Tips for Polite and Diplomatic Language


1. Listen and be understanding

If you show other people that you are listening to them, and that you understand them, they will be more willing to listen to you and accept your opinion. Don’t just say “I disagree”, show them that you 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

For example:

I think we should wait until a better opportunity comes along.

Yes, but we might not get another opportunity like this for a while.

I think we should ask for a 20% discount because it will show them that we are serious.

I see what you mean, but I think 20% might be a bit too much. It might put them off.

2. Avoid negative words – instead use positive words in a negative form

People react to positive sounding words, even if they are used with a negative auxiliary.

Don’t say: I think that’s a bad idea.

Say: I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

Let’s go for a good cop, bad cop approach in this negotiation!

I don’t think that’s such a good idea. They might see through it.

3. Say the magic word: Sorry

This word can be used in many ways: to interrupt, to apologize, to show you don’t understand, to disagree. It diffuses tension and it allows you to start a statement more comfortably.

Sorry, but can I just say something here

Sorry, but I don’t really agree

Sorry, but I think that’s out of the question

4. Use little words to soften your statements

Break down negative sentences with some softeners. 

Don’t say: I don’t like it

Say: I don’t really like it I’m afraid

Don’t say: Can I say something?

Say: Can I just say something here?

Don’t say: I didn’t catch that

Say: Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that

5. Avoid ‘finger pointing’ statements with the word ‘you’

This is aggressive and too direct. Try to avoid saying ‘you’ and put the focus on ‘I’ or ‘we’.

Don’t say: You don’t understand me.

Say: Perhaps I’m not making myself clear.

Don’t say: You didn’t explain this point.

Say: I didn’t understand this point.

Don’t say: You need to give us a better price.

Say: We’re looking for a better price.

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