Operators managing callers’ sense of urgency in calls to the medical emergency number

Isabella Paoletti

Abstract

Communication in emergency calls is often agitated and callers almost always speak with a sense of urgency. Call operators often have to struggle in order to get the callers’ cooperation. The questioning sequence is often perceived by callers as inappropriate and a way of delaying assistance, frequently producing annoyance and anger in the caller. Interrupted calls are not uncommon in communications with the call centre, nor are cursing, rudeness and face attacks. The focus of previous studies on emotional work in emergency calls has mainly been devoted to communication problems and the consequences these had on the provision of assistance. This paper aims to focus specifically on how operators manage callers’ anxiety and sense of urgency and the emotions tied to this, such as anger. Transcripts of actual emergency calls are examined through a detailed discourse analysis in order to show operators’ interactional work in maintaining emotional contact with callers. The ability of the operators to control their own emotions and manage those of the caller is an important professional skills in this job. Describing how emotional contact with callers is maintained in actual calls can be useful for training and in-service courses.

Keywords:
Quick links
A browser-friendly version of this article is not yet available. View PDF
Arminen, I., and M. Halonen
(2007) Laughing with and at patients: The roles of laughter in confrontations in addiction group therapy. The Qualitative Report 12.3: 484–513.Google Scholar
Bamberg, M.
(1997) Language, concepts and emotions: The role of language in the construction of emotions. Language Sciences 19.4: 309–340. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Caffi, C., and. R.W. Janney
(1994) Toward a pragmatics of emotive communication. In C. Caffi, and R.W. Janney (eds.), Involvement in language, special issue of Journal of Pragmatics 22.3/4: 325–373.Google Scholar
Denzin, N.K.
(1984) On Understanding Emotion. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
Drew, P.
(1998) Complaints about transgressions and misconducts. Research on Language and Social Interaction 31.3: 295–325. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Edwards, D.
(1999) Emotion discourse. Culture & Psychology 5: 271–91. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2001) Emotion. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, and S.J. Yates (eds.), Discourse Theory and Practice: A Reader. London: Sage, pp. 236–246.Google Scholar
(2005) Discursive psychology. In K. Fitch, and R. Sanders (eds.), Handbook of Language and Social Interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 257–73.Google Scholar
(2006) Discourse, cognition and social practices: The rich surface of language and social interaction. Discourse Studies 8.1: 41–49. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
(2007) Introduction. Research on Language and Social Interaction 40.1: 1–7.  MetBib CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Fineman, S.
(2000) (ed.) Emotion in Organizations. Second Edition. London: Sage.Google Scholar
Firth, H., and C. Kitzinger
(1998) ‘Emotion work’ as a participant resource: A feminist analysis of young women’s talk-in-interaction. Sociology 32.2: 299–320. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Forsberg, H.
(1999) Speaking of emotions in child protection practices. In A. Jokinen, K. Juhila, and T. Pösö (eds.), Constructing Social Work Practices. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 116–132.Google Scholar
Freese J., and D.W. Maynard
(1998) Prosodic features of bad news and good news in conversation. Language in Society 27.2: 195–219. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Garfinkel, H.
(1967) Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Gilsinan, J.F.
(1989) They is clowning tough: 911 and the social construction of reality. Criminology 27: 329–344. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Goffman, E.
(1967) Interaction Ritual. Garden City, NY: Anchor.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Goodwin, M.H., and C. Goodwin
(2000) Emotion within situated activity. In A. Duranti (ed.), Linguistic anthropology: A reader. Maldem, MA, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 239–257.Google Scholar
Harré, R.
(1988) (ed.) The Social Construction of Emotions. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
(2009) Emotions as cognitive-affective-somatic hybrids. Emotion Review 1.4: 294–301. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Heath, C.
(1989) Pain talk: The expression of suffering in the medical consultation. Social Psychology Quarterly 52: 113–25. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Hepburn, A.
(2004) Crying: Notes on description, transcription and interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction 37.3: 251–290. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hepburn, A., and J. Potter
(2007) Crying receipts: Time, empathy and institutional practice. Research on Language and Social Interaction 40.1: 89–116. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Heritage, J.
