When arriving to a social encounter, how and when can a person show how s/he is doing/feeling? This article answers this question, examining personal state sequences in copresent openings of casual (residential) and institutional (parent-teacher) encounters. Describing a regular way participants constitute – and move to expand – these sequences, this research shows how arrivers display a non-neutral (e.g., negative, humorous, positive) personal state by both (i) deploying interactionally-timed stance-marking embodiments that enact a non-neutral state, and (ii) invoking a selected previous activity/experience positioned as precipitating that non-neutral state. Data demonstrate that arrivers time their non-neutral personal state displays calibrated to their understanding of their relationship with coparticipants. Analysis reveals that arrivers use this action to proffer a first-hand experience as a self-attentive first topic that works as a bid for empathy, inviting recipients to collaborate in expanding the personal state sequence and thereby co-create an empathic moment. Data in American English.


Communication, Sociology, Anthropology, Education

Publication Date


Journal Title

Research on Language and Social Interaction


Taylor & Francis

Document Type



This is an Author’s Original Manuscript/Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Research on Language and Social Interaction in 2018, available online: www.tandfonline.com/hrls