When it comes to expressing criticism, the English don’t exactly have a reputation for telling it like it is. 😉  A pretty indirect style of communication with lots of downgraders (a little, slightly, sort of) and understatement helps to soften the blow … and can obscure the message completely.

Here’s a light-hearted look at what you might hear and what the speaker is actually thinking.  

It’s not quite what I had in mind.
I must admit I was expecting something slightly different.
What the speaker is really thinking: What have you done? It’s nothing like what I asked for.

I’m a little disappointed to see that you’ve …
“A little disappointed”? That’s the understatement of the year! His feelings are more along the lines of: How could you do that? We agreed on something completely different!

It’s a step in the right direction.
In fact her thoughts are: Ok, deep breath, must be positive. It’s a start, I suppose. But there’s still a hell of a long way to go.

I’m not sure I’d have done it that way myself.
I’ve never seen it done like that before.
That was certainly an interesting / original way of …
What’s actually going through the speaker’s mind here is: Where on earth did you get the idea to do it like that? 

You might like to consider …
Perhaps you could think about …
If either of these come from your boss, they’re probably not real suggestions. The message you should be hearing is:  Go back to your desk and do it.


Those were just a few examples. Have you got any others that you’d like to share?

Porträt Nicola Bartlett
Nicola Bartlett
I’ve been an English trainer for over 25 years, helping adults to get their message across in English – clearly and appropriately. Successful communication in English requires more than just a good knowledge of the language. An understanding of different mentalities and a feeling for the best approach are vital, too. » more