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Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(1), 89–116 Copyright © 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Crying Receipts: Time, Empathy, and Institutional Practice

Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter Department of Social Sciences Loughborough University

In this article, we focus on the activities done by the recipients of crying. In the analysis, we work with a corpus of calls from a child protection helpline in which the caller shows features of crying (14 calls, or about 10% of the total). Our focus is on two kinds of crying receipts made by child protection officers (CPOs) that are rare in noncrying calls but recurrent in crying calls: take-your-times (TYTs) and empathic receipts (ERs). TYTs are used in environments in which the caller displays an attempt to but failure to articulate talk. This can be shown by inappropriate silence, wet sniffs, sobs, and turn constructional units that are either incomplete or disrupted by sobs, sniffs, or whispering. TYTs offer a license for the late delivery of talk and are affiliative. ERs can replace TYTs but are more common in environments in which callers are unresponsive to CPO actions such as advice giving. ERs have two elements—a formulation of the crying party’s mental state and some sort of marker of the contingency of the mental state formulations. The mental state element is built from local features of the caller’s talk (displays and metaformulations of upset), and issues of accuracy are managed through the epistemic contingency maker (most of-

This research was supported by a fellowship from the UK Leverhulme Trust granted to Alexa Hepburn. We thank audience members for helpful feedback at seminars in the University of Surrey, March 2004; Lund University, June 2004; University of Rome, La Sapienza, July 2004; University of York, November 2004; University of Bath, March 2005; Jyvaskyla Yliopisto, March 2005; and the University of Northampton, October 2005. We are particularly grateful to the callers and child protection officers at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for allowing us access to their calls. We have benefitted immensely from a series of discussions with Jess Harris about her research on crying in medical settings and from comments on an earlier draft by Derek Edwards. Correspondence should be sent to Alexa Hepburn, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3TU, United Kingdom. E-mail:


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

ten treating the formulation as based on hearing). We discuss broader implications of this work for conceptions of empathy.

When we started our research in the United Kingdom with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), we were regularly told that dealing with callers who cry was one of the most difficult tasks for the Child Protection Officers (CPOs). The challenge is to keep the call focused on the abused child and yet not to lose the caller altogether. Crying is perhaps particularly tricky to manage on the helpline as the CPOs have only what is available via the phone and no visual access to tears and other signs of distress. Although crying is clearly an important problem for the NSPCC and is likely to be so for all kinds of telephone support and other kinds of professional client interaction, there is very little interactional work on the subject. In fact, most of the existing research has been done from an individual psychological perspective, and no direct studies of the activities of crying had been conducted. Previous psychological work has involved retrospective self-reports or descriptive questionnaires. This has tended to produce crying as a homogeneous phenomenon and has given no access to its different elements, to how it unfolds over time, and to how recipients respond to it. We designed this article to help rectify some of these omissions. As well as the practical challenges that crying sets, it provides theoretical and analytic challenges. Human emotion has overwhelmingly been studied from an individual psychological perspective, and only a small number of studies have started to view emotion as something that appears in, and is perhaps built for, interaction. Part of the importance of research on crying is that it develops a very different perspective on emotion. Indeed, it offers an approach that avoids presupposing that there is one simple object that is referred to by the term crying and more broadly, that there is a single, simple category of things that can be referred to with the category emotion. This is the broader practical and theoretical context for this research. Our aim here, however, is to be as precise and cautious as possible in our study of sequences involving crying and by focusing on the crying receipts, move away from an individual and psychological approach to crying. In a previous article, Hepburn (2004) developed an extended scheme for the description and transcription of crying, working with a corpus of calls from the NSPCC, and also critically reviewed previous psychological research on crying. One of Hepburn’s (2004) main aims was to identify and

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distinguish different features of crying, such as whispering, sniffing, wobbling or tremulous delivery, elevated pitch, aspiration, silence, and sobbing. Hepburn (2004) made some preliminary observations about how the CPOs working on this helpline are attentive to the different elements of crying in the calls and the ways in which they respond to these elements. In this article, we extend the study of crying in this corpus of NSPCC1 calls as part of a broader program of work on interaction in these calls (Hepburn, 2005, 2006; Hepburn & Wiggins, 2005; Potter, 2005; Potter & Hepburn, 2003, in press; Stokoe & Hepburn, 2005; Wiggins & Hepburn, 2007). In this case, the focus will be largely on the CPO’s crying receipts. We consider the sorts of activities that the CPOs engage in when confronted by caller crying, how they are occasioned by specific features of that crying, and how they contribute to the institutional practices involved in responding to these calls for help. We start with some general observations about crying on the helpline. Crying (or some combination of the seven features described in Hepburn, 2004) occurs in about 10% of the calls in the corpus. We worked in detail with just over 140 calls, and 14 had extended crying sequences within them.2 These are sufficiently hearable that transcribers used to doing police and social services work labeled them using the category crying in their first-pass transcript. This does not mean that there might not be other occurrences elsewhere in the corpus that might show more fragmented features of crying. Crying can present the CPOs with some challenging dilemmas. As we have noted, CPOs told us that dealing with callers who cry is particularly troublesome. This trouble may go beyond the global feeling that it is upsetting to talk to very distressed people. There may be a tension between focusing on the upset caller himself or herself or concentrating on the evidence that they are offering that may help an abused child. Moreover, it might be that attending to the caller’s upset will itself provide the best way to obtain sufficient evidence for a referral. Or may it distract from the focus on the child? We see this dilemma played out in the materials following. Hepburn (2004) noted a range of CPO activities that appear to be responsive to crying. Specifically, there are take-your-times (TYTs), sympathetic receipts (SRs) and empathic receipts (ERs), and right-thing descriptions (RTs). There are also indications that CPOs will modify their prosody in ways that mirror certain features of the caller’s talk. In this article, we focus mainly on TYTs and ERs. To start with, we consider TYTs.


