Someone was wrong about something. I explained to the person very kindly and with "social tact" how they were wrong and why the right answer was, in fact, the right answer. Subsequently this person became passive-aggressive in their actions. Now, I am explaining to a third party what occurred, and I want to convey that I was very cordial or congenial while explaining that the original person was incorrect, so as to say that it didn't warrant the outcome.

  1. Would congenial be appropriate here?
  2. Is cordial better than congenial? (What's the subtle difference?)
  3. Is there any other word that would be better suited to convey that I was very socially sensitive and friendly in the way I presented to the person why their answer was incorrect?
  • I think "tactful" would be the more common word to use. – Hellion Apr 10 '15 at 17:01
  • @Hellion, I was planning on saying "tactful and congenial", or whatever word was suggested here to replace congenial. I want to emphasize that I was friendly about it. Tactful, alone, just sounds too removed/detached. – Mike Apr 10 '15 at 17:03
  • Perhaps it's just me, but if someone is described as cordial I tend to assume it means they're being "friendly" because it's polite (but I might actually not feel very comfortable with them). Whereas a congenial person is someone who genuinely expresses goodwill and makes you feel at ease. – FumbleFingers Apr 10 '15 at 17:12
  • 2
    IMO...congenial = friendly, cordial = respectful and following the rules of etiquette. Sometimes you can be both of those things and the fact you're telling somebody they're wrong about something, the only thing they remember is being called out for their mistake! :-) – Kristina Lopez Apr 10 '15 at 17:40
  • @KristinaLopez, if you'd like to add this as part of an answer, I'd like to accept it. – Mike Apr 10 '15 at 18:41
  1. I don't think so. Congenial means agreeable, sure, but that agreeability is because of similarities in preferences. See the Oxford definition.

  2. Cordial is certainly better.

  3. I think you should go with tactful and cordial.

If you're looking for another word, I'd suggest


correct and polite in a particular situation


In keeping with good taste and propriety; polite and restrained


  • You are indeed correct that Oxford's definition of congenial seems more about similarities in preference. But Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com certainly define it more as "friendly". – Mike Apr 10 '15 at 18:47
  • @Mike: From your M-W link: Full Definition of CONGENIAL - having the same nature, disposition, or tastes. I always use congenial to describe someone I find friendly because we have similar tastes. – Tushar Raj Apr 10 '15 at 18:53

You could go simply with polite.

I politely attempted to explain that (s)he was incorrect.


You can say you were diplomatic (adj) and acted diplomatically (adv)

  • diplomatic - employing tact and conciliation especially in situations of stress. e.g. "a diplomatic way to say no"

from the web:

1 - While engineers must be careful not to pass judgment on a particular matter, engineers who are faced with this type of ethical quandary should make every attempt to carefully, delicately, and diplomatically sidestep the matter in order to remove any appearance of an ethical conflict.

2 - Even when Quent explained that Jenny had earlier admitted going outside and chatting with a girlfriend, all Lucy had said was, “No harm done. I know the girl means well.” As diplomatically as possible, Quent had proposed that the children come to live with him ...

3 - In fact (and I don't know how to say this diplomatically), I don't really care whether or not people come to hear me speak anymore.

4 - I'm sure there were other ways I could've handled the situation more diplomatically. But you know what? Maybe not. Sometimes you have to be willing to fight for what's right.


The neutral "collegially" might be best to calm down people. If colleagues is what you all are.

"Cordial" and "congenial" have too much to do with feelings, not business, at times - and this is perhaps one of those times :-)


“Explained their answer was incorrect in a delicate fashion” Using the word delicate indicates care and concern for the other persons Feelings and provides motivation for the deliverance

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • OP was asking for a 'single word' or synonym. – lbf Mar 6 '18 at 3:14

protected by tchrist Feb 25 '18 at 19:58

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.