PHONE Etiquette

By Ruth Oji

Our lesson this week emphasizes alternative ways of saying things. Oftentimes, when we want to ask someone to get things done for us, we usually use the word ‘please’ to convey our request and to show that we are not imposing our request on them. No one likes an imposition! There is therefore a need to know how to ask for help when we genuinely need it. What other phrases can be used instead of ‘please’? 

For one thing, you could ask someone, ‘Would you mind holding the door for me?’ Framing your request this way should make it easier for the other party to oblige you. And I hope you remember the right response to give when asked this question by someone.

Please note that if you would like to oblige someone their request when they use the expression ‘would you mind’, you would need to say, ‘No, I don’t mind’. Suppose someone said to you, ‘Would you mind taking care of my dog?’ You could respond in two ways: ‘Yes, certainly’ – and this would mean that you are never going to oblige them the request. You would never take care of their dog! But if you said, ‘No, I don’t mind’ it would mean that you are very much at home with taking care of the dog. 

Now, let’s get back to how else you can say ‘please’. You could say, ‘Would you be able to look after this for me?’ OR ‘I’d appreciate it if you could look after this for me.’ I suppose that the two examples just listed here could be used more with persons you are familiar with. At the workplace or in other formal settings, you could choose to say, ‘I don’t suppose you could lend me your flash pen?’ This, when said, implies that you are kindly asking for help with their flash pen. Additionally, you could put it differently – ‘I wonder if you might be able to postpone this meeting given my current predicament.’ Such usages make your writing and speaking apt and better appreciated, I think.

How many of you dear readers are familiar with Broda Shaggi on social media? Even though he presents comedy skits, he uses a particular expression often, which is relevant to our lesson this week: ‘I take full responsibility for this’. This is one beautiful expression to use in place of ‘I’m sorry’. In a previous edition I shared a lot more on what to say instead of using ‘I’m sorry’ all the time. You may have to check out the previous post.

When you are sad, how do you express your feelings to others without necessarily saying, ‘I’m sad’? An expression like, ‘I’m feeling really down about what has just happened’ could suffice, or ‘I’m not doing so great’. You could even say, ‘I’m a bit down in the dumps’ or ‘I’m totally worn out’. ‘I’m gutted’ and ‘I’m absolutely devastated’ are other expressions that can serve your purpose in place of ‘I’m sad’.

What’s your specific response to ‘How are you?’ Most times the generic response spans from ‘I’m fine’ to ‘I’m good’ or ‘I’m great’. How about we switch things up? Check out the following responses and save the ones that work best for you: ‘I couldn’t be better!’ ‘I’ve been terrible!’ ‘I’m really doing well/great’ ‘Not too bad, thanks!’ ‘I’m as fit as a fiddle!’

Does boredom sometimes strike and you need to say how you feel? Consider using any of the following expressions rather than just saying ‘I’m bored’: ‘I’m bored to death’ – depending on the intensity of the boredom; ‘This is a bit of a snore’ – depending on your experience with what causes you the bore; ‘I’m bored to tears’; ‘I’m bored stiff’; ‘They are a total bore!’

Finally, I’ll share with you vocabulary tips for replacing ‘I’m tired’. One is ‘I’m completely sapped’; another is ‘I’m completely knackered!’ Several others include: ‘I’m absolutely exhausted’ ‘I’m worn out’ ‘I’m done in – or I’m totally done in’ ‘I’m completely drained’. I’ve once heard someone say ‘I’m cream-crackered!’ (Makes me feel like cream crackers!?)

There you go! Practise and become perfect. Use these expressions in relation to your appropriate context.

•Dr. Oji is a Senior Lecturer of English at the Institute of Humanities, Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos

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