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Positive Politeness Strategies and Factors Influencing Its Use

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Politeness is a controversial term, relevant to linguists in two basic terms. The first is taken from people’s ideas about what constitutes polite or disrespectful behavior, and because it is a value-laden and culturally sensitive term. The second is as a technical term that has gained currency in the field of linguistics since the early 1970s to study phenomena, whose character so far has been understood as a more abstract and cultural feature of human behavior and communication (Diani, 2014). Another opinion, politeness is the chief to all relationships to play a fundamental part in how to communicate with each other and how to define itself (Kádáar & Haugh, 2013). It can be concluded that politeness is the activity to assist enhances, maintain or protect the face. It can be also defined as showing awareness and consideration for another person’s faces. Finally based on all perspectives, politeness employed in order to create communication between speaker and hearer well.

Politeness strategy is a strategy that has a concern on saving hearers face by formulating an expression that is less threatening for the hearer’s face. Politeness strategies are strategies approved by the speaker and the hearer to avoid and minimizing the FTA (Face-Threatening Act) that occurred in communication. Brown and Levinson in (Bousfield & Locher, 2008) summarizes that there are 4 types of politeness strategy of human behavior, namely: bald on record, positive politeness, negative politeness, and off-record.

Positive Politeness Strategies

Positive politeness is concerned with the positive face of the hearer, the positive self-image that he claims for himself and his perennial desire that his wants (or the action/acquisition/values/resulting from them) should be thought of as required (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Positive politeness utterances are not only used by the people who have known each other but also used as a kind of figurative extension of intimacy to imply common ground or to sharing of wants to a limited extent between strangers. Positive face refers to every individual’s basic desire for their public self-image that wants to be shown engagement, ratification, and appreciation from others they want to be wanted. The FTA (Face-Threatening Act) is performed utilizing strategies oriented towards the positive face threat to the hearer (Bousfield & Locher, 2008). For the same reason, positive politeness technique is used not only for FTA (Face-Threatening Act) redress but in general as a kind of social accelerator for the speaker in using them indicates that he wants to come closer to the hearer. Three strategies that are enclosed in Positive politeness: claiming basis, transference that S and H are co-operators, and fulfilling H’s need for a few X.

Positive politeness strategies have several types such as: (1) Notice. Attend to hearer’s wants, (2) Exaggerate interest / approval, (3) Intensify interest, (4) Use in-group identity markers, (5) Seek agreement, (6) Avoid disagreement, (7) Presuppose / assert common ground, (8) Joke, (9) Assert knowledge of hearer’s want, (10) Offer, promise, (11) Be optimistic, (12) Give (or ask for) reasons, (13) Assume/assert reciprocity, (14) Include speaker and hearer in the activity, (15) Give hints to the hearer (goods, sympathy, etc) (Brown & Levinson, 1987).

Strategy 1: Notice, attend to H (his interest, wants, needs, goals). In general, this output suggests that S ought to notice of facet of H’s condition (noticeable changes, exceptional possessions, something that appears as if H would S to note and approve of it). For example: Gosh, you look cool in your new suit! By the way, am I able to borrow your hat?

Strategy 2: Exaggerate (interest, approval, sympathy with H). This is typically finished exaggerated intonation, stress and different aspects of speech, yet like heightening modifies, as in English. For example: what an incredible garden you have!

Strategy 3: Intensify interest to H. Another way for S to communicate to H that he shares some of his wants is to intensify the interest of his own (S’s) contributions to the conversation, by ‘making a good story’. For example: I return down the stair and what does one suppose I see? A huge mess all over the place. The use of directly quoted speech instead of indirect reported speech is another feature of this strategy, as is that the use of tag question or expression that draw as a participant into the spoken communication, such as ‘you know?’, ‘see what I mean?’, ‘isn’t it?’.

Strategy 4: Use in-group identity markers:

  1. Address forms.Other address forms used to convey such in-group membership include generic names and terms of address like Mate, honey, dear, babe, mom, brother, sister, cutie, sweetheart, guys. Using such in-group varieties of address forms with imperatives. For example: “Come here, cutie”.
  2. Use of in-group language or dialect. Another type of code-switching phenomenon is the switch in English into a spurious dialect, or a dialect not normally used by S or H, to soften an FTA or turn it into a joke.
  3. Use of jargon or slang. Use whole names during an exceedingly request could stress that S and H share an (in-group) reliance on the specified object.
  4. Contraction and Ellipsis. S and H must share some knowledge about the context that makes the utterance understandable (for example that S and H are cooperating in building a house and S has the hammer in his hand).

Strategy 5: Seek Agreement:

  1. Safe topic: The FTA of creating a call for participation is often preceded by an interim of gab on safe topics as the way of consoling H that you just didn’t return simply to take advantage of him/her by making a request, however, have an interest generally in maintaining a relationship with him/her.
  2. Repetition: Agreement may also be stressed by reacting part or all the speaker utterance.

Strategy 6: Avoid Disagreement

  1. Token agreement: The speakers may go in twisting their utterance so as to appear to agree or to hide disagreement.For example: A: Can you hear me? B: Barely.
  2. Pseudo-agreement ‘then’ and ‘so’. For example: I’ll be seeing you then.
  3. White lies: Were S, when confronted with the necessity to state opinion, S prefer to do white lie than damage H positive face. For example: yes, you look great with that shoes.
  4. Hedging opinions: these hedges wont to react FTAs when suggesting or criticizing or complaining, by muffling the speaker’s intent. For example: You have to try harder.

