What is negative politeness?

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Politeness, manners, respect. These are the cornerstones of a functional society. Being kind, acknowledging others and listening are all considered reasonable.


Women and children are subject to different politeness requirements. And not just to be ‘nice’ but to smile and acknowledge ‘our place’ as lesser. This politeness means we make room and allowances for others at our expense. This politeness is submissive, acknowledging authority. It is called ‘negative politeness’.

And this happens because of ‘power-over’.

Why is it that there have to be winners and losers?

True power lies not in domination but in collaboration, compassion and respect.

In a diverse society, there will be different perspectives. One does not override the other.

Effective communication recognises the strength of each participant and respects their rights and responsibilities.

‘Power over’ uses coercion, threats and dominion to control others. It assumes power is finite, a win-lose mentality.

‘Power to’ is the power to make a difference, to create something new, or to achieve goals. This means understanding the systems, who is who and how things work. What can I change? What must I work with? The Birth Map and The Game of Birth were created to provide the means to do this.

‘Power with’ uses collaboration. It acknowledges the strength of each person involved and the responsibilities. In maternity, the decision belongs to the woman giving birth.

‘Power within’ is related to a sense of self-worth and self-knowledge; it includes acknowledging differences while respecting others. This is our dignity. This means we can have a voice. Not to yell at or correct others, but to share our perspective and hear others.

Often we cannot use our voice effectively because we have lost our ‘Power within’.

If you are feeling defeated, seek your Power Within. Unleash your Power To and use Power With.

more on this theme:

Diplomacy, politeness and the underlying threat

want a positive birth? say please

The con in consent

1 thought on “What is negative politeness?”

  1. Hayley Wilson

    I get goosebumps every time I hear Grace speak or read her words… and I think it’s partly because I’d been reading your work for the last few years. Power power power.

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