*Maya Khemlani David, Kuang Ching Hei & Caesar DeAlwis
Opening and closing a conversation can be activated both verbally and non-verbally, depending on participants, topic, and setting. While some types of opening and closing of conversations are perceived politely, others are perceived impolitely because cultures vary. Politeness is developed by societies in order to reduce friction in personal interaction and when taken in that light, politeness enhances rapport and establishes convergence in communication. Politeness can be used as a strategy to build relationships and minimise social distance between speakers and in any communication, it is of importance. This paper focuses on the politeness strategies used by front counter staff of two governmentlinked full-fledged companies: Post Offices and the EPF (Employees Provident Fund) based in an urban area of the Klang Valley. The study observed both verbal and non-verbal cues used in openings and closings during service encounters in these two government linked companies. Data were obtained through audio and manual recordings of the said interactions which occurred during office hours. In particular, a total of seven staff were observed i.e. five in the post offices and two in the EPF. The total interactions encountered and recorded were 228 and they were transcribed orthographically. Using Brown and Levinson’s (1987) framework of Face Threatening Acts (FTA), findings suggest that both staff and the public seldom perform openings and closings. Both parties also rarely greet and address each other. Although data is limited to only two government-linked companies, findings indicate that phatic communication hardly takes place between service providers and service takers. This finding could therefore be used by researchers in communication as one step towards developing training courses for service providers of governmentlinked companies who meet the general public on a daily basis.
Keywords: Politeness, phatic communication, rapport management, verbal communication