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

TYT—MANAGING DISRUPTION TO TALK Consider the following extract from the live transmission of a “reality television” show. Although not child protection material, this has the advantage of allowing us to make observations of some nonvocal elements of the interaction. The contestant has just sung a song and been heavily criticized by the judges. He has returned to a room with other contestants and two presenters to be asked about his experience (Cont1 = Contestant 1; Pres1 and Pres2 are presenters;3 transcription conventions specific to crying are summarized in Table 1): Extract 1: Pop Idol Reality Show 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Cont1: Pres1: Pres2: Cont1: Cont1: Pres2:

((inaudible mouthing, shakes head, thumb wiping eye and smiling)) .shih ((puts hand on Cont.’s shoulder)) [y’r’t. ] [(‘ight.)] (0.5) ↑↑Yeah (1.0) °.shih° (0.2) .h .SHHIHh ←TYT Take ye time there don’t worry. (0.4)

It is apparent from his soundless mouthing on the visual record that Cont1 is trying, but failing, to speak.4 Both presenters orient to Cont1’s disTABLE 1 Transcription Symbols Specific to Crying °°help°° .shih .skuh ~grandson~ ↑↑Sorry k(hh)ay hhhelp

Huhh .hhih Hhuyuhh >hhuh<


Whispering—Enclosed by double degree signs Wet sniff Snorty sniff Wobbly voice—Enclosed by tildes High pitch —Represented by one or more upward arrows Aspiration in speech —An “h” represents aspiration: in parenthesis indicates a sharper more plosive sound; outside parenthesis indicates a softer more breathy sound Sobbing —Combinations of “hhs,” some with full stops before them to indicate inhaled rather than exhaled; many have voiced vowels, some voiced consonants. If sharply inhaled or exhaled —Enclosed in the “greater than/less than ” symbols (> <) Silence —Numbers in parentheses represent silence in tenths of a second

Note. Audio examples of these elements of crying can be found in the Loughborough Discourse and Rhetoric Group Web site:

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tress by reassuring words (“are you alright”) and Pres1 puts his arm around his shoulder in a loose hug at about lines 5 through 6. Cont1 mouths and shakes his head for some 3 sec before producing the squeaky “yeah” on line 7 as a second pair part (SPP) to the presenters’ concerned enquiry. The camera (and presumably the presenters) are able to see the wet eyes with tears in them—this is made even more visible by the contestant wiping his eye with his thumb. In the delay in line 8, Cont1 does further wiping and then in line 9 produces two wet sniffs, the second louder and longer. It is at this point that Pres2 offers a TYT. Hepburn (2004) suggested that wet sniffs in crying sequences often appear to precede some attempt to speak and so may indicate that the speaker is clearing his or her nose/throat in preparation. It is therefore notable that the TYT follows these sniffs. The TYT5 here, then, is responsive to a series of signs that the speaker’s talk is disrupted and that they may now be about to attempt to speak. We started with this extract from outside of the NSPCC materials because it highlights the visibility of tears when parties are face to face. It is not just tears that are visible; failed attempts to speak involving soundless mouthing are also clearly apparent. Harris (2005) also pointed to the passing of a tissue box as a wordless response to and acknowledgment of crying. In telephone interaction, these richly inferential signs are not there for the CPO or caller. They must work with what is available through the not always ideal sound of the phone. The following extract is from a call in which a mother is reporting suspicions about her own son’s treatment of his son (HC here is the code for the specific CPO; Grandmother and friend is the name we have given to the call for data management purposes): Extract 2: HC Grandmother and friend 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller:


But he’s very very violent. An’ I’mI’m scared of my own son. _Are you_6 (.) Yes.=I am. Yeah. (0.5) How long’ve you been scare:d of him for:. = I’ve been scare:d of ~‘im~ (0.2) (right across::) (0.8) a ↑long t(hh)°°ime.°° (0.3) ↑Mm::, hh (3.5)


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

13 14 15 16 17 18

CPO: Caller: Caller:

°Take °°ye time.°° (5.1) Hhh (0.7) A log tibe. (1.1)

Note here what happens after the CPO’s question in line 7. The caller starts to respond, but then there is a pause, a barely audible utterance, and then a longer pause (lines 8 and 9). The caller completes the turn constructional unit (TCU) in line 9 with some further trouble seen in the intonational contour on “long” and the aspiration and reduced volume in the word “time.” Aspiration, elevated intonation, reduced volume, and delay of this kind are recurrent features of crying. The CPO’s response to this, after delay on line 10, is a minimal continuer—“Mm”—but it is inflected with hearably sympathetic intonation.7 Following this is a much more extended gap of 3.5 sec. This is long for this call and for NSPCC calls in general. It is in the environment of this silence that the CPO produces the TYT (line 13). Note that the CPO does not have a visual record of crying or mouthing to see a failure to articulate speech; yet the TYT treats the caller as having such trouble, presumably on the basis of the delays and difficulty of completing the TCU. Note also that the TYT is delivered quietly, perhaps displaying a tuning to the recipient’s delivery and silence. The TYT here is an affiliative and licensing action while also formulating and accounting for the prior delays and hitches. Although the TYT is delivered on the basis of what has come before, it is interesting to track what follows. Immediately after comes an even longer gap, more aspiration, and then a repeat of the disrupted part of the caller’s previous TCU, perhaps an attempt to repair its troubled delivery or marking further trouble in producing a new TCU, so recycling the prior turn. This repeat is hearably hampered by a blocked nose. These features evidence further trouble in articulating the talk and support the CPO’s analysis displayed by the TYT that the caller has been having trouble. We take one further extract to illustrate standard features of TYTs in the NSPCC material. The following shows the same features of disrupted delivery prior to the TYT. Here the caller has already called the police about an attack on his son by his stepfather, and the CPO is asking questions in preparation for a referral to social services. We begin with a response to a query about where the caller’s son had been hit:

Crying Receipts


Extract 3: JK Distraught dad 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29


Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO:


>’E sez ‘esgot< marks round ‘is throa:t=’e’s been punched against the wa:ll=an ‘is ‘ead smacked against the wa:ll=‘e said. (.) .Shih= =>Sorry< punched against a wa:ll, Mm. (1.3) G~ra~bbed round t’throat. Yeh. (0.4) Grabbed round the throa:t. (0.2) .Shih (0.4) Hh°u°hhh (0.5) Tk °Ohkhay:.° .Shih (3.1) An ‘is head hit the wa:ll. .Huhh h °°Yhess°° (0.3) °Tk° (0.3) °O°kay take yer ti:me. .Shih (2.0) °>.hih .hih<° (0.4)


Prior to the extract, the caller has already exhibited signs of upset. In this sequence, the CPO is reviewing evidence for the social services referral— note how the CPO repeats elements from the caller’s report in lines 6, 11, and 20 for confirmation. During this exchange, there are various signs of increasing disruption and upset in the caller’s talk: the sniff in line 5,8 the slight tremor in delivery in line 9, the sniff in lines 13 and 18, the long gap in line 19, and probably most vividly in the sob on 15. The CPO provides a quiet, breathy, and sympathetic sounding “°Ohkhay:.°” in line 17, but it is striking that the TYT is not offered until line 25 after the caller has delivered only a whispered and sobbing confirmation of the third part of the CPO’s evidence review in line 20. The whispering and sob here accompany


