Based on conversation research and work showing that affective cues help to tune information processing to situational demands, it was hypothesized that affective expressions of listeners would influence how speakers represent communicated information in language. Participants were asked to orally communicate an event presented in a film clip to two other participants. These other participants were actually confederates who either adopted a positive or negative nonverbal expression during the story of the participant. Results show that participants talking to smiling listeners used more interpretive, abstract language, whereas participants talking to frowning listeners stayed with the concrete and descriptive facts. These effects of external affective cues on language abstraction were not mediated by the speaker's mood. Implications for interpersonal conversation are discussed. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.