Welcome back to Business English Pod for today’s lesson on how to use diplomatic language. That means language that is careful, or not too direct.
This lesson is part of our new series of fresh takes on some of our older lessons. We’ve kept the same dialog but have new explanations and practice for our lower level learners.
Now, as I said, diplomatic language is careful, polite, and not too direct. For example, imagine you’re talking to your boss about a problem. You could just say “We have a problem.” But you want to be careful, right? So how about saying: “We might have a slight problem.” Using words like “might” and “slight” makes it softer, or more diplomatic, don’t think? Now imagine you’re the boss and your employee is explaining a problem, but you don’t understand. Well, you could say “I don’t understand.” But doesn’t that sound kind of short and direct? You don’t want to start an argument, you just want to understand. So you can try something like: “I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you mean.” Don’t you think that sounds softer?
This is the kind of language we’re going to learn and practice today. You’ll learn how to ask probing questions carefully and how to ask for clarification when you don’t understand. You’ll also learn how to minimize, or make something seem smaller or less serious than it really is. And finally you’ll learn how to disagree carefully using “yes, but” statements.
In the dialog, you’ll hear a teleconference meeting between four managers who work for a guitar company. Jack is the production manager at the guitar plant, or factory. He’s talking to Jim, Dan, and Angie at the company’s headquarters. They’re talking carefully about some recent problems at the plant.
1. How does Jim ask Jack about the problem at first?
2. Jack doesn’t want to say “some workers couldn’t breathe” because that sounds too serious. What does he say instead?
3. At the end of the dialog, Dan wants to disagree with Jack. What does he say before he disagrees?