(2005) Cognition in discourse. In Molder, and J. Potter (eds.), Conversation and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 184–202. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Heritage, J., and A. Lindström
(1998) Motherhood, medicine and morality: Scenes from a medical encounter. Research on Language and Social Interaction 31: 397–438. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hochschild, A.R.
(1979) Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. American Journal of Sociology 85.3: 551–575. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Imbens-Bailey, A., and A. McCabe
(2000) The discourse of distress: A narrative analysis of emergency calls to 911. Language and Communication 20.3: 275–296. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Jayyusi, L.
(1984) Categorization and the moral order. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
(1991) Values and moral judgement: Communicative praxis as moral order. In G. Button (ed.), Ethnomethodology and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 227–51. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Jefferson, G.
(1984) On the organization of laughter in talk about troubles. In J.M. Atkinson, and J. Heritage (eds.), Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 346–69.  BoPGoogle Scholar
(1985) An exercise in the transcription and analysis of laughter. In T.A. van Dijk (ed.), Handbook of discourse analysis. London: Academic Press. Vol. 3, pp. 25–34.Google Scholar
Jefferson, G., H. Sacks, and E.A. Schegloff
(1987) Notes on laughter in the pursuit of intimacy. In G. Button, and J.R.E. Lee (eds.), Talk and social organisation. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 152–205.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Kidwell, M.
(2006) “Calm Down!”: The role of gaze in the interactional management of hysteria by the police. Discourse Studies 8.6: 745–770. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Maynard, D.W.
(1998) Praising versus blaming the messenger: Moral issues in deliveries of good and bad news. Research on Language and Social Interaction 31.3: 359–395. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Mehan, H.
(1979) ‘What time is it, Denise?’: Asking known information questions in classroom discourse. Theory into Practice 28.4: 285–294. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Monzoni
(2008) Introducing direct complaints through questions: The interactional achievement of pre-sequences. Discourse Studies 10.1: 73–87. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Monzoni, C.M.
(2009a) Direct complaints in (Italian) calls to the ambulance: The use of negatively framed questions. Journal of Pragmatics 41: 2465–2478. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2009b) Preference organization and complaining in (Italian) 118 emergency calls to the ambulance. In E. Weigand (ed.), Dialogue Analysis IX.1: 249–261. http://​usheffield​.academia​.edu​/ChiaraMonzoni​/Papers​/1090636​/Preference​_Organization​_and​_Complaining​_in​_Italian​_118​_Emergency​_Calls​_to​_the​_Ambulance
Nikander, P.
(2007) Interprofessional decision making in elderly care: Morality, criteria, and help allocation. In Isabella Paoletti (ed.), Family Caregiving. Relational and Institutional Issues. New York: Nova Science, pp. 319–332.Google Scholar
Paoletti, I.
(2012) The issue of conversationally constituted context and localization problems in emergency calls. Text & Talk 32.2: 191–210.  BoP CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2012) Eliciting a response from an audience. Paper presented at the SLE 2012, 45th Annual Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea 29 Aug -1 Sept. Stockholm, Sweden.
(2009) Communication and diagnostic work in medical emergency calls in Italy. Computer Supported Cooperative Work 18.2-3: 229–250. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
(2006) Gender and communication in the control rooms of medical emergency number in Italy. In M. Barrett, and M.J. Davidson (eds.), Gender and Communication issues at work. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp.166-179.Google Scholar
Pepin N.
(2008) Studies on emotions in social interactions Bulletin Suisse de Linguistique Appliquée 88: 1–18.Google Scholar
Pomerantz, A.
(1984) Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes. In J.M. Atkinson, and J. Heritage (eds.), Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 57–101.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Potter, J.
(2005) Making psychology relevant. Discourse and Society 16: 739–747. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Potter, J., and D. Edwards
(2003) Sociolinguistics, cognitivism and discursive psychology. International Journal of English Studies 3.1: 93–109.Google Scholar
Reisenzein, R., and S.A. Döring
(2009) Ten perspectives on emotional experience: Introduction to the special issue. Emotion Review 1.3: 195–205. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Ruusuvuori, J.
