Developing Stronger Diplomatic and Polite Language & Negotiation skills in English with Simon Brown

In episode 16 of Think Big, I share a conversation I had with Simon Brown about English learners developing stronger diplomatic language skills.

Simon specialises in individual and small group lessons for adults. He has collaborated with and given training to, some of the biggest companies in Europe, small French Tech startups and a number of Fortune 500 companies. In September he joined Jellysmack, the global creator company, as Learning and Development Manager - English Academy. In this role he is the in-house English trainer for his fellow colleagues, or 'Jellysmackers', he helps them unlock their full potential by improving their level of English, increasing self-confidence and breaking through the mental blocks that have stood in the way of their progress in the past."

We discuss:

✨The differences of English across the world and expressions

✨What it means to be polite and diplomatic

✨Examples of diplomatic language and which situations it’s important to use diplomatic language

✨Qualifiers, Positive and Negative downgraders and Hedges to deliver bad news

✨How to invite agreement by asking a question and framing it negatively and so much more.

Simon's details

💻 LinkedIn:

Tara - ArchiEnglish details

✨ Follow me on Instagram:

✨ Connect with me on LinkedIn Tara Cull


Extended Shownotes



📚Negotiating for Success Essential Strategies and Skills George J. SIEDEL


💻 Future Learn - Successful Negotiation Essential Strategies and Skills


a sidebar / a sidenote - a note to the side

accelerated tenfold - 10 times greater

for next to nothing - very cheap

back in my day - when I was younger

knock yourself out - go ahead

touch on - make a brief note

in the grand scheme of things - in the bigger picture

read up on - do research

to have a hang-up - fear or anxiety about something

to start from the ground up - to start from the beginning/start from scratch

Diplomatic language examples we discuss

I'm afraid there may be a delay (using a hedge)

I'm afraid we've gone over budget (using a hedge)

There seems to be a challenge with the budget (using a hedge).

It's going to be a bit over budget (a qualifier / positive downgrader) There may be a delay. (a qualifier / positive downgrader)

Invite agreement by asking a question, which is negatively phrased:

Instead of 'that's too expensive' ... 'Isn't that kind of expensive?'

Instead of We should wait for the contractor ..."Shouldn't we wait for the contractor?" Shouldn't we try this instead? Couldn't we try this instead?


Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:00

You're listening to think big episode 16

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 00:13

Hello big thinkers and welcome to episode 16 of Think Big English for architects. I'm your host Tara Cull, landscape architect, and Communication Coach for archiEnglish. As part of my work at ArchiEnglish I coach people in the built design profession, who speak English as a second language to help them build outstanding communication skills and to feel more competent to speak up. You can learn more about my coaching programmes and courses at Well, can you believe that we are almost halfway through November. It's almost the end of the year, I've seen all the Christmas decorations up at the supermarket, I cannot believe it's almost 2022. Today I'm happy to share a conversation that I had earlier in the year with Simon Brown about English and developing diplomatic and polite language. This is something that I'm very passionate about. So it was great to have a conversation with Simon about it this year. We also interested in helping people to develop their skills in negotiation, you are definitely going to get a lot of value from this conversation. Because we share lots of practical examples and explanations. As always, you'll definitely find the transcript and key vocabulary useful to help you with some of the expressions and examples that we discuss. Throughout the episode, you'll be able to find the transcript on A little more about Simon, our guest for today. Simon lives in France just like me. And he specialises in individual and small group lessons for adults. He's collaborated with and given training to some of the biggest companies in Europe, including small French tech startups, and a number of fortune 500 companies. So quite an impressive resume. In September, we discussed how he joined jellysmack the global creative company as a learning and development manager in the English academy. In this role, he is the in house English trainer for his fellow colleagues or as he calls them, Jellysmackers, and he helps them to unlock their full potential by improving their level of English, increasing their self confidence and breaking through the mental blocks that have stood in the way of their progress in the past. Very exciting having this conversation with him. And also, it was exciting before we pressed record, we were talking about this new role that he was taking on. In the episode we discuss the differences of English across the world, different expressions, both Simon and I have lived and worked in different places. So Simon has lived in Ireland, I lived in the UK, Simon also lived in the UK. And of course, we both now live in France. So we discuss some of those differences about English that we have encountered across the world. We also talk about what it means to be polite and diplomatic. And then we give some examples of diplomatic language. And then of course, which situations it's important to use diplomatic language when we talk about qualifiers, positive and negative downgrades and hedges to deliver bad news. And then finally, we also talk about how to invite agreement by asking a question and framing it negatively. We also talk about so much more, I think it's a great conversation, you are going to have an absolute. So I hope you enjoy today's conversation. And I will join you briefly at the end. So Simon, I'm very excited to have another Ozzy who's living in France on the podcast today. So thank you very much for joining me.

Simon Brown 04:10

It's my pleasure. Thank you very much, Tara. I'm excited to be here as well.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 04:13

Right. So for those who don't know who you are, could you give the listeners a brief introduction to who you are and what you're doing in France?

Simon Brown 04:22

Okay, perfect. Well, I'm from Australia as well, a little bit further north than you. I was originally. I was born in Sydney, but I grew up in Brisbane. And I've been in France for almost 10 years now. And I've been teaching for almost four years as well. And my previous professional background was in as we'd say in Australian English hospitality. So working in hotels and bars and restaurants and I have been lucky enough to do that. Not only in Australia, but in in England, Ireland, Greece and in France as well. But four years ago, I finished my university Studies here in France and change career dramatically, I was searching for something completely different. And here I am. I haven't. Haven't looked back ever since.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 05:09

Well, congratulations for living in France for 10 years. That's quite an achievement. So well done. Thank you. How did how did you find the the admin at the beginning?