Strategy 7: Presuppose/ raise/ assert common ground

  1. Gossip, small talk the value of S’s spending time and effort on being with H, as a mark of friendship gives rise to the strategy of redressing an FTA by talking for a while about an unrelated topic.
  2. Personal center switch S to H this is where S speak as if H were S or H’s knowledge was equal to S’s knowledge.
  3. Time switch the utilization of the ‘vivid present’ a tense shift from past to tense. For example: Jean says he extremely loves your flowers garden.
  4. Place switch the use of proximal rather than distal demonstratives (here, this, rather than, there, that).
  5. Presuppose H’s knowledge: the use of any term presupposes that the references are known to the addresses.

Strategy 8: Joke. Joking is a primary positive-politeness method, for putting H ‘cozy’ for instance in reaction to a faux pas H’s, S may joke. As an example: How approximately lending my this old heap of junk? (Heap of junk refers to H’s new BMW)

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Strategy 9: Assert of presupposing S’s knowledge of and concern for H’s wants. One way indicating that S and H are cooperators and people doubtless to place pressure on H to join forces with S is to claim of H’s want and temperament to suit one’s own wants in with them. For example: I know you love chocolate ice cream, but there is no chocolate ice cream left, so I bought you chocolate cakes instead (offer & apology).

Strategy 10: Offer, promise. Offers and promises are the natural outcomes of choosing this strategy. Even if they are false, they demonstrate S’s good intentions in satisfying H’s positives face wants. For example: I will drop by sometime next week.

Strategy 11: Be optimistic. S wants H to do something by expressing this want in a term that S assumes H wants it. For example: wait you haven’t brushed your hair!

Strategy 12: Include both S and H in the activity. By using an inclusive ‘we’ form, when S really means ‘you’ or ‘me’ he can call upon the cooperative assumptions and thereby redress FTAs. Nothing that permits English is an inclusive ‘we’ kind. For example: Let’s get on with lunch, okay?

Strategy 13: Give (or ask for) reason. Indirect suggestions that demand instead of offer reason are conventionalized positive politeness. For example: Why don’t we go to the park?

Strategy 14: Assume or assert reciprocity. The existence of cooperation between S and H may additionally be claimed or urged by giving proof of reciprocal right or obligations getting between S and H. Thus, S may say, in impact ‘I’ll do X for you if you are doing Y for me’ or ‘I did X for you last week, thus you are doing Y on behalf of me this week’.

Strategy 15: Give gifts to H (good, sympathy, understanding, cooperation). S may satisfy H’s positive face wants (that S want H’s wants, to some degree) by actually satisfying of H’s wants. Hence, they need the classic positive politeness action gift-giving, not solely tangible gift, however human-relations needs like those illustrated in several of the output, unostentatious, listened to and so-on.

Factors Influencing the Use of Positive Politeness Strategy

The employment of politeness strategy is influenced by several factors. There are 2 factors that influence the speaker to use positive politeness strategy. The factors are payoff and circumstances (Brown & Levinson, 1987).


The speaker employs a positive politeness strategy because they can get any advantages. The speaker can minimize the FTA by assuring the hearer that he likes the hearer and wants to fulfill the hearer’s wants. Thus, the hearer positive face is not threatened by the speaker because it can be seen for their mutual shares. For example: “Let’s get on for dinner.” This example shows that the speaker minimizes the FTA (request) to the hearer by including the speaker himself equally as the participant.

Relevant Circumstances

The significance of an FTA is also influenced by the circumstances, sociological variables, and thus to a determination of the level of politeness. There are three dimensions to determine the level of politeness. Among them are relative power (P), social distance (D) and size of imposition (R) (Brown & Levinson, 1987).

Power (P) is the general point that we have a tendency to apply a more degree of politeness with people who have a few power or authority over us than to those who do not. It is based on the asymmetric relationship between the speaker and the hearer. These types of power are mostly found in clearly hierarchical settings, such as courts, the military, workplace. For example, you would probably be politer about conveying to your employer because she or he always arrives late, than in conveying to your brother. This is because your employer can influence your career in a positive way or a negative way.

Social distance (D) can be seen as the composite of psychologically real factors (status, age, gender, degree of intimacy, etc) which together determine the overall degree of respectfulness within a given speech situation. It based on the symmetric relation between the speaker and the hearer. For example, if you feel close to someone or you know him well because he is the same in terms of age or gender, then you will be closer to him and the rank will be smaller. with this, you will not use polite speech when you ask him to do something. Instead, you will use polite speech when you interact with people you don’t know, like people who are older than you.

Size of imposition (R) can be seen from the comparative status between one-speech act to another in a context. For example, borrowing a car in ordinary time will make us feel unwilling, but in urgent situations, it will naturally. Accordingly, inside the first context, we will rent polite utterances. In the meantime, inside the second context, it is not required to rent a well-mannered utterance because the circumstance is urgent.

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Positive Politeness Strategies and Factors Influencing Its Use. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
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