This article examines how third-party complaints were responded to by counsellors on a men’s relationship-counselling helpline. Much prior conversation analytic research has shown that third-party complaints in institutional settings are embedded in other activities and treated as secondary to the main interactional business. As such, complaints are routinely responded to with a shift to a new, institutionally relevant activity (e.g. the reason for the call/visit). In the context examined here, however, the third-party complaints constituted callers’ reasons for call. We show that, as in many other institutional contexts, counsellors do not, commonly, affiliate with callers’ complaints in the sense of displaying a similar stance towards a described third party. However, unlike in other settings that have been examined, counsellors’ responses did not result in an immediate shift away from callers’ complaints. This was primarily because, following counsellors’ non-affiliative responses, callers regularly engaged in work to pursue affiliation.
- Conversation analysis
- Third-party complaints