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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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6 Hedging and boosting words

In some situations, you need to make your argument very strongly in order to communicate your point effectively. In others, however, a forceful tone may prove counter-productive and a more tentative approach could produce better results. With this in mind, you will now look at what we term hedging and boosting words and phrases.

A photograph of a volume switch.
Figure 3 Will your audience respond best to a higher or lower tone of persuasion?

Hedging is used to show courtesy and respect for others’ views, an important part of any dialogue whether in writing or spoken (Leech, 1983).

In contrast, boosting is used to show confidence in your claims and results (Hyland, 2000). It is a way of being far more definite and strong in your views.

These language choices help build a relationship with the reader or listener, particularly the use of hedging words which often help reduce perceptions of arrogance and over-confidence.

For example, look at this sentence: ‘What they expect is a big factor’.

The person seems very confident of what they claim, as shown by the use of ‘is’. The use of ‘big’ also boosts the claim. However, in some situations hedging words such as ‘could be’ or ‘may be’ might replace the confidence of ‘is’. It is a softer suggestion and recognises other people’s perspective may adjust or modify your own ideas.

You will recall a further way of shaping the impact of dialogue is the use of emphasis which Chris Hoy’s race engineer did by stressing words, e.g. ‘soft tyres to the car immediately’ and ‘OK Chris, how are you feeling, is everything OK?’