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Five Rules of Thumb for Polite and Diplomatic Language
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blogger Luke Thompson teaches at The London School of English and produces Luke’ s English Podcast ( , which won the Macmillan Dictionary Love English Award
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This blog post is about how hedging ( and indirectness in English can be used to establish a respectful and polite relationship between speakers. This is particularly relevant in business negotiations in which subtle changes in tone can have an effect on the rapport between the counterparts, which in turn affects the outcome of the meeting. Whether you use direct language or not depends on what kind of relationship you wish to have with your counterparts. Sometimes directness can be an effective negotiating style. Nevertheless, using indirect and diplomatic ( language is a way to avoid sounding aggressive, which can put people off. It can allow you to say something negative while still maintaining a positive attitude, and generally it can help to create an atmosphere of respect in which reasonable agreement can be reached. Using hedging and indirectness in statements is something native speakers take for granted. We do it automatically, especially us Brits. But learners of English have a tougher time producing this kind of diplomatic language. It could be a cultural thing, or perhaps it is because polite language is often more complex due to the vocabulary and grammatical structures used when hedging statements. Through my experience of teaching business English over the years I have come up with a number of pieces of advice which I always tell my students. The aim is to help them to hedge their sentences, sometimes in simple ways. I’ ve tried to make the advice simple by making it into a list of five points. For some reason using short odd-numbered lists really helps people to digest information! So, here is the list of my five ‘ Rules of Thumb ( ’   for polite and diplomatic language.

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1. Listen and be understanding Next If you show other people that you are listening to them, and that you understand them, they will be series. These posts are for our English more willing to listen to you and accept your opinion. Don’ t just say “ I disagree” , show them that you language learners and are meant to... are listening and that you understand them before you explain your opinion. You can do this by using statements like: Yes, but… ( I see what you mean, but… I agree up to a point, but… (!/MacLearnEnglish) For example:

( 9/28/2013

It later became. Don’ t say: You don’ t understand me. You might like these related posts . In 1964. but can I just say something here? behind ( Email this Post ( Let’ s go for a good cop. Say: I don’ t think that’ s such a good idea. They might see through Sorry. If you are a learner of English. Avoid ‘ finger pointing’   statements with the word ‘ you’ This is aggressive and too!/MacDictionary) -english/feed) Read (http://www. I see what you mean. Subscribe To listen to an episode of Luke’ s English Podcast on Essential Social English which deals with some similar points to this blog post.macmillandictionaryblog.Five Rules of Thumb for Polite and Diplomatic Language | Macmillan Page 2 of 4 Read I think we should wait until a better opportunity comes along. It defuses tension and it allows you to start a statement more comfortably. 9/28/2013 .macmillandictionaryblog. (http://www.. Don’ t say: You didn’ t explain this point.macmillandictionaryblog. Say: I didn’ t understand this point. to show you don’ disagree. click here ( school live 2.. 5.podomatic.macmil -english) Stories behind Words: keirin Posted by -potter) (http://www. Don’ t say: Can I say something? Say: Can I just say something here? Don’ t say: I didn’ t catch that. but I don’ t really agree. but I think that’ s out of the question. (http://www. Don’ t say: I think that’ s a bad http://www. try to use them when you’ re speaking. Use little words to soften your statements Break down negative sentences with some softeners. Don’ t say: I don’ t like (http://www. I think we should ask for a 20% discount because it will show them that we are serious. (http://www. and let me know if there’ s anything I’ ve missed in my (!/MacLiveEnglish) -english/feed) Read (http://www. but we might not get another opportunity like this for a while. Sorry... those are my five pieces of advice for being polite and diplomatic.. Try to avoid saying ‘ you’   and put the focus on ‘ I’   or ‘ we’ . Avoid negative words –instead use positive words in a negative form People react to positive sounding words. 4. I’ m afraid. . Say: . •Why use English when French says it better? An introduction to Pragmatics ( It is a little more than a year since the London Olympics and Paralympics even those whose usual reaction to. If you’ re a (https://twitter. to apologise....facebook. Say: Perhaps I’ m not making myself clear. Say: I don’ t really like it. To listen to Luke’ s podcast for The London School of English on this subject click here (http://londonschool. Don’ t say: You need to give us a better price. even if they are used with a negative auxiliary verb. love ( (http://www.macmillandictionaryblog.macmil -english) Going mainstream Posted by -rundell) (http://www. Say the magic word: Sorry This word can be used in many ways: to interrupt.macmillandictionaryblog. It might put them off. bad cop approach in this negotiation! I don’ t think that’ s such a good idea. I didn’ t quite catch that. scientists predicted the existence of an elementary particle which could explain why some particles have mainstream) 3. consider ways you can help your students to communicate diplomatically. but I think 20% might be a bit too much. Say: We’ re looking for a better price.. (http://www. (http://www.macmillandiction ESign up to blog posts Enter email address.

com/2009/best group http://www.macmillandictionaryblog. am very polite and more diplomatic to them.. but i have found myself in me that to people who i know or say i meet day to day i am not -creep) (http://www. Michael Rundell writes about how words get into the dictionary in his blog post: Going that would fit in with your first recommendation –changing a response to a suggestion into a #languagechange Expand These are all excellent -1) Twitter Facebook Tweets Comments (5) [.com//buzzwo Leave a Comment Name / Surname * (http://www.macmillandictionary.. either positive or negative: Friday is a better day for the meeting Would Friday be a better day for the meeting? Wouldn’ t Friday be a better day for the meeting? This new post in our Stories Behind Words series look at the word 'kieren'.. 2012 i am looking for more tips about diplomatic language…thank you taper Posted by abdulaziz on 22nd May. 2012 Your # bit.] Posted by Five Rules of Thumb for Polite and Diplomatic Language | oisesydney (http://oisesydney.macmillandictionaryblog. i will try my best to use these 5 thumb rule more often and see if i can make any change in my personality. bit.. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [. Tweet Posted by maharjan on 27th Website Comment * Categories (http://edublogawards. Retweeted by Expand Posted by Teresa Howie (http://www.] more by Luke Thompson at Macmillan Dictionary Blog.Five Rules of Thumb for Polite and Diplomatic Language | Macmillan Page 3 of 4 •Bloggers’   Questions 2012: #1 (http://www. Retweeted by Expand To people who i don’ t know. a gradual reduction in the amoun of new money bank in order to aid economic more Bitcoin black ( #storiesbehindwords As you say. 2013 in finance.macmillandictionary. 2012 interesting Posted by carmen on 18th April. 2012 Your # bags... 9/28/2013 .. which I use with my students. There’ s another option I give as well.macmillandictionary. am too stright and answer with a intension what am saying is what i feel and belive but unknowing i have made them anoyed them.macmillandictionary...macmillandictionaryblog.. being indirect can keep the negotiating on 11th on 18th -swan) Email Address * crunch ( (http://www.

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