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

an articulation problem. Although the caller produces a lexical TCU as confirmation in line 21, its production is flawed. Again, the TYT is occasioned by indications that the caller is both attempting to and yet struggling to articulate talk. It provides a license for the caller delaying speaking and is therefore hearable as affiliative and supportive. We end our discussion of TYTs briefly by addressing two questions. Is it possible to identify places where TYTs could have been delivered but were not?, and are TYTs institutionally specific? The question about the absence of TYTs in possibly appropriate places is a difficult one, but we offer some suggestions. Three sorts of crying calls have no TYTs in them. First, there are calls in which other appropriate actions appear in place of TYTs and do some of the same work (we consider some of these sympathetic and ERs in the next section). Second, there are calls in which the crying is not associated with the same delay and disruption of speech delivery. Take the following extract; line 6 contains the longest delay in the crying part of this call: Extract 4: WO upset neighbor 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller:

CPO: Caller:


>Ri[ght.<=cou-] could you hear what they [ An:d: ] [were] say [in:g. ] [>an ‘e ] was-< (0.2) °i- e-° I couldn’t [I- ] hear whad ‘e was say:ing. <but you know:,> (1.2) ((swallows)) ~d’ye know what I mea:n~ I’ve ↑been awake ~nearly all nihght.= [hI’m] so: upset about it.~ [Mm.] [Mhm.] [ .Hhh ] an the thing is though I’ve trie:d talking to the boy.=when I’ve seen him an he’s fri:ghtened.>[he[e-e What today was that.

Up to now, the caller has been reporting an overheard incident involving her upstairs neighbor striking her son. The CPO has been pushing for more evidence about what exactly could be heard, implying the insufficiency of what is being given. The long delay on line 6 follows the caller’s (possibly) incomplete TCU—“but you know” (a slightly exasperated appeal to prior evidence given about the child upstairs calling out in pain). After the delay,

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the caller swallows and continues with a metaobservation about the effect of the witnessing on her state of mind and, by implication, the seriousness of the problem. The caller then continues after an inbreath with her problems in eliciting further information about the victim, which in turn occasions a further evidential question from the CPO. The point we highlight is that the evidence provision and evidence gathering have proceeded in spite of the display of upset.9 The lengthy delay (line 6) comes before the more clear-cut signs of crying that come with the voice wobbling and aspiration in lines 7 through 9. Examples of this kind can be characterized as the interaction proceeding relatively smoothly through the crying. It is not easy to make a straightforward comparison, however, as this is one of the calls in which the crying is more limited (e.g., it has no hearable sobs and wet sniffs), and the CPO’s responses are equally limited (e.g., the fairly minimal continuer of line 11 after the caller has both claimed and displayed her upset).10 For the most part, when talk is clearly disrupted by signs of crying and when the caller is clearly attempting to articulate but failing, either a TYT or an SR or ER is offered. The third possibility is suggested by one call in which the caller puts the phone down before providing full information for a referral. The following extract appears shortly before the termination: Extract 5: BN Burnt hands 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Caller: Caller: CPO: Caller:


Caller: Caller: Caller: CPO:

She wasn making a:ny noise at all. (1.3) .Hh ‘n she never does when she gets hit. S:[tra:nge is]n’ it. [It’s all c- ] I’ve never seen her cry:,= and (.) ~e:m~ (0.3) .hh (0.9) ((clicking and swallowing noises for 1.6 sec)) ~yeahhh~ (2.1) but er hhh (1.4) ANYway. (0.2) [After ] that, [S:o- ] (0.2)


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

Note here that in line 7, a TCU is produced, and initially, the turn appears to have more to come but then is broken up with lengthy delay in lines 9 and 10 (including some noises that could be related to the caller having articulation problems) and then more long delay (in lines 12 and 14) and four incomplete TCUs (lines 11, 13, 15, and 17). This is the kind of environment in which a TYT might be offered but is not. Instead, the CPO prompts for a continuation of the abuse story or begins to provide some upshot (line 18). As is common at this stage in the calls, the CPO drops out of the overlap to allow the caller to continue with his report. If TYTs are licensing and affiliative, this CPOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s abandoned turn in line 18 seems to be neither.11 It is certainly plausible that lack of a TYT here contributes to the sense of the report not receiving a sympathetic hearing and therefore contributes to the premature termination. Whereas Extract 4 illustrated that TYTs do not appear when there is a lack of major disruption to the interaction, Extract 5 illustrates that when there is notable disruption and no TYT, there may be some potentially terminal problems with alignment between the caller and CPO. More examples would be needed to make these claims with confidence. The other broad question to end this discussion relates to the degree of institutional specificity of these findings, and it is not an easy question to answer. In the material we have, there are a number of potentially important asymmetries. It is plausible that the asymmetry between caller and CPO (or contestant and presenter in Extract 1) is related to the potential for one party being in an institutional position to offer licensing turns such as TYTs to the other. Without a more extended corpus of everyday crying, it is hard to test this fully. Our intuition is that when your friend or partner cries, TYTs might not be appropriate; however, a parent quizzing a crying child about something that had upset them might be a base environment for a TYT. These intuitions would need a broader collection of crying materials to test properly. We now summarize this analytic section. We have suggested that CPOs may offer TYT constructions in response to sequences of crying that involve abnormally long delays combined with disrupted or incomplete TCUs. TYTs license the disruption to the interaction and are therefore affiliative actions. There is some limited indication that TYTs are not used in calls in which the caller is able to proceed despite the disruption caused by crying. Other actions may take the place of TYTs (as we show in the next section). Finally, it may be that the absence of TYTs when they would be appropriate can create interactional problems, and in the extreme, the caller may prematurely terminate the call.

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EMPATHY AND SYMPATHY IN CRYING CALLS Notions of sympathy and empathy have a range of vernacular understandings and some more technical senses in professional psychology. Sympathy is typically defined as understanding and care for someone else’s suffering and empathy as the imaginative sharing of someone else’s experiences. There is considerable overlap in dictionary definitions.12 In this article, we focus on empathetic receipts (ERs) rather than sympathetic receipts (SRs), which deserve fuller treatment on their own. In the last few years, there have been attempts to consider the notion of empathy from a more interactional standpoint. One of the most influential of these has been Suchman, Markakis, Beckman, and Frankel’s (1997) model of empathic communication in medical settings, which identifies its essence in two features: “the accurate understanding of the patient’s feelings by the clinician and the effective communication of that understanding back to the patient so that the patient feels understood” (p. 678). However, Suchman et al’s (1997) model is not tuned to the sense of interaction from the perspective of its participants. There are some deep and subtle analytic and theoretical issues that arise when one comes to work with such a model. In particular, the following questions are likely to have different answers dependent on the analytic stance taken:

• • • •

What kind of thing is the understanding? How will its accuracy be assessed? What kind of thing is the communication of an understanding? More generally, how should a patient’s feelings be conceptualized?

We take an approach that starts with concrete conduct and consider how notions of understanding, accuracy, communication, and feelings make sense as participants’issues to be practically managed within specific sequences of interaction. This is broadly the stance that Beach and Dixson (2001) and Ruusuvuori (2005) have taken to sympathy and empathy and is consonant with the conceptualization of emotion that Edwards (1997) developed. We return to these issues after a consideration of examples. For the moment, note that we are not starting from a lay/technical psychological notion of empathy and looking for its interactional manifestations; rather, we are using the interaction analysis to critically explore and perhaps respecify that notion.


