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Positive Politeness Strategies (Brown and Levinson)

Positive politeness is redress directed to the addressee’s positive face, his perennial desire that his wants (or the actions/ acquisitions/ values resulting from them) should be thought of as desirable. Redress consists in partially satisfying that desire by communicating that one’s own wants (or some them) are in some respects similar to the addressee’s wants. There are 15 strategies of positive politeness proposed by Brown and Levinson, those are:

Strategy 1: Notice, attend to H (his interests, wants, needs, goods)
This output suggests that S should take notice of aspects of H’s condition (noticeable changes, remarkable possessions, anything which looks as though H would want S to notice and approve of it).
e.g. “You must be hungry,
it’s a long time since breakfast. How about some lunch?”

Another aspect of the notice output is that when H makes an FTA against himself (a breakdown of body control, or any faux pas), S should ‘notice’ it and indicate that he’s not embarrassed by it. (By contrast, in negative politeness S should always ignore H’s faux pas). He can do this by a joke, or teasing H about his penchant for faux pas: For example: “God you are farty tonight!”

Strategy 2: Exaggerate (interest, approval, sympathy with H)
This is often done with exaggerated intonation, stress, and other aspects of prosodic, as well as with intensifying modifiers.
e. g: “How wonderful!”

Strategy 3: Intensify interest to H
S wants to share his interest to H as a form of S’s contribution into the conversation. Therefore, S exaggerates facts as well as he makes good story to draw H as a participant into the conversation, and H also usually uses tag questions like ‘uhuh’, ‘what do you think?’, etc. Sometimes, this can involve switching back between past and present tenses.
e. g: “I never imagined that there were thousands beautiful girls in Jim’s party
last night!”

Strategy 4: Use in-group identity markers
By using any of the innumerable ways to convey in-group membership, S can implicitly claim the common ground with H that is carried by that definition of the group. These include in group usages of address forms, of language or dialect, of jargon or slang, and of ellipsis.
  • 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 kinds of address forms with imperatives. For example: “Come here, honey” indicates that S considers the relative P (power, status difference) between himself and the addressee to be small thus softening the imperative by indicating that it isn’t a power-backed command.
  • 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.
  • Use of jargon or slang. Use brand names in a request may stress that S and H share an (in-group) reliance on the required object.
  • 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
  • Safe topics. The raising of ‘safe topics’ allows S to stress his agreement with H and therefore to satisfy H’s desire to be ‘right’, or to be corroborated in his opinions.
  • Repetition. Agreement may also be stressed by repeating part or all of what the preceding S has said in the conversation and by using that function to indicate emphatic agreement (‘yes’, ‘Really’, etc) whenever someone is telling story.
e. g: “There was flood in my hometown.”
“Oh my God. Flood!”

Strategy 6: Avoid Disagreement
  • Token agreement. S may go in twisting their utterances so as to appear to agree or to hide disagreement-to respond to a preceding utterance with ‘yes, but…..'in effect, rather than a blatant ‘No’.
e. g. H: “How the girl looked like, beautiful?”
        S: “Yes, I think she is quite, but not really beautiful, she is certainly not really ugly.”
  • Pseudo-agreement. Another example of apparent or pseudo-agreement is found in English in the use of then as a conclusory marker.
e.g. I’ll meet you in front of the theatre just before 8.0, then.
  • White lies. S may do white lie to hide disagreement. By doing this, S is saving H’s face.
e. g. In response to a request to borrow a car, “Oh I can’t, my father will use it
  • Hedging opinions. To soften FTA of suggesting, criticizing or complaining, hedges may also be used.
e. g.: “I know you are sort of a polite person”

Strategy 7: Presuppose/ raise/ assert common ground
  • Gossip or small talk. S is talking about unrelated topics to show that S is interested in H as the mark of friendship and does not come only to impose him.
e. g.: “You look so bright today. It must be because MU had defeated Chelsea, right? By the way, can you take me to the airport this afternoon?”
  • Point-of-view operations. S may claim common ground by using cooperation point of view. (S speaks as if H were S, or H’s knowledge were equal to S’s knowledge).
e. g. I had a really hard time learning to drive, didn’t I.
  • Presupposition manipulations. S presupposes something when he presumes that it is mutually taken for granted.
e.g.: “Wouldn’t you like a drink?”

Strategy 8: Jokes
Jokes can be used to stress the fact that there must be some mutual background knowledge and values that S and H share. That is why, the strategy of joking may be useful in diminishing the social distance between S and H.
e. g.: “OK if I tackle those cookies now?”
“How about lending me this old heap of junk?” (H’s new Cadillac)

Strategy 9: Assert or Presuppose S’s knowledge of and concerns for H’s wants.
It is the way to indicate that S and H are co-operators, and thus potentially to put pressure on H to cooperate with S. S wants to assert and imply knowledge of H’s wants and willingness to fit one’s own wants in with them.
e. g.: “I understand you can do it yourself, but this time, do what I suggested

Strategy 10: Offer or promises
S and H are good co-operators that they share some goals or S is willing to help to achieve those goals. Promise or offer demonstrates S’s good attention in satisfying H’s positive-face wants, even if they are false.
e. g.: “I’ll go there sometimes”

Strategy 11: Be optimistic
S assumes that H wants S’s wants for S (or for S and H) and will help to obtain them. This usually happens among people with close relationship.
e. g.: “You’ll tell your father that you did it, I hope”

Strategy 12: Include both S and H in the activity
Here, S manipulates the subject of an activity is done together. S uses an inclusive ‘we’ from when S actually means ‘you’ or ‘me’. Inclusive form ‘we’ is usually used in the construction ‘let’s’.
e. g.: “Bring us the book’ (i.e. me)
“Let’s go downtown, uh?” (i. e you)

Strategy 13: Give (or ask for) reasons
S uses H as the reason why S wants something so that it will seem reasonable to the hearer. S assumes (via optimism) that there are no good reasons why H should not or cannot cooperate.
e. g.:”Why not lend me your car for the weekend?”

Strategy 14: Assume or assert reciprocity
S asks H to cooperate with him by giving evidence of reciprocal rights or obligations between S and H. Thus, S may say, in effect, “I’ll do x for you if you can do y for me”.
e. g.:”I’ll tell you what it looks like if you tell me where she is now.”

Strategy 15: Give gifts to H (goods, sympathy, understanding, cooperation)
S satisfies H’s Positive Face want by giving gift, not only tangible gifts, but human relation wants which are the wants to be liked, admired, cared about, understood, listened to, etc. in other words, this strategy is usually used for the benefit of H.
e. g.:”I’m sorry to hear that”.
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