S1E6: Diplomatic Language

S1E6: Diplomatic Language

Welcome to episode 6 of the small talk audio courses where we will talk about diplomatic language. 

Before we begin, let’s go over some vocabulary. 

Brash (adjective) – assertive in a rude way, pushy

Slang (noun) – informal, casual language

Perplexed (adjective) – extremely confused

(To be) smooth sailing (expression) – easy, without problems or obstacles

When doing international business, it’s important not only to be able to communicate fluently, but also in a way which is respectful and polite.

Stay tuned for further episodes where we look at some grammar related to this topic, such as embedded questions and tag questions.

The language we use when communicating in a business setting should be formal and diplomatic to cultivate good working relationships.

Using diplomatic language allows us to be respectful and avoid seeming brash, rude or offensive. We should also be sure to avoid using slang or informal language.

The art of diplomacy is a vital skill for maintaining relationships and avoiding offending or upsetting people.

As we have seen, work and mutual acquaintances are a common topic for small talk. So, let’s look at some useful vocabulary and expressions for this topic.

Asking about work

  • So, how’s the project going?
  • How’s the new project coming along?
  • What’s new in/at (branch, department, team)?
  • How are things in/at (branch, department, team)?
  • How did it all go with the (client, project, event)?

Talking about mutual acquaintances

  • How is Maria these days?
  • Have you seen John recently?
  • What’s Joe up to?
  • I haven’t seen Amy in a while. How is she doing?
  • How are the team getting on? (Note: Whilst in British English it is common to use the plural ‘are’ in reference to the team as they/them, in US English ‘the team’ would more commonly be referred to as the singular ‘it’ — “How is the team getting on?”

Responses to the above questions

  • He / She is fine, thank you.
  • They are doing very well, thanks.
  • Fine, thanks. They send their regards.

Saying You Don’t Understand

We understand that communicating in another language may not always be smooth sailing.

There may be times when you can’t understand someone.

Think of a young child who doesn’t understand something – their first instinct is to simply ask ‘what?’ At first, this may also be our first instinct when speaking in a second language too.

However, rather than look perplexed and just say “what?” (which would be extremely rude), there are a number of other ways to express that you don’t understand and ask for clarification which are much more diplomatic.

  • I’m sorry, I don’t understand.
  • Sorry, could you repeat that please?
  • Sorry, I don’t quite understand.
  • I’m not quite sure I follow you.
  • Do you mean that……?
  • My apologies, I didn’t quite get that.
  • I’m afraid I don’t follow.

Simplifying Language or Paraphrasing for Clarity

If it’s you who’s being misunderstood, you will need to simplify your language, or paraphrase for clarity.

You could use any of the following expressions to rephrase what you want to say.

  • In other words…
  • Let me rephrase that…
  • Sorry, let me explain it in a different way…
  • To put it another way/differently…

For more language tips on diplomatic language and how to be inclusive with your language, you can also check out the Diversity and Inclusion course in the Intrepid English Academy.

Thank you for listening to this original audio course from Intrepid English. To access your free downloadable worksheets and transcripts that accompany this course, click on the link in the episode notes.

This content was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Kate B.

You can find out more about Kate B on her Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.

Book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly English teacher.

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