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Meetings in English: How to sound diplomatic using direct and indirect questions

How are you? 🌟🗺️ Welcome to our Conversation Club! Today we discover how the tone of the meeting changes according to the type of questions we use. Did you know that by using indirect questions in English, your communication will be perceived as less direct and therefore more diplomatic and formal? This is just one of the little language tricks that we will analyse together during our conversation. Let’s begin!

Prepared with love by: My Personal English Coach

inglese aiuto per studenti

Helloooo! Just a few words of support for those of you who are starting your experience in our Conversation Club and don’t feel very confident. 

Don’t worry, we’re here for you!

If you feel that you need it, follow the first piece of advice in the image on the left and review all the language bits we think can be useful for you.

We are your Coaches and we know you well! We know that using Idioms & Phrasal Verbs can be a real challenge, so those are often the language elements we’ll suggest you use 🙃

After the preparation (you’ll find both the vocabulary and the conversation questions on this page), we invite you to participate in the Club session. You have received an email with the ZOOM link for the session:

On Tuesdays, the Club takes place from 7:00 PM to 7:30 PM, and on Thursdays, from 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM. If you haven’t received the access instructions via email, please, get in touch with us:

If you want to practice more after the Club session, you can come back here to do the Follow Up activity (at the bottom of the page). Are you ready? Let’s begin!

Direct and Indirect Questions

Just in case you needed a quick refresh of what the 2 types of questions are and how we use them – we’ve got your back! Download the PDF and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your Coach or write to MPEC :

Giving Instructions in English

Today, the Club session will be composed of a total of 3 real life business scenarios. For every scenario, choose who you want to be, read the instructions and role play with your partner for approx. 2 -3 minutes (TIP: To sound more polite and diplomatic, use the section: Direct Questions You Can Transform: Each of these direct questions can be transformed into a more polite, less direct one)

After the role play, answer the Check Questions together.

Scenario 1: Discussing Project Requirements

Objective: To extract detailed project specifications from the client.

Participants: Account Manager , Client

  • Account Manager’s Communication Goals:
    1. Establish the client’s core objectives for the project.
    2. Identify the key deliverables the client expects.
  • Client’s Communication Goals:
    1. Provide clear project objectives.
    2. State expectations regarding deliverables.

Direct Questions You Can Transform

  1. “Let’s drill down into the specifics.”
  2. “Can you unpack that idea for me?”
  3. “What’s our end game here?”
  4. “Could you outline the milestones?”
  5. “Are there any non-negotiables?”
  6. “Let’s touch base on deliverables.”
  7. “What are your top priorities?”
  8. “I’d like to get your insights on this.”
  9. “What’s the roadmap look like?”
  10. “Is there room for flexibility?”

Check Questions:

Which questions did you transform effectively? Were there moments where you could have used an indirect question but didn’t? Did you leave the conversation with a clear understanding of the project requirements?

Scenario 2: Budget and Time Constraints

Objective: To clarify the client’s budget and deadline parameters.

Participants: Project Manager , Client

  • PM’s Communication Goals:
    1. Determine the client’s budget for the project.
    2. Clarify the time constraints.
  • Client’s Communication Goals:
    1. Share the available budget.
    2. Specify the deadline.

Direct Questions You Can Transform

  1. “Let’s talk numbers.”
  2. “What’s your ballpark figure?”
  3. “Is that timeline set in stone?”
  4. “Do we have any wiggle room?”
  5. “Could we pencil in a rough deadline?”
  6. “Let’s flesh out the financials.”
  7. “Are there any cost ceilings?”
  8. “What’s our margin for error?”
  9. “Is that a hard deadline?”
  10. “Can we earmark funds for this?”

Check Questions:

Did you find it challenging to ask direct questions about sensitive topics like budget? Were you able to negotiate or suggest flexibility in terms of budget or deadline? Do you know the meaning of ‘wiggle room’?

English conversation club

Scenario 3: Delving into Client Preferences

Objective: To unearth the client’s stylistic preferences for the project.

Participants: Creative Director , Client

  • Creative Director’s Communication Goals:
    1. Discover any design styles the client favours.
    2. Identify any elements the client dislikes.
  • Client’s Communication Goals:
    1. Communicate preferred design aesthetics.
    2. Specify design elements to avoid.

Direct Questions You Can Transform

  1. “What’s your design aesthetic?”
  2. “Any deal-breakers?”
  3. “Let’s hash out the look and feel.”
  4. “What are your go-to colours?”
  5. “Is there a vibe you’re going for?”
  6. “Are there any taboos in your industry?”
  7. “Do you have any style guides?”
  8. “What’s your take on branding?”
  9. “Could you pinpoint some inspirations?”
  10. “What are your no-gos?”

Check Questions:

Can you see how indirect questions make us sound more polite? What are 3 questions you practiced today that you want to use at work in the future?

After The Club: The Follow Up

Being Polite In English

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