion that equivocation conveys a more positive meaning than unequivocal criticism. Study 2 (N = 496) replicated the findings concerning the politeness, honesty, self-other differences, gender differences, self-monitoring, and meaning associated with equivocation.