In informal language, you can say just about anything. And you don’t necessarily have to be polite.
This is not the case when using language at the workplace. Here the language needs to be more controlled, structured, and polite.
Let’s look at seven words or phrases which can soften your language:
- Thank you
Use this phrase as often as possible. Don’t worry, the universe is not running out of thank you’s.
When you receive an email from a colleague, acknowledge it with: Thanks, Janet!
Or, if it has to be more formal: Thank you for sending the updated file.
If you are corresponding with someone outside your office, you can use ‘thank you’ as a form of acknowledgement.
Instead of writing:
This is to acknowledge the receipt of your application dated 12.02.18,
you could write:
Thank you for sending your application on 12.02.18.
Doesn’t that sound better?
Pulease… Is used by teenagers often. And they are right in using it. Like ‘thank you’, please should be used often. Use please with everyone: to both your superiors and subordinates. Especially to your subordinates…
Compare these two lines:
Make sure that the annual reports are printed by 2 pm.
Please make sure that the annual reports are printed by 2 pm.
The word ‘please’ softens the sentence. And makes it sound less like a command. The person reading this message would respond positively to it.
3. Can vs. Could vs. May (asking for permission)
The most informal way to ask for permission is can.
Can I use the conference room for ten minutes?
At work, if you wish to be more formal, use could.
Could I use the conference room for ten minutes?
If you are in a formal situation, then go for: may.
May I use the conference room for ten minutes?
4. Can vs. May (giving permission)
When giving permission, we say, ‘yes, you can‘ or ‘yes, you may‘.
May is more polite than can.
Don’t say: yes, you
could. That may cause some confusion in the mind of the listener. Well, could I, or couldn’t I?
Would is an excellent word to use when trying to soften your language.
Would you agree?
That’s softer than: Do you agree?
Here are some expressions that use ‘would’:
Would you mind if we start early tomorrow?
Would you like to read the summary first?
I would suggest we look at other options.
This is a polite verb to use. For example:
Shall I call all the interns?
Shall we start the meeting?
In fact, the term ‘shall we’ can be used at the start of almost any activity:
Shall we start the presentation? Shall we start the conference call? Shall we break for lunch? Shall we…
When starting an activity (meeting, presentation), it’s a good idea to use: we. It’s a nice way of making people feel included.
7. Let’ s
In a more informal setting, say with colleagues who you know well, you can use ‘let’s’ instead of ‘shall’.
Let’s start the meeting.
Let’s listen to Nalini’s update.
Let’s order a cake!
Being polite is important. It creates a positive atmosphere at work and is a professional way of conducting yourself. Could being polite become contagious? I certainly hope so…