The Role of Politeness in Social Interactions

Politeness is a concept that is associated with social interactions. It is a normative behavior that interactants are expected to follow in order to maintain social relations, avoid conflict and promote positive interactional situations.

Despite its importance, politeness is not a universal concept and expectations may differ from culture to culture. Research into politeness focuses on how people use language and behave in the context of social interactions.

The study of politeness can be divided into two broad areas: theoretical and empirical. Researchers in the former field argue that politeness is a set of norms that are learned over time, and that these strategies are shaped by socialization processes.

Some researchers also claim that politeness can be seen as a strategy of strategic conflict-avoidance and as a means of social indexing. These approaches are based on the assumption that politeness strategies are part of an interpersonal communication process, and are used by speakers to communicate with their hearers in ways that allow them to avoid confrontation.

While most research on politeness has been focused on verbal expression, nonverbal expressions can also be used to express politeness. Examples of nonverbal politeness are eye contact and gestures using body organs, such as hands.

Nonverbal strategies are a relatively new aspect of politeness research, although they have been extensively investigated in other aspects of intercultural communication. The lack of research into nonverbal strategies in the field of politeness, however, is a major weakness that has impeded the development of a comprehensive understanding of this aspect of linguistic interaction.

Brown and Levinson (1987) formulated a theory that describes how people use language to deflect and mitigate face-threatening acts (FTAs). They constructed a model person with negative and positive face, and gave him a rational faculty for choosing the course of action that would provide the highest payoff while minimizing the loss of his face.

BL's theory suggests that FTAs are mitigated by indirectness and reductors, while FFAs are reinforced. Indirectness, for example, can help deflect a FTA by asking questions instead of making declarative statements.

It is important to remember that directness and indirectness are only one of the possible politeness strategies, and the choice of which one to use depends on a number of factors, such as the situation in which a speech act occurs, the perceived social distance between speaker and hearer, the relative power of the speaker and the rank of imposition of the utterance, as well as the valenced categories used by speakers in evaluating a given utterance.

Other researchers, such as Kerbrat-Orecchioni (2011), have proposed that politeness is not only about mitigating FTAs, but it can also involve 'anti-threats' that are designed to enhance the speaker's face. These are 'face-flattering acts' (FFAs) and can include things such as appreciating the hearer for her/his efforts, complimenting him/her on something that was said, thanking for his/her help or offering to do a favour for someone else.

Although a lot of research has been done on politeness, it is still not clear whether the concepts that have been developed can fully explain the various ways that people use language to avoid or to mitigate confrontations in intercultural communications. It is also not clear how the social construction of language and its underlying principles have influenced the way that politeness is perceived in different cultures, and what the implications are for how linguistic and cultural practices are organized in societies.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price