Some months ago The MacMillan Dictionary Blog published a really interesting entry by guest blogger Luke Thompson about the importance of indirectness in English to establish "a respectful and polite relationship between speakers", especially within a business context or if we don't know the other speaker(s) very well.
Luke Thompson explains, for example, why it is wrong to say "I disagree" in some contexts, as we can come across as impolite or aggressive, and we should say "I see what you mean, but..." or "I agree up to a point, but...".
Luke Thompson establishes five basic rules of thumb for polite and diplomatic language:
1 Listen and be understanding
2 Avoid negative words
3 Say "sorry"
4 Use little words to soften your statements
5 Avoid using the word "you"
Being polite and diplomatic in this way is something native speakers of English take for granted, and something they do automatically. It is, therefore, a cultural aspect of the language that some speakers from other nationalities find it difficult to come to terms with, as they come from cultures where directness is an asset.
Drop by The MacMillan Dictionary Blog and read the explanations and examples Luke Thompson provides on this cultural issue.