Theoretical case: client suggests some non-optimal solution. How to offer another, better solution politely with indirect question? Is it ok to say "Don't you think doing it this way would be more efficient?" or using "Don't you think" implies that client might be incompetent in a way that he might have forgotten to consider the solution I offer?

P.S. I forgot to add - it's a written dialog, via Skype or email.

  • I think this is Not Constructive - or maybe Off Topic. It's about etiquette, not English language as such. Jul 16 '12 at 12:21
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    I'm sorry if that's so, I posted this question based on this quote "Questions on the following topics are welcomed here: Word choice and usage". In fact the main question was - is it polite to use the phrase I posted.
    – A.S.
    Jul 16 '12 at 12:45
  • But there's nothing particular about the English language in this issue. You must have the equivalent of "Don't you think [my approach is better than yours]?" in your own language. The implications of "talking down" to someone like that would be the same in any language. Jul 16 '12 at 13:32
  • Well, can't say for any language, but in Ukrainian and Russian one can use intonation with this phrase to show that he is simply suggesting a better approach, it'll sound like "Hey, maybe this variant is better, what do you think?"
    – A.S.
    Jul 16 '12 at 15:32
  • P.S. anyway, if this question was off topic - please close it or mark it as off topic, but I see lots of similar looking related questions like english.stackexchange.com/questions/57/… or english.stackexchange.com/questions/3456/…
    – A.S.
    Jul 16 '12 at 15:34

I would start with the word 'consider' as in:

Consider (doing something/ doing this way)

...followed by supporting argument(s).

I would certainly avoid using you/me/I at all and personal opinion. Instead, listing the plus points should serve better.

  • +1 for 'avoid personal opinion'. You certainly want to give the client choices (phrases like 'one alternative, perhaps more efficient, would be...' are helpful) but in the end it's his decision. Jul 16 '12 at 11:58
  • @TimLymington Thanks. Btw, that was just my personal opinion. :)
    – Kris
    Jul 16 '12 at 12:02
  • Does it mean that phrase "Don't you think" implies client's incompetence? Should I avoid this phrase at all? (I'm not a native speaker)
    – A.S.
    Jul 16 '12 at 12:05
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    @A.S. Moreover, you say "it's a written dialog". "Don't you think" can put the reader on the defensive rather than motivate. However, as I said in the comment above, it's just my opinion.
    – Kris
    Jul 16 '12 at 12:09
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    You can make "don't you think" sound a little less condescending by saying "do you think" instead. This should sound less like you're trying to correct the client or point out a mistake and more like you're asking a neutral question or offering a suggestion. Jul 16 '12 at 19:57

Kris suggested leaving out you, me, I terms and discussing facts rather than personal opinions, and also suggested that you present your alternatives starting with Consider.... Those are good suggestions, but it might be better to begin with a statement of objectives (if you know them) or a question about objectives.

For example, any of the following might be the most important concern: efficient operation; timely implementation; long-term flexibility and adaptability; immediate or lifetime cost; reuse of existing resources; or correctness and completeness.

After objectives are clear, then one might point out where the client's suggestion falls down on one or more primary objectives, and briefly mention that methods exist that meet the objectives. (If the client's suggestion does not fall down, there might be no compelling reason to suggest an alternative.)

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