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  1. Michelle:)'s Avatar

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
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    Lightbulb How to sound less direct and polite?

    Hi, Iíve been seeking ways to sound less direct. As I speak English as a second language I tend to say things too directly or sound too strong etc without knowing. Iím sure most of the teachers here have met students who speak as if they are annoyed or angry, or sound like they are blaming you or giving you orders, and all sorts of things. Iím trying to be polite and soften the phrase when I say things, but still often enough I sound very direct or even arrogant. (I was told so from an native English speaker, actually had an argument or two because of my English.)
    Iíve heard that there are phrases you say before start talking what you want to talk about to make it sounds softer or milder, and Iíd like to know those phrases and what are those phrases called. Would you please give me some advices?

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      • Oriya
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      • India
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    Exclamation Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Here are some polite expressions commonly in use:

    You say excuse me when you want to go past somebody.
    You also say excuse me to somebody you do not know when you want to attract their attention.
    I beg your pardon is a formal expression when you need to apologize for something.
    ex. I beg your pardon! I must have picked up your bag by mistake.
    sorry or I'm sorry is used frequently. So also Pardon me and excuse me are used for apologies.
    You use the phraser I'm afraid... when you want to apologize because you have to tell somebody something that they may not like.
    ex. -'Has the last bus gone?' - 'I`m afraind so'
    I`m afraid there's been an accident.
    You use expression which show hesitancy when you are asking for a favor: Modal verbs could & would are used for polite expressions.
    Could you just help me move these boxes, please?
    I wonder if I could have a copy of your article?
    Would you mind if I leave a few minutes early today?
    Would you mind letting me leave the class at 12?
    Do you think I could borrow your car this weekend?
    You say please when you ask for something.
    Please could I have the menu?
    Could I have the menu please?
    When you want give direction to some one; say:
    Please come back later.
    Wait a moment please?
    Can I have that today, please?
    when somebody gives you something, or when you buy something or recieve information, you are expected to say Thank you or Thanks.
    It is not usual to say anything in response to Thank you in British English, although some people may say That's all right, That's okay or Don't mention it.
    in American English You're welcome is common.
    cheers is often used in informal British English to mean Thank you.
    ex. : -'here's that 10 Euroes I owe you' - ' oh, cheers'

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    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    A very common expression which sounds very direct and somewhat rude is for people to say "I want"

    I want to have a glass of water, I want to get a ride to school, ........................
    The better way to say it is:

    I would like to have a glass of water, please. Or
    Could I please have a glass of water?

    I would like to get a ride to school.
    I need a ride to school, could I possibly come with you today?

    Good for you for making the effort to speak well. Good luck. The other thing you might want to do is if you are having a converation with a native speaker and you are afraid that you are possibly being too direct, talk to them about it. Say "I don't mean to appear rude, but my English is still somewhat limited, so please understand that I am trying my best."

    Most people will applaud you for speaking another language.

    I am not a teacher.

  2. Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michelle:) View Post
    Hi, Iíve been seeking ways to sound less direct.
    Hi. What is your first language, if I may ask?

    The others have given you some good advice on linguistic techniques to use. You could also consider modifying your body language, perhaps smiling a little more (I know that's difficult when you're concentrating on what you are saying).
    Some people who are unsure of their speech, or somewhat shy, tend to go a bit hoarse when they have to speak, and that doesn't help either.

    Try recording your voice and listening back to it? Do you sound too monotonous? Does your recorded voice sound abrupt to you? Do you sound angry? Pretend the person on the recording is not you, and think of the advice you would give them.
    Then, look at yourself in the mirror and talk. Do you look polite? Do you look angry?
    When you hear people who sound polite to you, make a note of what it is about them that makes them appear polite. Perhaps you could copy some of their mannerisms.

