Politeness, understood as a process of establishing positive and trustful relationships through communication and interaction, which is the first prerequisite of appropriate intercultural communication.
British-American communication conventions may well be adequate and effective when dealing with people from those parts of the world. What is equally certain, however, is that they will often be inappropriate when communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds (by far the majoritiy) – regardless of the fact that the language used by all concerned may be English.
The following guiding questions may help distinguish culture-specific requirements in each case:
• How do you show respect to those with whom you are communicating?
• How do you attempt to establish credibility?
• Is it polite to answer a question when you are asked directly?
• Is it best to discuss conflict with the person with whom you disagree?
All these relate to how we use language. Here is an example: How many native US Americans are aware of the fact that the level of enthusiasm expressed in much of their everyday communication, although absolutely normal to them, may appear offensive to people from other parts of the world?
Similar questions may be asked concerning the level of directness, formality, assertiveness, indulgence, self-promotion, personal disclosure and others.