It’s amazing how people respond to you if you use polite English.
When we know somebody well, such as a family member, a friend or a classmate, we can communicate in a direct way and don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing and causing offence.
But, when we don’t know somebody very well, we have to think carefully about how we communicate with them, which words or phrases to use, so we don’t cause offence.
Most of us know how to communicate politely in our first language. We know that certain phrases are appropriate when we are chatting with friends but are inappropriate in other situations when it is essential that we speak in a more formal and polite way.
meetings at work or with clients
appointments with professional people such as doctors or lawyers
when requesting help or information
at planned events such as weddings, formal dinners etc.
Read the rest of the post to find out about the following:
- What is politeness?
- Why is politeness important?
- What are the 3 Golden Rules of politeness?
- What does it mean to save and lose face?
- How do we know when we need to use polite English?
- What are the 6 principles of speaking politely in English?
Watch the introduction here
1.What is politeness?
Politeness is having or showing behaviour that is respectful and considerate of other people. Oxford Dictionary.
So, basically it’s treating people with respect.
2. Why is politeness important?
There are many reasons why politeness is important in life but one of them is that if you’re polite, you are more likely to achieve your objectives and get what you want. Also, people are more likely to take you seriously and deal with you in a good way.
As the 19th century American writer Joss Billings said:
Politeness is better than logic. You can often persuade when you cannot convince.
And I think what he meant by that is that if you’re polite, people will listen and take your arguments, ideas, opinions seriously. They may even change their own behaviour and do what you’d like them to do!
Now, although politeness is expressed in different ways in different cultures, there is a general theory of politeness which can probably be applied to most – but maybe not all – cultures. This theory is based around the concept of saving and losing face.
3. What are the 3 Golden Rules of Politeness?
Number 1: Don’t Impose
People have their own personal space.They don’t want their personal space invaded.They don’t want to be pressured into doing something they don’t really want to do.They want to be treated as individuals.
If you impose, invade their personal space, and try to get them to do things they don’t want to do, they might reject you. They might not want to deal with you and won’t respond to you in a positive way. So, don’t order or command.
Rule Number 2: Give Options.
When you ask someone to do something, give them options which they can refuse or accept. They have the choice to do what you want or to say ‘I’m sorry, I’d rather not do that.’ If you have a suggestion, give people the option to accept or refuse it, and give them the option to think of a suggestion of their own.
It’s really important to give people options so they don’t feel trapped.
Rule Number 3: Make the other person feel good.
Now, this does not mean that you have to make people feel really happy. It just means that most people want to feel positive and in control of the situation. They want to know that you respect their ideas and opinions and their status as an individual.
What do most people really want in life and how do they want to be treated?
First of all, most people want to be accepted.
They want to be accepted and respected as an intelligent, mature person, successful and professional person. They also want to be treated fairly and they want to think you are treating them as you would treat other people.
They also want to be independent and free to make them own decisions.
Free will, the ability to do what you want in life and choose what you want to do, is really important for most people.
So, if you treat them politely, that means you’re giving them the option to take their own decisions and to have some control over their own life and their own actions.
4. What is the concept of face and how do we save or lose face?
Saving face means that everybody has their own positive public image, they want other people to see them as a successful, intelligent and skilled person.Obviously,they want to keep that positive public image.
We feel better when other people look at us and say ‘I like this person, I respect this person’.
People don’t want to lose this positive public image. They don’t want you to think: ‘This person isn’t very intelligent, they’re not very successful, they’re not very professional. I’m not sure I like them very much.
If you’re polite, you save their positive public image .
5. How do we know when we need to use polite English?
If you want to learn how to speak politely in English, you will have to:
a) notice how proficient English speakers formulate their speech in order to communicate in a polite way
b) practise using these polite phrases in communication activities (inside and outside the classroom)
c) evaluate the success of using these politeness phrases in different situations
Learning how and when to use polite language takes time and practice. There are many questions to consider:
- where is the conversation taking place?
- who is your conversation partner?
- why do you want to speak politely with them?
- how will the other person feel if you use polite language?
- what results do you want to achieve by communicating politely
Politeness is not always appropriate but it is common to adopt a polite approach when we do not know our conversational partner very well.
Modern English does not really have a polite form of address. We use the same personal pronoun ‘you’ to talk to a close friend or a stranger. This means that we have to use specific language in n order to demonstrate respect, deference and consideration.
Although these communicative strategies are varied and there are differences due to factors such as gender, age, nationality, region, cultural background, social class, professional background and so on, there are a set of general principles which apply to most communicative situations when it is appropriate to communicate politely.
6. What are the 6 principles of speaking politely in English?
We express politeness in spoken English in a variety of ways. By following the six principles listed below, you should be able to communicate politely in any formal situation.
- The Uncertainty Principle – This principle states that you should show some uncertainty when giving your opinion.
The Indirect Question Principle – This principle states that using indirect questions and question tags will make you sound more polite.
The Respect Intelligence Principle – This principle states that you should credit the other person with intelligence and knowledge.
The Sensitive Correction Principle – This principle states that you should correct errors and mistakes in a sensitive way so that the other person does not lose face.
The Reluctant Disagreement Principle – This principle states that you should show the other person that you are not happy or comfortable when you disagree with them.
The Avoid Direct Commands Principle – This principle states that you should try to avoid direct commands and orders because they make it sound like you are imposing on them.
Of course, there are many ways to express politeness and not all of them are expressed through speech. However, if you need to communicate in formal situations, it is definitely a good idea to understand about some of the features of polite English, especially if you are interacting with native speakers.
The Master Polite English Course has been taken by over 40,000 students on the Udemy platform.
It takes about an hour to watch all the videos.
Here are some of the reviews – You can find them all on Udemy
Great way to polish your English
This course is very well structured and easy to follow. If you would like to polish your English this course is a very good choice.
Thank you for the wonderful course Dylan.
An hour well spent!
This was a well structured course with practical explanations. Very insightful!
Very nice and useful. Thank you so much!
well-organized course and a great way to learn how to speak polite English.
Precise and very useful
Very good material very good reminders
I’m an Egyptian citizen and I’ve finished it in a couple of hours,It’s really useful,simple,and creative.Thank you,Mr.Dylan.I enjoyed it.
Very good quick course
This course is very good, it will remind you that being polite is sometimes a helpful skill to succeed in the world.
The Importance of Politeness
To have more polite language is important to live in a society and this course give important and simple tips to be more polite with your English.
This is a great course..You don’t find these type of courses around.. There are grammar courses, English speaking courses but this course is about how you should present yourself before others to make them ( and yourself) feel good..thanks Dylan..
I feel very happy to finish this course, in our busy time people don’t care about politely so this course give us a great view of what mean be polite. i hope in the future we will have more info about how to be politely. Thanks.
Although this is meant for the non-native English speaker, it is an excellent presentation of ‘good manners’ in speech! All should take heed:)
It helped me speak more politely in English.
Very Good and Practical
I hope to see more courses like this one.
I like this course! Well done and Easy to understand
Nice course with some very good hints
Take this short course and learn how to speak politely in English to help you succeed in life and business.