5 top tips for perfecting politeness

It is a well-known proverb that 'politeness costs nothing, but gains everything'. And it is famous for a very good reason. After all, you are much more likely to get what you want by asking, 'Could I possibly try a little bit of your chocolate bar, please? It looks delicious!', instead of saying, 'Give me your chocolate bar, I'm hungry'.
Of course, you all know how to BE polite (shake someone's hand when you meet them, listen carefully to others, remember your Ps and Qs – that's your 'Pleases' and 'Thank Yous'…) but SPEAKING politely is a whole other ball game. So, here are 5 top tips to start you off:

  1. Address people respectfully
— If you are wining and dining in a fancy restaurant, the waiter will say to you:

'May I take your coat, sir?'
'Are you ready to order now, madam?'

— Likewise, in a formal situation, where you don't know someone's first name, you use titles such as 'Mrs + surname, Mr + surname, Sir, Madam, Doctor (Dr.), and Professor (Prof.)'

— When you speak to a stranger, you can also use these titles:

'Excuse me, sir, you dropped your gloves!'

— And when you speak to an audience, you can say:

'Hello there, ladies and gentlemen!'

2. Soften your speech (make it less direct)

— Try adding small words like this:

???? Could you just keep the noise down a little bit, please? // ☹ Be quiet.

???? It's kind of hot in here. Shall we open the window? // ☹ It's hot. I'll open the window.

— Use words like 'reckon', 'guess' and 'feel' to express your opinions or introduce ideas:

???? 'I reckon we should start to make a move. It's getting rather late.' // ☹ We need to leave.

— Use the words 'seem' or 'appear' to introduce a problem:

???? 'Oh no, it seems I've misplaced the office keys' // ☹ 'I've lost the office keys'.

???? 'You appear to have deleted all of the photos from my phone' // ☹ 'You have deleted all of the photos from my phone, you idiot!'

3. Use modal verbs to make a request

— Check out these expressions:

Could you possibly call me back in a few minutes?
Could you please listen carefully?
Could you help me please?
Would you mind holding the door for me?
Would you kindly put me through to your boss?
Would you be so kind as to hold my phone for a moment?
Would you be able to help me with my homework?

— You can also ask someone to do something by using a negative question with a question tag:

'You couldn't give me a lift to the station, could you?'

'I don't suppose you would be able to take my lesson, would you?'

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4. Use past tenses to talk about the present:

Did you want another drink? = Do you want another drink?
I wanted to ask you what you thought about…? = What do you think about…?
We thought you might like some help. = We are here to help you.
I was just wondering if you knew… = I wonder if you know…
I was hoping you could help me! = I hope you can help me!

5. Hide what you really want to say…

"As I am sure you know, when people say 'It's my pleasure,' they usually mean something along the lines of, 'There's nothing on Earth I would rather do less.'"
― Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril
In Britain especially, we are very good at using politeness to cover up what we really think. So to finish this article, here are some examples for you:

Maybe we should consider some other options? = Your idea is bad
Very interesting = That sounds like nonsense to me
I'll bear it in mind = I've forgotten already
With the greatest respect… = You are an idiot
I'm so sorry, I'm sure it's my fault = It was your fault
I hear what you say = I disagree, but I don't want to talk about it anymore
As per my last email… = Can't you read? I already told you this!

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Author of this article: Issy, teacher at Campus
29 сентября / 2019