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  1. 1 The Experiment

Sesión 33

The Experiment is a collection of short series that are a little different to our usual programmes - but still help you improve your English.

Our seventh series, What they really mean shows how misunderstandings can be caused by common ways we use language. Each episode shows you how to avoid these misunderstandings.

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What they really mean: Euphemistic feedback

That's an interesting idea...

Emily didn't like Mark's ideas. She tried to tell him, but he didn't realise. Watch the video to find out why. It shows you how to identify euphemistic feedback. This is where people try to say to something negative without causing offence.

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Emily
That’s an interesting idea.

Claire
Sound great, doesn’t it? An interesting idea? But did she really mean it?

Emily
You had an idea for our traffic app?

Mark
Yes. Well, you know how it tells you about slow traffic.

Emily
Yes.

Mark
Well, I thought we could show how noisy the traffic is.

Emily
That’s an interesting idea.

Mark
We can get new clients who want a quiet journey.

Emily
It’s certainly a different approach.

Mark
I’ve put these graphs in for the different amounts of noise.

Emily
I can see that you’ve been thinking about this.

Mark
Yeah.

Claire
Why are you so happy?

Mark
Oh, it’s Emily, she loves my ideas! I’m so happy.

Claire
I wouldn’t be so sure.

Mark
What do you mean?

Claire
Well, people often use euphemisms to avoid direct criticism and to sound polite – words like ‘interesting’ and ‘different’ mean that people can react without saying anything directly negative.

Mark
So it didn’t mean that she really liked the ideas?

Claire
I’m afraid not.

Mark
How can you tell when someone is doing this?

Claire
OK, people often use adjectives that could be positive, but aren’t always – like ‘interesting’ or ‘different’. Also, people might use phrases to recognise effort rather than achievement, such as ‘You have really thought about this’ and ‘You have worked a lot on this’. Pay attention to tone and body language as well. Are they saying ‘Well, I can see you’ve been working on that’ or are they saying ‘Well, I can see you’ve been working on that’? You can see more examples of this kind of feedback at the end of the programme.

Mark
I wonder what it would look like if she had really liked the ideas.

Emily
You had an idea for our traffic app?

Mark
Yes. Well, you know how it tells you about slow traffic?

Emily
Yes.

Mark
Well, I thought we could show how noisy the traffic is.

Emily
Wow, that is an interesting idea – I really like it!

Mark
We could get new clients who want a quiet journey.

Emily
That is a really different approach – it’s brilliant!

Mark
I’ve put these graphs in to show the different amounts of noise.

Emily
I can see that you’ve been thinking about it – and I really like it!

That must have a taken you a long time.

It’s very original.

You’ve been very creative there.

I haven’t seen anyone do it like that before.

I can see what you were trying to do. 

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Did you like that? Why not try these?

Episode2_YT cover.jpg English at Work - 14 - Giving feedback  English at University 15 - Feedback

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What is euphemistic feedback?
Euphemisms are words or expressions used to talk about something negative without causing offence or embarrassment. Euphemistic feedback avoids direct criticism when talking about something negative.

What language does it use?
Euphemistic feedback often uses adjectives that are generally positive, but not necessarily so, like interesting or different. Feedback might recognise effort, instead of achievement.

Is body language or tone of voice important?
Yes, listen to people's tone of voice and watch their body language to see how enthusiastic they are. 

Examples

'That must have a taken you a long time.' (recognises effort)
'It’s very original.' (original can be positive, but not always)
'You've been very creative there.' (creative can be positive, but not always)
'I can see what you were trying to do.' (recognises effort)

To do

Try our quiz to see how well you've learned today's language.

Euphemistic feedback

4 Questions

Choose the correct answers

Felicitaciones. Has completado el quiz.
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Downloads

You can download a transcript of this episode here.

End of Session 33

Join us in Session 34 of The Experiment for more of What They Really Mean - a video series on understanding more than just the words people use. We will be looking at sarcasm. 

Here are all of our Experiment series videos