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

Calls to the NSPCC child protection helpline frequently include reports of serious abuse—acting on such reports is one of the central roles of the helpline. It is notable that CPOs rarely receipt such reports with actions that might be common in noninstitutional situations (Potter & Hepburn, in press). Full-scale surprise at the abuse, explicit condemnation of the perpetrator, and overt sympathy for either victim or reporter are unusual. Instead, abuse reports are typically followed by actions that perform institutional tasks—for example, evidence gathering or advising. These actions may include vestiges of condemnation, for example, in the appearance of tut particles and relics of sympathy in the intonational contours of acknowledgment tokens. This can be seen in Extract 6, which starts directly after the ethics exchange: Extract 6: AD Girl Shut In 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

CPO: Caller:

CPO: Caller:

CPO: Caller:

CPO: CPO: Caller:

D.hh al↓ri:ght then so e- w- ↑what was↑ your concer:ns a↓bout these children. R:ight. Um I think it’s er:: (0.2) juss one o’ their childre:n, (.) Mm:[:. ] [E:]m:: (0.2) I think she’s bein locked in a room:, (.) Tch ri:gh [t, ] [ E ]n sh- an ‘er ~crie::s:~ (0.4) are d- really distressi:n. (.) Ri::ght*. (0.2) >Right< .HH an how old’s the little (0.2) °g°- girl [it’s a ] gir:l.= [yeah, ] [Er:m ] [I’m ] not quite sure arr owld she is but I think …

Note here the CPO’s turn after the caller first formulates an abuse description in lines 7 through 8. It is an acknowledgment token offering neither explicit sympathy nor condemnation (although the tut particle and the intonation and stretch on “right” offer vestiges of both). Even after the caller heightens the sense of the upset of the child and her own upset in lines 11 through 12 (note the wobbly inflection and stretch of “~crie::s:~” and the

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delay that follows it), the CPO follows (after a short gap) with another acknowledgment token (line 14) and a new question (lines 16 through 17) rather than a sympathetic or empathic turn. Sequences in which callers cry are an exception to this general pattern. Here, receipts that express what we start by simply calling sympathy and empathy are frequent—they occur during the crying sequences of 11 out of the 14 calls that included crying. We start with one candidate for an SR before focusing on ERs. Consider the following extract: Extract 7: AD Grandson black eye 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller: Caller: CPO: CPO: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO:

She got the boyfriend to ring last ni:ght to say [ th’t ‘e ] won’t be coming down, (0.4) [°Yeah:. °] this week- (0.2) this week. °.hhhhh° An she won’t ~answer my phone or anythin’ and I’m jh’s s(h)↑o whorri[ed th’t some’ing c’d ] ] [ °O h : m y ↑hhappen [↑to ↑↑‘im~ >.HH< ] h [ g o : : s h : ° ] *Oh: go:s [h* ] [°.S ]hih° (0.5) .HHhh (0.5) °.Shih°= =I mean is your relationship with her normallyis it (.) e-normally oka:y,..

This extract comes 2 min after the end of the ethics exchange, so it is still in the initial stages in which the caller is reporting the problem involving concerns about the safety of her grandson. The caller has displayed elements of crying throughout this time. In this section, the crying comes to something of a crescendo (note the combination of wobbly voice beginning in line 6, extremely elevated pitch in line 9, and sobs inside and outside of words in lines 7, 9, and 10). Despite the intensity of the emotional display, note that the caller is still constructing the report in the standard manner for early actions in calls (Potter & Hepburn, 2003)—in particular, she uses a mental state13 construction “worried” that generates an appropriate stance to the abuse but allows its nature to be collaboratively defined using the expertise of the CPO. The difference here is that it is intensified “just so worried,”


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

and each word includes interpolated aspiration—“jh’s s(h)↑o whorried” (line 7). Our focus here is on the CPO’s receipts. Just as the caller’s delivery starts to contain more features of crying, the CPO starts to respond in overlap, after an initial TCU in line 6 but prior to the next transition relevant place, with “°Oh: my go:sh:°” (lines 8 and 10)—a combination of a news receipt and surprise marker plus perhaps a recognition of something untoward.14 Our vernacular sense of the delivery here is that its extension, lowered volume, and emphasis display sympathy; it does not sound competitive despite the turn incursion. The CPO then repeats in the clear in line 11, including most of the prior features of delivery plus a creaky delivery, which also sounds sympathetic. Such actions—news receipt, surprise, and stance markers—are departures from the more common institutional pattern on the helpline. Indeed, they suggest a more personal response; they suggest that the CPO is treating the report as news and as surprising news in the same way as a friend or acquaintance might. The lowered volume and elevated pitch also give a sense of familiarity and closeness. Such a response can be at odds with the standard CPO focus on careful and objective informational gathering, which may at times sound skeptical, and it can withhold treating the status of the abuse as fully established. However, inattention to the caller’s distress also creates problems, as we showed in Extract 5 previously. Although a departure from the standard CPO form, it is worth noting two things that the CPO does not do here. She does not provide a formulation of the caller’s mental state, and she does not provide an account for that mental state. We see both of these things appearing in other CPO receipts. It is the absence of these features that we speculate will mark a receipt as sympathetic and their presence that will mark it as empathic.15 Consider the following extract that occurs just over 2 min after the ethics exchange. The caller, who has said she is 14 years old, has already shown signs of crying through her initial report. This extract starts as the CPO has started to offer advice about talking to a trustworthy grown-up: Extract 8: JX Self-harming friend 1 2 3 4 5



.Hh because there’s ↑lots of things that could be done to help your frie:nd, (0.5) .hhh Because obviously she’ll- (0.2) she’s had a really difficult ↑ti:hme.=hasn’t she.

