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soften the blow
To make the impact of something negative less harmful. The government is introducing financial reliefs to soften the blow to those affected by the devastating floods. Playgrounds typically have sand or rubber grounds to help soften the blow if children fall off the play structures. When you have to tell someone about the death of a loved one, there's really no way to soften the blow.
1. To become soft or malleable. The rubber seal softens up if the engine gets too hot, so we need to make sure to keep it cool. I keep butter in a dish on the counter so it softens up a bit.
2. To make something soft or malleable. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "soften" and "up." You need to heat the glass to high temperatures to soften it up before you can work with it. The sun softened the ground up a bit after being frozen over the winter.
3. To become less resistant or emotionally hardened; to become gentler or more amenable. My dad was a bit of a tyrant when we were kids, but he softened up as he got older. The company's upper management has been notoriously reserved about adopting more mainstream market trends, but they seem to be softening up in recent years.
4. To make someone more amenable to a suggestion or idea. Toddlers are difficult to deal with at the best of times. If you want yours to do something, sometimes softening them up with a small present or treat is the best course of action. Worried about how her mother might react to her new boyfriend, Jane asked her father to soften her up before she brought him over to dinner. I always suggest softening up potential clients with dinner at a nice restaurant.
5. To make someone less tough, focused, determined, skilled, or able-bodied. He used to be the sharpest detective in the force, but years behind a desk in the head office has softened him up. Worried about how her mother might react to her new boyfriend, Jane asked her father to soften her up before she brought him over to dinner.
soften (one's or someone's) stance (on something)
1. To become less severe, strict, or inflexible in one's position or beliefs (regarding something). Our dad always said he would never let us have our own phones, but he softened his stance when my sister and I started high school. The senator has indicated that she may be softening her stance on the issue of tax reform.
2. To cause someone else to become less severe, strict, or inflexible in their position or beliefs (regarding something). I've been trying to soften the boss's stance on giving paid parental leave to all new employees. The government was originally adamant in their position on the controversial issue, but the continual protests around the country seem to be softening their stance.
soften one's stance (on someone or something)
Fig. to reduce the severity of one's position regarding someone or something. If he would soften his stance on the matter, I could easily become more cooperative.
soften someone up
Fig. to prepare to persuade someone of something. I will talk to Fred and soften him up for your request. I will soften up your father before you ask him about it.
soften something up
to take actions that will make something softer. soften the butter up before you add it to the batter. Please soften up the ice cream before you try to serve it.
1. Lit. [for something] to become softer. The butter softened up in the heat of the day. The candles will probably soften up and bend over in this hot weather.
2. Fig. [for someone] to adopt a more gentle manner. After a while, she softened up and was more friendly. It was weeks before Ted softened up and treated us more kindly.
Reduce resistance, as in His sales motto was: a fine lunch and a few drinks often will soften up a prospective customer . This expression transfers lessening of physical hardness to lessening mental resistance. It was first used, however, in World War II, where it meant "reduce the enemy's defenses by preliminary bombing." [c. 1940]
soften the blow
COMMON If something softens the blow, it makes an unpleasant change or piece of news seem less unpleasant and easier to accept. Attempts were made to soften the blow, by reducing what some people had to pay. Note: You can also say that something cushions the blow. The firm is offering to cushion the blow with a £4,000 cash handout spread over two years.
soften (or cushion) the blowmake it easier to cope with a difficult change or upsetting news.
cushion/soften the ˈblowmake something unpleasant seem less unpleasant and easier to accept: When he lost his job he was offered a cash payment to soften the blow.
1. To make something soft or softer: He softened up his new baseball glove with some oil. He left the butter out to soften it up.
2. To undermine or reduce the strength, morale, or resistance of someone or something: The air force softened up the enemy positions with a heavy bombing campaign. The children gave me a present to soften me up before asking for new bicycles.