How to Speak Politely to Others

Written by freddie silver
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How to Speak Politely to Others
Politeness helps ensure communication and success in the workplace. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

People judge others by what they say and what they do. How you speak to others also contributes to the impression you make. Whether communicating with colleagues and superiors or family and friends, it's beneficial to address people politely. If you need a favour or you are trying to apologise for a mistake you made, expressing yourself politely is more likely to get the results you desire. Everyone feels more respected when spoken to politely and that makes them more receptive to what you are saying.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Use the word, "please," every time you make a request. For example, "Please close the window" or, "Close the window, please," is much more polite than, "Close the window."

  2. 2

    Use helping words such as, "would," "could," "will," and "can" to soften a possible demanding connotation when you want something done. Phrasing commands as questions makes them more polite. For example, "Can I leave now?" and "Could I get a drink?" is more polite than, "I'm leaving now," and "I'm getting a drink."

  3. 3

    Be aware of how loudly you are speaking. A quieter voice sounds more polite than a louder one, and especially more than shouting. For example, "I do not want to go," when stated in a low, quiet voice is more likely to be interpreted as a polite request, than if the same statement was said stridently, like a demand.

  4. 4

    Use a soft tone when speaking politely. Even if the volume of your speech remains the same, tone can change the implication of your words from anger and hostility to respect and politeness. For example, if you say, "I do not want to go," with an emphasis on the word "not" or "I" and annoyance in your body language, you will sound less polite than if you keep the tone even, do not emphasise any words and remove emotion from your voice.

  5. 5

    Ask permission to speak before you join a conversation. Asking, "May I add a comment?" during a business meeting is more polite than making your comment without asking first, especially if you are interrupting senior colleagues.

  6. 6

    Make a positive statement of agreement before you contradict or correct someone. For example, if your teacher announces the upcoming test has to be on a day that you already have another test scheduled, try saying, "I understand that you need the test early because that is when grades are due, but ..."

Tips and warnings

  • Even when someone has spoken rudely to you or you feel you have been insulted, replying in a polite manner is often the best approach. Speaking politely sends the message that you have not been unnerved and are the one still in control.
  • Avoid excessive politeness. It might be interpreted as sarcasm.

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