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6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller:


(0.7) Yeah. (.) °Yeh.° You sound as though you’re very upset about it. .Shih ~yeh I am.~ (0.5) °Mm:.° (0.2) ~I’ [m c ]lo(h)se to tehar:s.~ [°Ye-°] (0.7) I can ↑hea:r tha:t, (0.2) yeah:. (1.0) .Shih (0.2) °.Hhh[h° ] [.Sh ]ih (0.7) °h↑m° .shhih (1.0)

This is a complex extract. We are particularly interested in the CPO’s turns in lines 4 through 5, 9 through 10, and 18. However, to help understand what is going on, it is important to note that the caller’s uptake through the advice that precedes this has been very limited, and she is not showing that she expects to act on the advice given. The caller has also displayed signs of upset prior to this when reporting the problem, with no explicit acknowledgment from the CPO. The start of this extract shows the CPO offering some generalized encouragement about what could be done, which is met with silence from the caller (line 3)—typically a sign of trouble with the prior turn,16 although also a common sign of upset. Whatever, in response to this, the CPO changes tack and offers a turn that is more affiliative than advice giving (lines 4–5). Notable features are the elevated pitch and stretch on “↑ti:hme” and the assessment plus tag question format, projecting agreement and downgrading the CPO’s epistemic priority in assessing the caller’s friend in first position (Heritage & Raymond, 2005). As Hepburn (2004) noted, tag questions are common in crying receipts, possibly because they make relevant an answer without making one as strongly relevant as a normal interrogative might. The standard response to an assessment+tag is confirmation + agreement—a way of upgrading one’s rights to assess in second position (in which one has primary rights) and


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

complementing with the tag in first position (Heritage & Raymond, 2005); it is notable in this case that although the caller does have primary epistemic rights to assess (it’s her friend), she only offers a minimal agreement (“yeah”). After enough silence for it to be clear that no confirmation is forthcoming, the CPO responds with a hearably quiet “yeh” (line 9). This is the environment for what we call the CPO’s ER17 in lines 8 through 9. The first thing to note about this is that the CPO formulates the mental state of the caller as “very upset about it.” It is this feature of formulating the mental state of another that leads us to call this an ER. Note that this goes further than the SR in Extract 7. We take it that saying things about the mental states of others is a potentially delicate thing to do. There may be issues of privacy and ownership—who has the right to such claims and also issues of epistemology and who is in the best position to access the knowledge on which such claims can be based. This relates to the second thing we note about the ER. The receipt includes a marker of the epistemic basis for the claim “you sound as though. …” Moreover, the caller treats this as a claim that can be confirmed (or not) by agreeing that she is. Note also the way that the agreement displays the upset in being preceded by a wet sniff and delivered in wobbly voice (line 11). There is a broader point here about empathy and the ability of one person to read another’s mental states. The model for thinking about this is often a clinical one in which the therapist offers an insightful interpretation of the client’s state based on their wise empathic skills. Whether this model is accurate for clinicians, the practice here is rather different. The CPO is offering a formulation of the caller’s mental state that draws on a range of resources in the immediately preceding call (a range of elements of crying), backed up with potential category-based inferences (one gets upset when a friend is hurt), which accounts for the lack of uptake to the CPO’s prior turns. It is not obvious that special insights over and above standard interaction skills are required to be able to do this. Moreover, the formulation of the other’s mental state is built as epistemically contingent. This allows both for the possibility of the caller producing a different gloss and orients to the caller’s epistemic rights over their mental state (cf. Heritage & Raymond, 2005). We explore these features further with another example. This caller is calling in about his own childhood abuse, which he has only ever talked about with his wife before. He has started to show increasing elements of crying, including full-scale sobbing just before the extract. The CPO starts to offer advice:

Crying Receipts


Extract 9: JX Male survivor 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller: Caller:

Caller: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO:

There ↑are things you can do and the-there is [specialist help ] (0.4) ou[t there. ] [.HHHhh hhhh ] [↑↑Sorry.] (0.4) ↑That’s alri:ght, (0.8) .H.shihh (0.5) HHh (0.4) >°°↑Ghhd- ↑al- ↑like°°< (0.2) °°↑↑i°° (1.4) °°↑↑bleedin ↑↑k:id°° (1.9) °°Ghho’ I’m a°° °↑↑grown ↑↑man° (1.7) K.HHhh Hh [h ] [Th]ere’s:: a bit of the child in ↑all of us an- (0.7) an [that’s the h(h)urt chi(h)ld ] [ .H h h h H h h h ] there is↑un’ it. with you at the moment. °.Hhhhh° >hh< >h< >h< (3.5) ↑Don’t worry, °th- i-° take your ti:me. (1.4)

Note that here the caller sobs through the advice (line 3) and offers a high pitched apology.18 This is followed with a wet sniff (line 7) and a whispered and high pitched metacomment on how he is acting (“like a bleedin kid,” lines 11–12, despite being a “grown man,” line 14) and then further sobs (line 16). This is interspersed by long pauses and gaps. This is the environment in which the CPO produces the ER on lines 17 through 20. Note here that the mental state formulation is presented in a scripted (Edwards, 1994) and somewhat theorized form. This is delicately designed to normalize and thereby account for the crying, picking up elements both from the kid or grown man construction of the caller just prior and from the caller’s report of flashbacks to being a “little boy again,” which he reported just prior to this extract. The mental state element in the receipt comes with both the child construction and the specific formulation of the hurt child with the caller (lines 18–20). Again, there is an orientation to privacy and ownership. In this case, it appears with the tag question in line 20: “is↑un’ it.” This presents the


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

formulation as not only general but also something that the caller has the knowledge to ratify. Heritage and Raymond (2005) showed that tag questions can “downgrade the putatively primary rights to assess the referent” (p. 22) by suggesting that the speaker has “secondary access to a referent” (p. 20).19 However when added to a second assessment, tag questions have the opposite effect in that they issue a new first pair part to be responded to and thereby assert the primary rights of the second speaker to assess the issue at hand. It is possible to see that the CPO’s response is disregarding the caller’s strong self-deprecation on lines 11 through 14 and employing the tag question in second position to assert her right to assess this in terms of the types of normative feelings that all people possess. We now consider one further variant on the way that mental states can be constructed in ERs. In the extract following, the caller has been showing most of the features of crying for much of the first 12 min of the call. The caller is reporting a boy trapped in her attic, but reports that she has called the police to search it on a number of occasions and they do not believe her claim. She says they are not looking properly: Extract 10: HC Boy in attic 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Caller: CPO: Caller:

CPO: Caller: Caller: Caller: CPO: Caller:

~I’M ON mahh~ .h↑ihh (0.2) ~I(h)’m des°perate° ah really am~ °↑hhu [hh° .hh ] [M;’[ppm::. ] ~Somebody doesn’t do something soo:n ah’m gonna e-~ (0.2) >.h↑↑ihh< (0.5) ~>↑AH dunno waddam gonna do. *I’ll die* anyway.< ~ °a-↑a-° >i[hhuhh<] [ ↑M m:]:: (0.4) .H↑↑UIhh (0.2) °shih° (0.5) °°h↑↑i [:hh°° ] [Tk So] maybe life is very very f [ri:ghtening.] [~‘E doesn’t] take- the- the p’lice …

In this extract, one can see the caller produce a range of sobs, sniffs, and volume changes combined with more and less explicit metaformulations of desperation delivered in a wobbly voice. The CPO inflects her acknowledgment tokens with sympathetic intonation (as she has done through

Crying Receipts


much of the earlier part of the call). She produces the ER in lines 15 through 16. Note first the construction very very frightening. This makes the mental state (frightened) accountable to features of the world. Indeed, it is a simultaneous construction of the mental state and the features of the world that produce it. As before the epistemic contingency of the mental state (accounting) construction is marked. Note here the inference marker “so” that presents the construction as based on what has come before and the “maybe” preface to the claim that presents it as a candidate that may or may not be confirmed (both line 15). Both features downgrade the CPO’s epistemic rights to assess what is, after all, the caller’s life.