(2007) Managing affect: Integration of empathy and problem-solving in health care encounters. In Discourse Studies 9: 597–622. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Sacks, H.
(1992) Lectures on conversationm, vol I & II. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Schegloff, E.A.
(1998) Reflections on studying prosody in talk-in-interaction. Language and speech 41: 235–63. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Schegloff, E.A., Gail Jefferson, and Harvey Sacks
(1977) The preference for self correction in the organization of repair in conversation. Language 53.2: 361–382. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Selting M.
(1992) Intonation as a contextualization device: Case studies on the role of prosody, especially intonation, in contextualizing story telling in conversation. In P. Auer, and A. di Luzio (eds.), The contextualization of language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 233–258. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Seltin, M
(1994) Emphatic speech style: With special focus on the prosodic signalling of heightened emotive involvement in conversation. Journal of Pragmatics 22.3-4: 375–408. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Suchman, A.L., K. Markakis, H.B. Beckman, and R. Frankel
(1997) A model of empathic communication in the medical interview. Journal of the American Medical Association 277.8: 678–682. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Toerien M., and C. Kitzinger
(2007) Emotional labour in action: Navigating multiple involvements in the beauty salon. Sociology 41: 645–662. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Tracy, S.J., and K. Tracy
(1998a) Emotion labor at 911: A case study and theoretical critique. Research of Applied Communication Research 26.4: 390–411. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Tracy, K., and S.J. Tracy
(1998b) Rudeness at 911: Reconceptualizing face and face attack. Human Communication Research 25.2: 225–251. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Tracy, K.
(1997) Interactional trouble in emergency services requests: A problem of frames. Research on Language and Social Interaction 30.4: 315–343. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Turner, J.H.
(2009) The sociology of Emotion: Basic theoretical arguments. Emotion Review 1.4: 340–354. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Voutilainen, L., A. Perakyla, and J. Ruusuvuori
(2010) Recognition and interpretation: Responding to emotional experience in psychotherapy. Research on Language and Social Interaction 43.1: 85–107. Crossref  BoPGoogle Scholar
Wakin, M.A., and D.H. Zimmerman
(1999) Reduction and specialization in emergency and directory assistance calls. Research on Language and Social Interaction 32.4: 409–437. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wetherell, M., S. Taylor, and S.J. Yates
(eds.) (2001) Discourse Theory and Practice: A Reader. London: Sage Publications.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Whalen, Jack, and Don H. Zimmerman
(1998) Observation on the display and management of emotions in natural occurring activities: The case of “hysteria” in calls to 9–1-1. Social Psychology Quarterly 61.2: 141–159. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Whalen, J., D.H. Zimmerman, and M.R. Whalen
(1988) When words fail: A single case analysis. Social Problems 35.4: 335–362. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Whalen, M.R., and D.H. Zimmerman
(1987) Sequential and institutional contexts in calls for help. Social Psychology Quarterly 50.2: 172–185. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
White, G.M.
(1990) Moral discourse and the rhetoric of emotions. In C.A. Lutx, and L. Abu-Lughod (eds.), Language and the Politics of Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, and Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, pp. 46–68.Google Scholar
Wierzbicka, A.
(2009) Language and metalanguage: Key issues in emotion research. Emotion Review 1.1: 3–14. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wilce, J.M.
(2009) Language and Emotion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Wilkinson S., and C. Kitzinger
(2006) Surprise as an interactional achievement: Reaction tokens in conversation. Social Psychology Quarterly 69.2: 150–182. CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Zimmerman, D.H.
(1992a) The interactional organization of calls for emergency assistance. In P. Drew, and J. Heritage (eds.), Talk at work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 418–469.Google Scholar
(1992b) Achieving context. Openings in emergency calls. In G. Watson, and R.M. Seiler (eds.), Text in context. Newbury Park: Sage, pp. 35–51.Google Scholar