Being polite in English is important
One of the greatest characteristics of the English is manners. The English gentleman (or woman!) is a stereotype of the English and sometimes seen as a negative. However, having good manners shows empathy, kindness, and strength even behind soft words. Having the self-control to carry yourself in a calm way, even in difficult situations, shows an overcoming of your emotions and desires in the name of rationality.
Times have changed and it is not uncommon to see English people displaying their emotions in public without the slightest decorum. Just watch Geordie Shore to see this kind of English drunken behaviour. Indeed, the English are the worst tourists in the world and hated by some nations for their drunken behaviour.
However, this is not all the English by a long way. Most English people are very friendly, kind and, most of all, polite. Politeness is important. You will get better service, people will be more welcoming to you, people will like you, and you can even get jobs; just by being polite. Some English students may come from a language like Spanish or Italian where being direct is more commonly accepted, so being polite may not be as easy as you think. Here are some ways you can be more polite.
Ps & Qs
Obviously, pleases and thank yous are the 101 of being polite. Don’t forget to say please and thank you whenever the opportunity arises. You can even use sorry to ask someone to move out of the way. You can get someone’s attention with sorry or interrupt a conversation. And you can end a conversation politely with thank you. Very useful in English.
Knowing how to behave appropriately is very important in England: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mznv4ACjkzc
This is a more advanced point but it is important, if you want something done, then you should try to buffer your requests and questions by putting some extra words or even an indirect clause on the request.
Do this please.
Do you think you could do this for me?
I need directions.
Would you mind helping me find out where to go?
Do you see how much better that is? Indirect questions and requests are a tool to get what you want. Use them even if you are just asking for a beer in the pub.
Give us a beer mate.
Would you pour me one of your most wonderful pints, please, chief?
Could I just get your attention for a minute? I would just like to mention a little word we like to use. If you just add ‘just’ to your sentences as an adverb, then will sound just a little better. It’s just a diminutive, so just throw it in there whenever you want to soften a sentence. It’s just one little word, you could just try using it the next time you ask someone for something. Just see if it works.
We don’t have to use these titles very often in England. It’s very much a sign of deference; that you are showing respect to whoever you’re speaking to. But if you are working in a bar or restaurant in England then using sir or madam will be really important.
Can I get you another drink, sir?
Let me just take your plates, madam. Thank you.
The last thing is similar to using indirect language. In general, try to be less direct in English. This means sometimes not making assumptions even when you are sure about something. English people can get their back up if you jump to conclusions, so always try to put the power in the other person’s hands.
Written by James R. McCance for Aston School