What makes a conversation successful?

A guide to how and what makes successful conversation and how unsuccessful conversation is achieved. Suitable for AS English Language.

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WHAT MAKES A CONVERSATION `SUCCESSFUL'?
An exchange has succeeded if:
o All participants have achieved their primary purpose
o If every speaker felt able to communicate ideas without
inappropriate interruption
o If there was co-operation between participants
A more detailed analysis of successful conversation might
investigate the use of:
o Politeness strategies
o Terms of address
o Facework
o Management of social distance
o Social solidarity
o Conversational maxims
o Implicatures
WHY IS POLITENESS IMPORTANT WHEN WE TALK TO EACH OTHER?
Politeness means showing respect for the person you're talking to
­ whether the exchange is formal or informal
We need to respect the other person's face needs
FACE NEEDS
Positive face needs
o We want to be liked and approved of
o Represented through:
Greetings
Compliments
Appropriate terms of address
Negative face needs
o We wrap up unpleasant requests or orders by using hedges
and apologies
We avoid face-threatening behaviour
We need to respect ­ relative status, social distance and social
solidarity between participants in a conversation - and be
responsible to the social and cultural context
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE POLITENESS
BROWN & LEVINSON (1987)
Describe in detail positive and negative politeness in conversation.
Positive Politeness

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You can claim common ground with other speakers and convey your
assumptions that all participants wish to be co-operative
Some positive politeness strategies are:
(1) Pay attention to the other speaker(s) ­ show
interest/sympathy/approval
(2) Seek agreement ­ Choose safe topics
(3) Avoid disagreement ­ Pretend to agree/use white lies/hedge your
own opinions
(4) Presuppose or assert common ground
(5) Make jokes
(6) Assume or assert agreement between each other
Negative Politeness
You are indirect ­ don't presume or assume anything, don't force your
point…read more

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