Making Polite Requests in English
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
“Please send me the report by Friday.”
This may sound very polite to you, but it feels like more of a command than a request. Just adding the word “please” to a sentence does not make it polite or respectful. We have to pay attention to the nuance.
Here’s the key to making polite requests: Ask—don’t tell. Make it a question or inquiry instead of a command. Acknowledge the other person’s effort and don’t assume they can necessarily fulfill the request.
“Do you think you could send me the report by Friday?”
“Would you be able to meet at Yamate station?”
“Do you think it would be possible to meet in Sakuragicho on Friday?”
“I was wondering if you would be able to meet me at Yokohama station at noon.”
“Is there any chance you would be able to meet earlier?”
“What do you think about having the meeting a bit later?”
“I know you’re really busy, but I was wondering if you could meet today?”
“Do you think there’s any way you could help me with my project?”
“What do you think about meeting in Tokyo?” (Even less direct)
To Be Extra Polite…
1) Apologize for making the request
2) Make the request in question form
3) Say you understand if they cannot fulfill your request
For example: “I’m really sorry to bother you because I know you’re really busy, but do you think there’s any possibility that you would be able to meet between Yokohama station and Ishikawacho station? If not, I completely understand.”
Of course, if you’re making a request to someone who works under you or someone who you do not need to show more respect to, you can just add “please” to the request.
But ultimately, if you’re working with people from western cultures, I suggest always following the polite request format. Why? Keep in mind that western cultures are less focused on hierarchy and rank in the workplace in comparison with Japan. Making polite requests will demonstrate humility and respect and will help your overall relationships regardless of people’s ranks and positions.
The main thing? Ask—don’t tell.
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