Simon Brown 05:20

Oh, it was, it was an experience. I remember when my wife and I, we were still living in Australia when we were going through the process of getting married in France. And so we had we had to do that via distance including travelling from Brisbane to Sydney to go to the consulate and everything like that. And then to get my visa was another story and the renewing of the of the Carte de Sejour, your, which is for those for those listeners that don't know, which is a one year, a one year visa, you have to do that five times when you arrive before you can get the 10 year visa. So I've got my 10 year visa now I should apply for nationality, but I'm still a little bit traumatised from my last visit to the prefecture.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:03

It is a process. Not a fun process in France. I'm sure it's not that fun all around the world. But yeah, it's you have to do it, don't you? Unfortunately,

Simon Brown 06:16

yeah, unfortunate comes with the territory.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 06:19

It does. But you know, we learn these things. So you've been a teacher for four years. And you've been doing that in France? Could you tell me what are some of the things that you love the most about teaching?

Simon Brown 06:32

Well, what I what I love the most about teaching is helping people to to gain confidence and to achieve the goals that they have, in their in their language learning journey. So they can that can be professional, or personal, I work with people who are studying English for a variety of different reasons. And, and when they come to me, even after the first lesson, or halfway through the training, or at the end and say like, thank you so much, I feel so, so much more confident. Now, you know, I know that I can progress in my career, or I'm not so worried about giving presentations anymore, something like that. And as kind of like a sidebar of that, of that situation is that I've had clients of mine that have told me at the end of their training, or during their training, that they insist that their children will now you know, study English or take English a lot more seriously at school. And for me, that's just, that's incredibly gratifying. Because we're not only, like helping people now to to learn English and to gain confidence and to literally change their lives. But we're making sort of generational differences. Like if I, if a client of mine has three children, and all three of them learn English, and they all have children, and they have children, like it's you kind of making an echo. And and this is something that the work that we do now can can influence people long after we were dead. And like, it's kind of morbid, but kind of true as well. For me, it's it's really given me that sort of big picture, big picture, sort of sense of purpose. And that's something that I think we're really lucky to have. As teachers and trainers of English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 08:11

I think it's really our job is really important too. Because as this the world is changing and shifting, we're becoming more global, and having that understanding of English and understanding cultural differences is so important. So I think it's a really important thing to be able to teach people

Simon Brown 08:29

definitely, definitely and also like to, to, to build on what you said about, you know, how we're becoming more global and everything that has been, from what I've witnessed at that with with COVID. And with remote working, that has accelerated like, tenfold, you know, companies that would never consider going international, because of their size before and now are now going international because they can be equipped with digital tools, you know, ever if people are working remotely, there's no longer the problem of, of, of having to, you know, pay people to travel internationally to go to meetings and things like that. So it's it's opening up a lot of opportunities, too. And with that comes with that comes a necessity to learn English.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:13

Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, our jobs are very important in that we're having to help people with their communication skills and communicating across cultures. So yeah, I think we have a very important job.

Simon Brown 09:26

100% Yes.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 09:28

So before we get into the nitty gritty of today's interview, could you share a fun fact about you?

Simon Brown 09:37

Okay, cool. Well, other than teaching my, one of my other passions is writing and I write short stories, and I've had several published in the US on online magazines and in print, and I'm currently writing a book while I have been currently writing a book for about the past four years. It's taking longer than I thought it would and you That, like, I've sort of dedicate my summer holidays to doing that. So I shouldn't be doing it right now. My wife has reminded me about it the other day. So, so yeah, generally sort of put that aside for like, leisure time and window and when I'm on holiday, so I'll be getting back into that this week. But with that comes a little hobby. I have a passion for typewriters. So I currently have five old fashioned typewriters that I've restored to working order and use them from time to time to write,

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:29

do you use them for your books, or you use computer?

Simon Brown 10:33

I use 5050. It really depends on the machine, and depends on whether it works or not. But yeah, I've got I've got one small typewriter, a Hermes typewriter that I bought at a flea market for next to nothing. And I was shocked that the guy wanted only five euro for it, that I use to write actively, but then I will second draft up with that on my

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 10:55

computer. Wow, that must take like three times longer than writing on the computer.

Simon Brown 11:00

It doesn't it doesn't it takes it takes longer, but I love the noise.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:06

I haven't thought about writing on a typewriter in years. So interesting. Yeah,


it's a different, it's a different pleasure. It really is. And in my building where we live in Paris, everybody knows that I own a typewriter. Yeah, because of the noise that makes but luckily, I have some some very understanding neighbours that we use

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 11:29

And do you share this passion with your students.


I have given my short stories as a reading exercise for homework. So I kind of, I've always been a little bit apprehensive of like giving my own work as say, as homework or all that sort of thing. But I do try to incorporate fiction into into my lessons, particularly for people who want to work on their writing ability. And I will, for example, scan the first page of a contemporary novel, you know, something like a murder mystery or something like that. The type of book that you can buy in a bookstore of an airport, something very, very contemporary. And I will get them to read the first page and then write what they think will happen on the second page. All right, as a as a well. And it could be anything and I say just go crazy. Like it can be whatever you want. And and yeah, that's a cool little homework activity that I give from from time to time.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:34

It's such a great creative writing activity. I

Simon Brown 12:36

love it. Yeah.

Tara Cull - ArchiEnglish 12:39

So today, we've decided to talk about two things. We're going to talk about how English is different depending on where you use it. You're saying you've lived in other places before. And also we're going to talk about being polite and diplomatic. So why was before we before we get into that? Why was that an important topic for you to discuss?


Okie dokie, well, the difference in English, I think it's really important because English is a language was always changing. Like, that's something I