These two speakers are giving the same piece of advice to a friend. Compare the words that they use to make the suggestion:
Speaker A: You should go to a different hairdresser.
Speaker B: Have you thought of going to a different hairdresser?
How does speaker A sound to you? Direct? Bossy? Perhaps a little rude? How about speaker B? Polite? Kind? Careful not to upset someone? If you want to sound more like speaker B when giving advice to your friends, read this post. It will tell you simple ways to make your suggestions sound ‘softer’ and more polite.
The first thing to say is that suggestions that start with ‘you should…’ sound very definite. Of course, there will be times when you need to give people very definite advice, but for situations in which you want to suggest something in a gentler, less forceful way, it is best to avoid this phrase. There are a number of ways of making your suggestion sound less certain (and therefore more polite). For example, try making a suggestion by using one of the following question phrases:
Have you tried speaking to James about the problem?
Have you considered/thought about speaking to James?
How/What about speaking to James?
Not all polite suggestions are in the form of questions. ‘Could’ rather than ‘should’ makes a statement suggestion a little softer:
You could invite Annie’s sister too.
A very useful phrase for softening suggestions is ‘can always’ or ‘could always’ […]’:
You could/can always try the café on Green Street.
‘Always’ is also used in the phrase ‘There’s always […]’:
There’s always the café on Elm Street. You could try that.
Other useful words here are ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe’. Introducing ‘you could’ with either of these words makes the phrase sound less certain:
Another approach to making a ‘softer’ suggestion is to use the phrase ‘You might want to […]’ or ‘It might be an idea to […]’:
You might want to ask Clare for her opinion.
It might be an idea to speak to Clare first.
Finally, a slightly different approach is to first mention your own experience of the thing that you are suggesting. The phrase ‘I find […]’ is useful here:
I find it helps to make notes as I’m listening. Have you tried that?
I’ve always found it useful to make notes as I’m listening. Perhaps you could do that.
The next time you make a suggestion, perhaps you could soften it by using one of these phrases. You could always try!
If you need a bit more help, you might want to check out this link.