NORMATIVE EXPLOITATION AND THE WORK OF THE NSPCC In our discussion up to now, we have not been primarily focused on crying and the work of the helpline. We want to end by considering a call that might help us understand the relation of crying receipts to this work. It is from a caller who reports severe difficulties with a 14-year-old daughter and has raised the possibility of her being taken into care. The CPO has advised against this course of action on a range of grounds, and by 10 min into the call, the caller has displayed a number of features of crying. Just prior to this, the caller has been emphatic about how much her daughter dislikes her as a warrant for being unable to take the type of action suggested by the CPO: Extract 11: WO Problem daughter II 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO:


[yeah.] .hh no I- I-I hear [what you’re [ .h h h h [sayin but-but what I’m sayin is that ] [ . hh h h h h h h .shhihh ] situation can’t continue forever.=I mean she’s four:tee:n. ~↑↑I ↑↑know,~= =An- an (.) .hh you know you obviously need some kind of outside help he:re.=to look at the relationship that exists between the boaf uv you. °°.Y [ e a h h°°]


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22



Caller: CPO: Caller: CPO:

[ An for ] somebody to try an help you resolve tha:t. (0.2) .Hhh er:m (0.2) .hh you know.=I mean I can hear that you’re very very upset,=an I should imagine that she gets very upset as well:.= =~↑Yeah.=[↑she ↑does.~] [ .hhh uh:m ]: °.Shi[hh° ] [An-] an:

The focus for us is the CPO’s turn in lines 16 through 18. However, note the way the caller is sobbing and sniffing through the advice sequence that precedes it (her prior turn has been an extrematized account of how much her daughter hates her). She does produce a high-pitched agreement with the CPO’s reminder of the (vulnerable) age of her daughter, but does not otherwise show understanding or even acknowledgment of the advice. Crucially, when the CPO suggests outside help is required (lines 8–14), the caller responds with a whispered agreement (line 12) and silence (line 15). It is in this environment that the CPO produces an ER. This formulates the caller’s mental state (“very very upset”) and marks the epistemic contingency of the formulation (“I can hear”). However, this is immediately coupled to a parallel construction: “an I should imagine that she gets very upset” (lines 17–18). Like the ER, it formulates a mental state, in this case that of the caller’s daughter. Like the ER, it marks the epistemic contingency of the formulation with “I should imagine” (i.e., a normative inference is made). What the CPO had produced here is a package that avoids any commitment to the factuality of the caller’s account while attending to her distress and immediately refocusing her on the daughter who is the subject of the call. This generates immediate (although high-pitched and wobbly) agreement from the caller (line 19). One can see here, then, the normative organization of the ER being directly exploited to do the institutional work of the helpline.

DISCUSSION—CRYING RECEIPTS AND THE PROVISION OF HELP In the first analytic section, we described the role and occurrence of TYTs in crying material. TYTs are closely tied to specific indications that

Crying Receipts


the speaker is attempting, but failing, to articulate talk. Such indications include inappropriate silence, wet sniffs, sobs, and, crucially, flawed TCUs that are either incomplete or completed in a form disrupted by sobs, sniffs, or whispering/mouthing. We noted that crying sequences that involved such features typically are receipted with a TYT. However, when the disruption was more minor, and the caller seemed to be able to continue through the crying, TYTs were not used. Further, there is some evidence that lack of a TYT (or SRs and ERs) when the caller is struggling to articulate talk might be treated as unsympathetic or disaffiliative and may at worst result in the call being terminated. In general, TYTs offer a license for the late delivery of talk and a formulation of, and account for, the time already taken. They are therefore a supportive and affiliative move. In our second analytic section, we described the role and occurrence of SRs and ERs. Such receipts are rare in NSPCC calls except in environments that involve crying in which they are recurrent. As we noted previously, they appeared in 10 out of our full corpus of 14 calls that include crying sequences and in all 10 of the calls when the crying is severe (including at least some extended sobbing) and the call is not prematurely terminated (which obviously curtails the possibility of such receipts being delivered). We briefly considered an example of SRs (e.g., oh my gosh). This departed from the more common pattern in the helpline interaction that typically avoids news receipts, sympathy, and condemnation. Oh my gosh treats a report as newsworthy, surprising, and troublesome and can be intonationally inflected to emphasize its sympathetic nature often by mirroring features of the delivery of the prior turn. This requires further study and specification. Our main focus was ERs. ERs can occur in the same environment that TYTs do: that is, when there are incomplete or troubled TCUs and evidence of an attempt to articulate talk. However, they are more common in environments when callers are unresponsive to CPO actions such as advice giving (e.g., Extracts 8 and 11) or when they are offering negative or desperate self-judgments (e.g., Extracts 9 and 10) . ERs are made up of two key elements: 1. A formulation of the crying partyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mental state. 2. A marker of the contingency or source of the mental state formulation. The mental state formulations (upset, hurt, frightened) are clearly derivable from the locally prior elements of crying such as sobs, wet sniffs, and


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

extended silence. Nevertheless, by marking the formulation as contingent (by constructing it as something heard as in Extracts 8 and 11, by using a tag question as in Extract 8, by treating it as a supposition as in Extract 10), the CPO defers to the rights of the upset party to define the nature of their mental state. At the start of our discussion of empathy, we quoted Suchman et al.’s (1997) influential discussion that treated empathic communication in medical settings as dependent on the accurate understanding of the patient’s feelings and the communication of that understanding back to the patient so they feel understood. We consider some more general and theoretical questions raised for Suchman et al. by our analysis. One important issue is how notions of understanding, accuracy, communication, and feeling should be conceptualized. On the basis of our preceding analysis, understanding can be treated as something displayed by the CPO through the construction and placement of ERs. That is, it is something practical and interactionally embedded. This avoids a circular process in which the analyst infers understanding from the participants’ talk and then explains that talk as a product of understanding. Accuracy can be treated as a practical issue that can be managed through the building of ERs out of immediately local materials (displays and metaformulations of upset) rather than considering it in terms of an abstract relation between a putative inner state and a description. Accuracy (and possible inaccuracy) is attended to by participants by marking the ERs as epistemically contingent. The CPO’s understanding is communicated through the ER itself rather than seeing the empathic understanding in a dualistic fashion as a mental concept that is subsequently put into words. Patients’ feelings are seen as practically and consequentially available in the interaction through metaformulations, through the display available with the wide range of crying elements, and through the related disruption of the turns of talk and sequences of activity. The analysis here has some parallels with Pudlinski’s (2005) study of sympathy and empathy on a helpline for elderly people. Pudlinski identified eight different methods that he claimed call takers used for expressing empathy/sympathy. The closest to what we have been calling ERs is what Pudlinski called “naming another’s feelings.” It is interesting to compare Pudlinski’s materials to our own, as it highlights a difference in some basic ways of understanding the relationship between emotion and interaction. Pudlinski (2005) gave one example of “naming another’s feelings” (pp. 272–273). The elderly caller is offering the call taker a narrative concerning some relatives who are ill with cancer:

Crying Receipts


Extract 12: Pudlinski (2005)—Call #39 (Site 3) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11


CT: CT: C: CT: C:

Hhh uhm, (0.3) she has cancer she’s in the hospital they just found it (0.6) Oh my god (0.8) You found all this out tonight Yeah (2.8) Hhhahh Aimee Aimee you’re just getting clobbered I kn(hh)ow(hh) (0.5) ont know what ta do. everybod>it seems like everybody I come into contact with dies

Pudlinski (2005) suggested that line 9 “makes claims about the caller’s emotions underlying this report of ‘bad news’” (p. 273). However, from the perspective taken in this work, we would not class this as an ER because it has neither a mental state formulation nor a marker of epistemic contingency. Indeed, it is notable that the call taker specifically does not give a description of the caller’s mental state (as upset, say, or angry) but instead provides a formulation of the negative circumstances that face the caller. The construction of these circumstances (the caller being “clobbered”) is precisely open to a range of different psychological consequences; it is a construction that holds off the sorts of specific formulations seen in the ERs we have considered. Note that before the call taker’s action, there is only the long delay on line 8 to suggest possible crying (although some features follow that action), so the call taker does not have the sort of evidence of sobbing, wet sniffs, and so on that CPO’s use to make judgments of upset. We take a rather more cautious use of the notion of empathy than Pudlinski. Specifically, we are cautious about the dualistic presuppositions offered (the emotions are treated as underlying the interaction), and we are cautious about the attribution of empathy to turns of talk that do not construct mental states. The analysis in our article complements Ruusuvuori’s (2005) study of empathy in different medical settings. Ruusuvuori analyzed in particular a sequence in which a clinician displays empathy through the use of a second story in response to a troubles telling. Ruusuvuori’s analysis picked up from Sacks’s (1992) treatment of second stories as devices for showing affiliation. Our examples involve a rather different practice of empathy involving the production of a mental state formulation + epistemic contingency marker. We do have one example in our materials that has some


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

similarities to hers. In the following extract, there is an example that is a candidate ER that takes a different form. This extract comes some 3 min into a call in which the caller is reporting the discovery of abuse in the family from many years earlier: Extract 13: BN Old abuse 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14



Caller: CPO: Caller: Caller:

.Hhh er::m (0.5) a:n-an to be honest is I find it very strange because appairently .hhh I’m to::ld, bhy mhhy dhaughter that my husband knew:, (0.2) .hhh (0.2) er: some ti:me ago. (0.4) And that I: was never to:ld, an I- I’m afraid I d- ↑I fhind myself↑ very an:gry as ~well as very~ ↑↑u.HHh ~↑very ↑ups:et.~ (0.2) Be↑cus (0.8) E [Ohhh ] [It was ] kept [from you:.] [ . H hi h ] A-w- >↑in some way:s, an whhat ↑rhisk were ~my~ ↑children hhad- put at.

We do not go into much detail here. However, note the increasing intrusion of crying elements into the narrative here until one sees a combination of metaformulation, high pitch, wobbly voice, and sobs in lines 6 through 8. In line 10, the caller starts to provide a reason (“becus”) for their state but then breaks into silence and a word started but lost in a sob. Following the delay, the CPO builds an anticipatory completion (Lerner, 1991, 1996). Such turns are both potentially affiliative and can display an understanding of the other’s feelings, knowledge, intentions, or mental state and often offer a delicate or unpleasant upshot. In this case, the CPO is projecting what is to come from the turn beginning (because) and recycling information from the prior turn (“I was never told,” line 6), and this may be why there is no marker of epistemic contingency. Even so, the risk of this way of showing empathy is that it can be misaligned with the caller—note the weak pro forma agreement from the caller in line 13: “in some ways,” a common feature of dispreferred responses. Again, this shows how empathy is practical, locally managed, and open to a range of troubles. The successful examples we have considered previously are drawing on immediately available materials for the mental state construction.

Crying Receipts


At the start of this article, we noted that CPOs find caller crying as something difficult to manage. Part of this difficulty undoubtedly arises from cases in which the crying caller is reporting abuse to another (the most common situation in our corpus of calls). There is tension between focusing on the caller’s upset and generating sufficient information for a referral of the child to social services. The caller may need to be soothed, to be kept on the line, and to feel that they are speaking in a supportive environment. It can be particularly difficult to generate this supportive environment when a key practical task is to elicit evidence for the referral; such questioning almost inevitably sounds skeptical. The CPOs manage this with a combination of different receipts. TYTs orient to the callers’ trying and failing to produce talk during crying. ERs are a neat way of showing attentiveness to the caller’s distress and managing the delicacy of making claims about another’s mental state. Dealing with crying callers involves an interactional juggling act of considerable complexity; in this article, we have tried to show the sophistication of what is involved and perhaps why the CPOs find it such a challenge.

NOTES 1 The NSPCC is Britain’s foremost child protection charity and is unique in possessing statutory powers to safeguard children. Much of their direct contact is through a 24-hr National Child Protection Helpline that receives more than 250,000 calls per year. The NSPCC is legally mandated to pass on reports of abuse to social services and/or police when the information is sufficient and merits action whether the caller wishes this or not. The helpline also provides free counseling, information, and advice to anyone concerned about a child at risk of ill treatment or abuse or to children themselves who may be at risk. It is staffed by trained social workers with at least 3 years field experience of working in child protection. Our research is based mainly at the NSPCC’s London call center where up to 18 call takers may be on duty at any one time in shifts of between 6 and 10 hr. They make notes on information given during calls. Calls are highly varied. They come from adults, young people, grandparents, parents, and neighbors and from people of different social class and ethnic backgrounds from all over Britain. They can be asking for advice, reporting abuse, or requiring counseling. Some issues may be relatively trivial; some may be literally life or death. They can last for a few minutes or stretch to over an hour (the average is something over 15 min). Some callers will call back for further advice or to report further information. When serious abuse is suspected, the call taker will follow the call directly with a call to the relevant police force or, more often, the local Social Services. Calls were recorded on mini disk and then digitized for transcription and analysis. All participants to the study consented to their calls being recorded for research and training