  3. Michelle:)'s Avatar

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
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    Thumbs up Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Hi everyone

    Thank you so much for your advice. I think phrases above will help my communication be better especially at work. I also found it very interesting that record my voice and listen back to it. Iíll try that too. I do believe body language and tone of you voice are also very important so that's worth checking how I actually appear/sound. Thanks a lot!!

    By the way, thereís one thing Iím still not sure how to say something negative when Iím talking to friends or someone close to me. When I come to think of it, the times I had an argument with an native English speaker were the times when we were talking about things and either I disagree with someone or made a negative comment. For example, I tend to say things like, ĎbutÖí to respond someoneís comment, or I often say ĎI donít like it!í, or ĎI hate it/him/her etc.í, and the latest one I said and caused an uncomfortable moment was ĎItís very bad to Öí and Ď Itís very unusual for me toÖí. The person I was talking with that time mentioned that I sounded arrogant and very judgmental because, I didnít explain the reason why I thought that way. Thatís very understandable but if I give the reason, does it make me sound nicer?? I think there are also some other ways to say negative things nicely but I donít know how. Would you please help me out on this too??

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Your friend is helping you by telling you how he interprets what you are saying. Ask him to please help you further by suggesting another way to say it so you don't sound arrogant. Just say "Thank you for telling me. That's not how I meant to sound. Can you tell me how you would have said that?"

    Instead of saying it must be true, try to say it in a way that allows someone to disagree.
    That's wrong! = I'm not sure that's right.
    That's stupid! = I'm not convinced that's a great idea.
    That's a terrible idea! = That's not something I can agree with.

    Try to find ways that don't begin with "I" (although people learning to clearly express their points of view are given the opposite advice, you don't have the same problem.

    I hate that! = That's something I don't like very much.
    I don't like that = That's not something I care for very much.

    Note that "hate" is a very strong word. Although we use "love" for everything from favorite movies to ice cream, we should reserve "hate" for things we truly feel deeply about.

    My personal least-liked phrase is anything that begins with "You should" - that sounds more arrogant than anything else. Instead try "Have you thought about...?" or "One thing that might work is to..."

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    Exclamation Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Polite Expressions for making negative comments, When you have to speak a bitter truth.
    Actually, I hate to say this, but for some reason
    Frankly, I don’t like saying this but I’m sorry to tell you
    It could not be said that but let’s face it
    This is difficult/hard to say, but honestly…
    There are several ways of asking a bit unpleasant questions politely.

    1. Don't you have a spare pen for me?
    2. Can't I have another slice, please?
    3. By the way, don't you have a brochure?"

    1. Would you have a spare pen I can borrow?
    2. May I have another slice of cake, please?
    3. By the way, would you have any brochures for me to keep?

  5. Michelle:)'s Avatar

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 8

    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Thank you for your reply, Sarat 106. Come to think of it, I’ve heard someone who speaks English as a second language at work often says, ‘Can you…?’ or ‘You can…’ and I felt a little bit annoyed at times. Show my hesitation when I ask something is very similar to what we do in my first language. As a learner, those things somehow slip my mind… I’ll definitely use those phrases you suggested and keep an ear out for phrases people use as well. Thank you very much :)

  6. Michelle:)'s Avatar

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 8

    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Hi Searching for language,

    Thank you for your reply. That’s a good idea to say that my English is limited and I might sound too direct. I was kind of afraid of revealing my limited English and I think that didn’t help me communicate with people well. Thank you for your advice!

  7. Michelle:)'s Avatar

    • Join Date: Jul 2009
    • Posts: 8

    Re: How to sound less direct and polite?

    Hi Raymott,

    Thank you for your reply. That’s a great idea to check my own speaking and body language! I think I tend to become somewhat nervous especially when I speak to someone I don’t really know. So I guess my voice and body language isn’t very positive some times. I’ll see how I sound and also try to find out what makes people sound polite too. Luckily I’m working and living with native English speakers so copying will definitely the way to go!! Thanks a lot :)

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