Hochschild argues that while socially ascribed roles such as brides and mourners live out roles, adhere to feeling rules, and manage emotions that are specific to an occasion:
“...the achievements of the heart are all the more remarkable within roles that last longer and go deeper. Parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and best friends expect to have more freedom from feeling rules and less need for emotion work; in reality, however, the subterranean work of placing an acceptable inner face on ambivalence is actually all the more crucial for them. In fact, the deeper the bond, the more emotion work...” (e.g. the “relief zone” of the family itself imposes emotional obligations, such as the duty to love one’s spouse or children in the face of various difficulties).
Hochschild adds that the tasks of emotion management in response to feeling rules becomes even more complicated when there are conflicting norms governing close personal relationships (e.g. between the outside society and “free love” communes), and when emotional experts such as doctors and psychiatrists come out with new norms of appropriateness.
In addition, Hochschild speaks of feeling rules in terms of social exchange. Feeling rules provide a baseline for emotional exchanges between individuals. Individuals and their interactants may be “owed” something according to these rules, and behavior follows accordingly. There are two types of exchange: straight and improvisational. In the former, we simply use rules to make an inward bow (e.g. paying for advice by inadvertently acknowledging one’s inferiority to an expert). In the latter, we presuppose the rules and play with them, creating irony and humour (e.g. self-depreciating humour with one’s supervisor on the job when having difficulty performing a task in front of a long line). In both types, it is within the context of feeling rules that we make our exchanges and settle our accounts. We either try to feign the owed feeling, such as gratitude (surface acting), or to offer the greater gift of amplifying a real feeling we already have (a variation of deep acting).
There are also various forms of nonpayment (e.g. not showing the expected emotional actions) or anti-payment (e.g. making no effort to prevent the opposite feelings from showing, such as in obviously feigned gratitude or sarcasm). Thus, in this respect, display and emotion work are not matters of chance, but may be seen as payment or nonpayment of latent dues - and inappropriate emotion may be construed as a nonpayment or mis-payment of what is due.
This is complicated by social inequality, where parties at one level may end up owing or paying more than others - and being seen as displaying inappropriate emotion more readily by those in the driver’s seat. According to Hochschild, for example, many friendships and marriages die of inequality. But this inequality of exchange is even more of an issue in the public world of work where the boss and customer are prioritized over the employee.
Finally, Hochschild argues that feeling rules establish zones that mark off degrees of appropriateness, or understandability of feeling, what Hochschild calls "emotion lines." She talks for example of an individual's "anger line," which represents the line which, if pushed beyond,