Diplomacy skills | How to be diplomatic using passive voice

woman sitting at computer working

Imagine this:

You are in a meeting and you disagree with the representative of the client on what was previously discussed.

It seems as though s/he is not about to honour the agreement that was in place, and that may, in turn, have detrimental consequences for internal processes involving multiple teams in the organisation you have been working for quite some time.

It is one of a great many instances you have faced with this stakeholder and you’re starting to become a little annoyed by it.

Instead of uttering a statement like: ‘You said that you were going to do X, Y and Z’, which sounds extremely accusative, you may want to preserve the relationship as this is your organization’s biggest client in these challenging times.

How can you tackle this without blowing the deal out of the water altogether? You really can’t afford to lose this client.

In such situations, you may want to rely on diplomacy skills.

Diplomacy skills

In such situations, you may want to rely on having well-developed diplomacy skills.

What I mean is this. Diplomacy skills have to do with how you soften your message and emphasize mutual interests while being assertive and less forward. Using passive voice can create some air and thus distance.

Note that it is said that perhaps most British and Americans are less forward than, say, many Dutchies and Russians. How you’d approach this in your first language may not resonate with your client and may make matters worse.

Instead of saying:

You said you were going to sign the contract today – sounds like an accusation


Contracts are going to be signed today –  sounds like an accusation with a threatening undertone

Say this:

We were told that you were going to sign the contract today.


We were told that contracts were going to be signed today.


It was previously agreed upon to sign contracts before date X, which is today.

Please note that while passive voice can be used in such instances, the context in which you’re likely to be using this type of language will determine what would be the best approach in your specific, professional situation; after all, there are more ways that lead to Rome.

More diplomacy strategies will be discussed here soon; stay tuned.

Final tip:

Many think that only using the ‘right words’ and proper grammar will be enough and do the trick. However, tone affects communication quite a bit. How you say something and the type of intonation pattern you choose to use matters. So, make sure to soften your voice while using one of these utterances (i.e. spoken language), as well. Ideally, you would want to sound calm, collected and confident, not annoyed or frustrated.

Questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Hope this helped and have a nice one!

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