Qualifiers: how to sound more polite in a business meeting
If you often attend meetings and negotiations as part of your job, you will know how important it is to avoid direct disagreement.
A disagreement can occur if we make a very direct and simple statement to express what we’re thinking. Statements which are too direct can sound confrontational and as a result the person you’re negotiating with may be offended or get upset.
Look at these very direct statements:
- The price is high.
- It’s a problem.
- I’ll be late.
- There might be delays with the delivery.
- We have to make changes.
- It’s difficult to do.
All of the above statements are too direct for a polite negotiation. They may say what you are thinking, but they can sound impolite or aggressive and may lead to a direct disagreement.
Qualifiers will ‘soften’ a direct statement
In order to sound more diplomatic we should soften our direct statements. One way of doing this is by using qualifiers – words which we put before another word to make it sound less direct.
Here are some common ‘softening’ qualifiers in English:
- a little
- a bit
- a little bit
- one or two.
Now let’s use these qualifiers in sentences:
- The price is a little high.
- It’s a slight problem.
- I’ll be a little bit late.
- There might be one or two short delays with the delivery.
- We have to make one or two small changes.
- It’s a bit difficult to do.
See how the direct statements are now softer and less direct. We now sound more diplomatic and a direct disagreement is less likely.
This is how qualifiers work. There are, of course, other ways of sounding polite and less direct during a negotiation. I’ll look at these in a future post.
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