Negative and positive face
When we attempt to save another’s face, we can pay attention to their negative face wants or their pesitive face wants. A person’s negative face is the need to be independent, to have freedom of action, and not to be imposed on by others. The world “negative” here doesn’t mean “bad”, it’s just the opposite pole from “positive”. A person’s positive face is the need to be accepted, even liked, by others, to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others. In simple terms, negative face is the need to be independent and positive face is the need to be connected.
So, a face saving act which is oriented to the person’s negative face will the tend to show deference, emphasize the importance of the other’s time or concerns, and even include an apology for the imposition or interruption. This is also called negative politeness. A face saving act will is concerned with the person’s positive face will tend to show solidarity, emphasize that both speakers want the same thing, and that they have a common goal. This is also called positive politeness.
From : book Pragmatics, George yule
Oxford university press.