Being Vague and Saying No

Intentionally being vague / non-specific

Elementary students get taught how to use “about” and “more or less”. Strangely, “more or less” is very popular because it can be directly translated into a lot of languages. At higher levels there are a lot more options to play around with in the language. We can be vague because it is not important, because we don’t want to say, we don’t want to be blamed or we don’t know. Some phrases we learn are:

Kind of.

Sort of.

I wouldn’t like to say.

I’m not really sure, but …

It’s difficult to say, but …

Saying “No” politely

Saying “No” politely is one of the most important functions to teach, particularly in a business environment. “No” is such an ugly word, we would rather use positive words than negative. It’s important that your students learn that. For example, rather than saying “it is wrong”, we would much rather say “it is not quite right”. It’s not bad, it just could be better. We teach our students to be vague whenever possible. So we don’t say it’s terrible, more that it is not exactly what we are looking for.

There are some situations where we have to say “no”, we have to make sure the other person understands that we mean “no” and there is no way of avoiding the situationSo, in English, we butter it up with phrases such as I’m afraid and unfortunately. If we want to really soften the information we can even say Unfortunately, I’m afraid that…