Naturally, the notion of politeness is strictly connected with both internal and external factors which shape the way we maintain conversation with people either in everyday conversations or on social networks. Among external factors, one can think of two, the most powerful ones: age and social status. Undoubtedly, they shape our social relations with interlocutors and the way we maintain the conversation. It is obvious that our way of talking will differ when it comes to our peer and elderly people who deserve to be given more respect and caring. Talking to someone who has a higher social status is another example of the situation which may require using more formal words and expressions than in the case of people who have the same education like we.

As mentioned above, there are also internal factors which contribute to the way we maintain a conversation. One of them is the level of friendliness. It may happen that we can know both the person who has a higher social status and the person with whom we are working, yet it may turn out that our relations are better with the person who is higher in the social hierarchy. In this case we may come to the conclusion that the social distance between us and this person is smaller; consequently, the level of friendliness and politeness automatically will increase.

For this reason Meyerhoff (2006: 82) provides us with his understanding of politeness which says that actions taken by particular members of the community aim at decreasing both social and interpersonal disturbances between people in this society.

The definition proposed by Meyerhoff was criticized by Holtgraves (2008: 38) who states that people only focus on internal and external factors which shape the level of politeness, and everyone forgets about the practical use of language in a given social context. This view caused that politeness has become a subject of the discussion in many various fields such as linguistics, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.

Brown and Levinson (1987: 28) verified the theory of politeness by means of linking the practical use of language in a given social context and by introducing the idea of face which plays a very important role in all types of conversations. This face

101 can be either ‘lost’ if our interlocutor does something unacceptable or against moral norms, or ‘saved’ if we help him or her not to feel guilty, confused, or embarrassed.

It is also important to make a distinction between two kinds of people – those who are more autonomous and need more freedom in doing particular actions and those who need to be in constant contact with others. Thus, more reserved and distanced people are characterized by having a negative face and people who need to be accepted in society by possessing a positive face. Unfortunately, both kinds of people’s face may be threatened in the process of communication, no matter whether it is in a written language or spoken. For the person who possesses a positive face, it is crucial to be in the centre of the conversation, hence any failure during talking (e.g. forgetting to welcome him or her, sending a smiling emoticon, asking about his or her state of being) may result in losing a positive face. Similarly, a person with a negative face prefers to stay back and not to take an active part in the conversation, thus forcing such a person to talk and discuss some matters may diminish his or her desire to participate in the conversation (Bogdanowska-Jakubowska, 2010: 38).

3.6.1 Positive politeness and face-threatening act

Arundale (2009: 41) & Bogdanowska-Jakubowska (2010: 41) state that positive politeness is strictly connected with face saving act. As stated before, people with positive politeness are very open-minded, sociable and want to be in the centre. All possible kinds of criticisms, disapprovals, accusations, or disagreements may result in threatening their face. For this reason, the main aim of this concept is to save the hearer’s positive face. One can do it by implementing the following steps:

* identifying with the participant of the conversation,

* making him feel more relaxed and stressed out,

* agreeing with his statements and opinions,

* showing desire to reach the same aim in the conversation,

* showing sensitivity towards his views.

There are also some strategies which can be used in both spoken and written conversations. One of them is called ‘solidarity strategy’ which aims at showing that

102 our aims and goals are exactly the same like the goals of our interlocutor. It may be achieved through using the same language or some expressions which are typical of the same group to which we belong. For instance, when talking to someone who is similar to us and has the same interests and passions, it is advisable to use the word ‘bro’

whereas if we meet someone on a social website and we are both users of the same social network, we may welcome each other by using the word ‘pal’ or ‘penpal.’ It is also important to pay a compliment from time to time (Holtgraves, 2008: 46).

Another strategy suggested by Spencer-Oatey (2007: 546) is linked with being flexible in the conversation. There are always some taboo topics which should be omitted due to some reasons. If we know that our interlocutor is characterized by having a positive face, we should remember that only non-controversial topics should be brought up. We also have to bear in mind that even if we do not agree with our speaker, we cannot say it directly. We can use some other ways to show that we respect his opinion despite the fact that ours differ slightly, for instance:

* ‘Yes, I know what you mean, but..’

* ‘I think that you are partly right; however, I would like to remark that..’

* ‘I see your point, yet mine is a bit different..’

Optimism is another strategy which should be implemented in the conversation with the person who possesses a positive face. Such people need only positive feedback and supportive encouragements, thus the following expressions can be useful:

* ‘I am sure you will manage!’

* Why don’t we go to the cinema?’

* ‘I am sure you will not mind if I help you a bit with..’

The last strategy is connected with maintaining a successful conversation with such a person. It may be assumed that much depends on such a conversation. One has to remember that apart from listening to our interlocutor, we also have to ask questions, nod head in order to show that we agree with him, show sympathy and understanding in situations when our speaker feels worried or lonely, advise or suggest a reasonable solution to solve the problem, or even joke a bit to make our interlocutor more relaxed and stressed out (Bousfield, 2008: 57).

103 3.6.2 Negative politeness and face-threatening act

In contrast to positive politeness, the conversation with a person who is characterized by possessing a negative face requires some strategies suggested by Locher (2004: 67):

1. A person with a negative face is perceived as someone who likes to save time. For this reason, we should respect his time and if needed apologize for interrupting him.

2. We should use indirect forms by means of using questions:

* ‘Will you open the door?’

* ‘Can you tell me..?’

* ‘I would like you to give me..’

3. People with a negative face do not like to be forced to do something, thus it is advisable to use “If clauses sentences” in order to ask about something, for example:

* ‘Open the door if you can’

* ‘If you can tell me.., I would be very grateful’

* ‘Do it if you can of course’

4. In order not to threaten the hearer’s face, one has to:

a) minimize the imposition by means of apologizing:

* ‘I am sorry to bother you, but can you..’

* ‘I would not like to bother, but I have one task to solve’

b) using plural pronouns rather than singular:

* ‘we are supposed to inform you about..’

* ‘we are requested to ask you if..’

c) using passive constructions instead of active ones:


* ‘It is expected that all students..’

* ‘It is said that we all have to ..’

Only by implementing all these strategies can we be sure that we will not threaten our speaker’s face. It is extremely important on social networks the moment we get to know someone better. Very often it happens that we do not know much about our interlocutor and sometimes we are not aware that he or she may be characterized by having either a positive or a negative face.

W dokumencie A comparative analysis of grammatical structures and vocabulary in Polish and English Facebook chats (Stron 100-104)