Telling the Success Story

Acclaiming and Disclaiming Discourse

By Pamela J. Benoit

Subjects: Business Communication
Series: SUNY series in Communication Studies
Paperback : 9780791433188, 207 pages, April 1997
Hardcover : 9780791433171, 207 pages, June 1997

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Table of contents


1 Self-Presentation and the Success Story

2 Winning the Prize: Nobel Laureates Accept the Award

3 The Thrill of Victory: Athletes Tell Their Success Stories

4 Cosmetic Queens in Pink Cadillacs: Recasting Women's Success Stories in Mary Kay Cosmetics

5 How the Dream is Realized: Talking about Success in Mary Kay Cosmetics

6 Conclusion





How do individuals tell their success stories when they want to secure recognition, but avoid appearing arrogant? By examining success stories of Nobel Prize winners, athletes, and Mary Kay Cosmetics consultants, this work analyzes this fundamental type of interpersonal communication.


In Telling the Success Story, Pamela Benoit analyzes the success story as a delicate interpersonal accomplishment that involves balancing complimenting, bragging, modesty, and self-enhancement. She argues that success stories are self-presentations that are fundamental to interpersonal communication. This discourse involves the negotiation of personal identities and affects relational outcomes. It is important for individuals, businesses, and other organizations to create a favorable impression when they describe their successes.

Although scholars have given considerable attention to defensive impression management in descriptions of accounts for undesirable events, this is the first book to systematically examine discourse about desirable personal events. The success stories of Nobel Prize winners, athletes, and Mary Kay consultants offer an enticing invitation to explore the practical accomplishment of success narratives and provides a model for other analyses of intricate interpersonal accomplishments.

Pamela J. Benoit is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri. She is coeditor, with William L. Benoit and Dale Hample, of Readings in Argumentation.