Alexa Hepburn and Jonathan Potter

purposes. CPOs only recorded the call if they were satisfied that informed consent had been given. 2 Of these 14 calls, 10 include crying sequences receipted using some combination of the phenomena we discuss in this article. In 2 of the calls that are not receipted in this way, the phone is put down by the caller. In 2 further calls, the features of crying are limited (neither involve full-scale sobbing), and both callers are able to continue through the crying to provide full abuse reports. 3 An extended audio and transcript of this extract is available at departments/ss/centres/darg/Hepburn_1.htm 4 The visual record illustrates that what may often be hearable as silence, inaudible talk, or a whisper on the telephone line that could be mouthing—attempting to speak, moving the mouth but with very little sound coming out. Note of course that this does not rule out the possibility that the contestant is doing trying to speak to get the receipt that he got—conversational phenomena of this kind are always open to subversion. 5 Although TYT is by far the commonest construction in these materials, there are alternatives such as just take a minute, and the TYT can be preceded by okay or don’t worry. 6 “_Are you_” is a suggestion for transcribing an utterance said with uniform intonation throughout. 7 What seems to make this hearably sympathetic is its mirroring of the auditory feature of the prior turn, that is, elevated intonation and delay (coming after a 0.4-sec gap), and later on some quieter talk. This type of observation awaits more systematic exploration. 8 The sequential placement of sniffs is an interesting topic awaiting further study. 9 Indeed, one way of understanding the display of upset here would be that it is a way for the speaker to warrant the severity of the abuse despite not having the type of evidence (hearing what was said) requested by the CPO. Hence, crying may be epistemically relevant in conveying the seriousness of the caller’s story. As Edwards (1997) noted, emotions can have a common sense status as somehow more direct and genuine than thoughts or versions of events. Edwards and Potter (2005) showed mental state descriptions/displays and states of affairs in the world are mutually implicative. 10 There may be a sequential link between the minimal crying and minimal uptake; this would require further study. 11 This is further discussed in Hepburn (2004, pp. 285–286) as is the turn on line 5, which ponders the coherence of the caller’s report. 12 The Oxford English Dictionary defines empathy as “the power of projecting one’s personality into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation.” Sympathy is defined as “conformity of feelings, inclinations, or temperament, which makes persons agreeable to each other.”

Crying Receipts


13 When we use the term mental state, we do not propose that such things are inner psychological objects. We treat mental states as interactional objects that participants are formulating or orienting to (see Edwards, 1997; Potter, 1998). The status of such things as inner is our business only insofar is it is treated as an issue by participants. 14 We are grateful to Derek Edwards for this latter observation. 15 There is a way of thinking of these receipts as empathic. As oh my gosh marks both news and surprise at something untoward and intonationally inflects this marking with sympathy, it could be argued that they are moves that display the CPO as reacting in something of the manner of the caller. In this sense, the turn could be empathic. This speculation would need further work to establish more clearly. 16 Many young callers have trouble with the standard advice to tell a responsible adult, perhaps because they figure that’s what they are already doing. 17 The CPO’s assessment plus tag also has features of an ER in that it assesses the source of the caller’s upset—the “difficult time” that her friend is having and includes epistemic markers—“obviously” and the tag itself. 18 Hepburn (2004) suggested that apologies are often attending to incomplete adjacency pairs rather than offering global apologies for emotional displays. Note that here the sorry follows the failure of the caller to respond to the first possibly complete element of the advice as well as the overlapping sobbing. As is standard, the CPO accepts the apology. 19 See, for example, line 5 in Extract 8 for a more clear cut example of a tag question in first position.

REFERENCES Beach, W. A., & Dixson, C. N. (2001). Revealing moments: Formulating understandings of adverse experiences in a health appraisal interview. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 25–44. Edwards, D. (1994). Script formulations: A study of event descriptions in conversation. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 13, 211–247. Edwards, D. (1997). Discourse and cognition. London: Sage. Edwards, D., & Potter, J. (2005). Discursive psychology, mental states and descriptions. In H. te Molder & J. Potter (Eds.), Conversation and cognition (pp. 241–259). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Harris, J. (2005, July). How to do being a recipient of crying: Displays of orientation to crying episodes. Paper presented at the 9th International Pragmatics Conference, Riva del Garda, Italy. Hepburn, A. (2004). Crying: Notes on description, transcription and interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 37, 251–290.


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Hepburn, A. (2005). “You’re not takin me seriously”: Ethics and asymmetry in calls to a child protection helpline. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 18, 255–276. Hepburn, A. (2006). Getting closer at a distance: Theory and the contingencies of practice. Theory & Psychology, 16, 327–342. Hepburn, A., & Wiggins, S. (2005). Size matters: Constructing accountable bodies in NSPCC helpline and family mealtime talk. Discourse & Society, 16, 625–647. Heritage, J., & Raymond, G. (2005). The terms of agreement: Indexing epistemic authority and subordination in assessment sequences. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 15–38. Lerner, G. H. (1991). On the syntax of sentences-in-progress. Language in Society, 20, 441–458. Lerner, G. H. (1996). On the “semi-permeable” character of grammatical units in conversation: Conditional entry into the turn space of another speaker. In E. Ochs, E. A. Schegloff, & S. A. Thompson (Eds.), Interaction and grammar (pp. 238–276). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. Oxford English Dictionary: Second edition on campact disc: Version 3.0. (2002). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Potter, J. (1998). Beyond cognitivism. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 32, 119–128. Potter, J. (2005). A discursive psychology of institutions. Social Psychology Review, 7, 25–35. Potter, J., & Hepburn, A. (2003). I’m a bit concerned—Early actions and psychological constructions in a child protection helpline. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 36, 197–240. Potter, J., & Hepburn, A. (in press). Somewhere between evil and normal: Traces of morality in a child protection helpline. In J. Cromdal & M. Tholander (Eds.), Children, morality and interaction. New York: Nova Science. Pudlinski, C. (2005). Doing empathy and sympathy: Caring responses to troubles tellings on a peer support line. Discourse Studies, 7, 267–288. Ruusuvuori, J. (2005). Empathy and sympathy in action: Attending to patients’ troubles in Finnish homeopathic and GP consultations. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 204–222. Sacks, H. (1992). Lectures on conversation (Vols. 1 & 2, G. Jefferson, Ed.). Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell. Stokoe, E., & Hepburn, A. (2005). “You can hear a lot through the walls”: Noise formulations in neighbour complaints. Discourse & Society, 16, 647–674. Suchman, A. L., Markakis, K., Beckman, H. B., & Frankel, R. (1997). A model of empathic communication in the medical interview. Journal of the American Medical Association, 277, 678–682. Wiggins, S., & Hepburn, A. (2007). Food abuse: Mealtimes, helplines and “troubled” eating. In A. Hepburn & S. Wiggins (Eds.), Discursive psychology in practice. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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