The impact of politeness and relationship on perceived quality of advice about a problem


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Advice is a common but potentially problematic way to respond to someone who is distressed. Politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1987) suggests advice threatens a hearer's face and predicts that the speaker-hearer relationship and the use of politeness strategies can mitigate face threat and enhance the effectiveness of advice messages. Students (N=384) read 1 of 16 hypothetical situations that varied in speaker power and closeness of the speaker-hearer relationship. Students then read 1 of 48 advice messages representing different politeness strategies and rated the message for regard shown for face and for effectiveness. However, neither speaker-hearer relationship nor politeness strategies was consistently associated with perceived threat to face or perceived advice effectiveness. We suggest revisions to politeness theory and additional factors that may affect judgments of face sensitivity and advice effectiveness.