In sociolinguistics and conversation analysis (CA), politeness strategies are speech acts that express concern for others and minimize threats to self-esteem ("face") in particular social contexts.
Positive politeness strategies are intended to avoid giving offense by highlighting friendliness. These strategies include juxtaposing criticism with compliments, establishing common ground, and using jokes, nicknames, honorifics, tag questions, special discourse markers (please), and in-group jargon and slang.
Negative politeness strategies are intended to avoid giving offense by showing deference. These strategies include questioning, hedging, and presenting disagreements as opinions.
Examples and Observations
“Shut up!” is rude, even ruder than “Keep quiet!” In the polite version, “Do you think you would mind keeping quiet: this is, after all, a library, and other people are trying to concentrate,” everything in italics is extra. It is there to soften the demand, giving an impersonal reason for the request, and avoiding the brutally direct by the taking of trouble.
"Professor, I was wondering if you could tell us about the Chamber of Secrets."
"Would you mind stepping aside? I got a purchase to make."
"'Sir,' the gentleman asked with a twang in his voice that was unmistakably Southern, 'would it bother you terribly if I joined you?'"
"'Laurence,' said Caroline, 'I don't think I'm going to be much help to you. I've had enough holiday-making. I'll stay for a couple of days but I want to get back to London and do some work, actually. Sorry to change my mind but--'”
I was wondering if you could...
Do you think you would mind...
Would you mind...
Would it bother you (terribly/heavily...) to...
I don't think...
I don't think...