Softeners in English -Using Polite and Diplomatic words and Phrases in Verbal Communication

Softeners are excellent linguistic tools to soften the tone of the message that we are about to say,particularly when we are about to say something that is not what the listener is hoping to hear.They are useful to avoid offending other peoples belief system, to convey politeness when we speak,or to qualify your speech.In this post we will look at various diplomatic words and phrases that are good examples of softeners that can be used in our conversations in our day to day lives.Finally we will finish it off by exposing how something as soft as softeners can be used as a offensive conversation tool by NLP experts.

Let’s first start from the basic and simple examples of softeners.One of the softener phrases  most people use is ‘Frankly…’ and ‘I am afraid…’

Let’s say are sitting in a Park bench and the person sitting next to you has just gone to buy something entrusting you to look after his place till he returns.Here comes a stranger and asks politely ‘Excuse me,is this seat taken?’.You can just reply ‘It is already taken’ but being a nice person you may like to say ‘I am afraid to say that the seat is already taken’. Here the phrase ‘I am afraid’ acts as a softener to convey the bad news that there is no seat available.Let’s see some more examples of softeners that can be used in our ‘Park bench’ scenario.

  • Unfortunately,this seat has already been taken.
  • To be honest,the seat is already taken.
  • Well,it is already taken by the gentleman over there.
  • Actually,it is already taken.

You may notice that most of the time softener phrases are at the beginning of the sentence,though it is not a rule.One of the things we are doing is Priming or warning them that they are going to hear something that they may not be comfortable hearing.Personally i use softener not just as a diplomatic tool to appear polite but also to buy some time to what to say next-Fillers.For example if the stranger that comes to you and says ‘Excuse me,is this seat taken?’ is a hot young girl of your dreams instead of blurting out ‘It is already taken’….You might say ‘Actually…’ then take some time and reassess  the situation and say ‘He went somewhere and hasn’t returned in a while….So,sure you can sit, at least till he returns’ (To be honest,i needed this example to illustrate how to use softeners as a time buying tool.If you don’t like it i strongly encourage you to come up with your own better example)

NLP practitioners use softener phrases before delivering their highly persuasive language patterns.What Softeners do here is…They make the listener primed(get ready) for something the NLP guy or girl is about to tell.Picture that you are sitting in that park bench and the NLP guy will come along and say “Do you mind if I tell you something…” and you will get ready and Focus all your attention on what he is about to say next and he will say something like “…your pants are unzipped.You may have forgot to Zip it.”