Positive Politeness – Strategies & Tactics

According to Politeness Theory, there are three key strategies that salespeople and negotiators use to minimize FTAs: claiming common ground, conveying cooperation, and fulfilling wants.

Claiming Common Ground 

Within this first strategy are the tactics of noticing, exaggerating, seeking agreement, and avoiding disagreement.

Noticing is accomplished by paying compliments, such when we comment on something someone is wearing, or someone’s non-physical ability like their sharp wit or keen intellect.

Exaggerating is accomplished through words, tone of voice, and body language, using expressions like “This will blow you away!”, “You’re not going to believe this…”, or “It’s a no brainer!”

Seeking agreement is accomplished through safe topics and repetition. The classic example is bringing up something about the environment like the weather. Accordingly, when the other person beats us to the punch, we’re likely to use repetition responding “It is a beautiful day!”

Avoiding disagreement is accomplished through token agreement and pseudo agreement.

Token agreement means simultaneously finding the words to neither agree or disagree. However, to the other person it seems like we’re agreeing.

Finally, pseudo agreement is vocalizing “done deal” agreement when no such agreement has been established. (Think pushy salesperson.)

Conveying Cooperation

Within this strategy are the tactics of acknowledging wants, making offers and promises, being optimistic, including, giving or asking for reasons, and assuming reciprocity. 

Demonstrating knowledge of wants has worked for me and goes something like this: “So I know you said you’re not interested in XYZ at this time, however I highly recommend considering it. Here’s why…”

Absolutely imperative are the three magic words, “I know you said…” Using this ledge I’ve been amazed at what people will consider – or reconsider – when we’ve proven our ability to listen.

Making offers and promises that are intended to benefit the prospect comprise our bread and butter as salespeople and negotiators. Based on my observation, fortune favors the bold. And those who are unafraid to promise.

Including involves statements such as “”Let’s do this…”, and “How about we..” This is something we learn early because it always flies under the radar. For example, when has anyone ever said, “What do you mean we?’ I’ve personally never heard it happen. Instead, we politely go along. 

Being optimistic means assuming the sale and this is always the best approach. Good closing is simply confirming all necessary details and confirming all necessary details exudes optimism.

Giving or asking for reasons is especially effective for overcoming objections. When we’re able to stack reasons for moving forward it provides a sense of certainty the way rubbing two sticks together starts a fire. However, even more powerful than providing reasons is asking why not do something? Questions like “why not? create the same effect as combing a match with swift friction.

Finally, assuming reciprocity is what we traditionally think of as “give and take”, “an eye for an eye”, and “the golden rule”. If you give me X, I’ll give you Y. This is what we do when we trade concessions, give a little, or bend a little with the expectation of getting a little in return. Justice is always required.

Fulfilling Wants 

Within this strategy there is only one tactic and it involves giving what is desired, either tangible or intangible.

For example, we sometimes provide tangible concessions against our good judgement to create momentum or engender goodwill in a negotiation. However, we can also provide the intangibles, like the ability to save face or stroking the ego.

The true art is finding as many ways to give as possible, while never giving too easy, and always remembering that even wants prefer to be worked for.

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