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3 Golden Rules of Every Business Meeting

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Have you ever worked or negotiated with British people? If so, you might have noticed British business English is full of polite phrases. Their intentions are not to offend you in any way. Their good manners are famous across other nations. British people know nobody wants to hear the blunt truth that one's suggestion is way too risky, the planned costs are far out of budget or the prognosis is too optimistic. Especially when one's boss also attends the meeting, one appretiates the diplomacy.

On one side this behaviour can prevent a lot of embarassing moments and avoid arguments. On the other side it may lead to some misunderstandings. If you do not want to sound harsh but at the same time your intentions are to make everything clear, you might consider following those rules:

1. Avoid negative direct evaluation by using modal verbs

By using moral verbs you reduce the impact of the harsh truth on the other person. Many times by pointing out any problem, people involved in the decision making take your remark personally. If you say something is wrong, they hear "you are wrong". Split the problem from the person.

What we intend to say How it sounds to the other party What is better to say How it sounds to the other party
The meeting was too long. You have planned it inefficiently. The meeting could have been shorter We needn't have covered the issue for so long.
This suggestion is way too risky. Haven't you considered all the risk factors and consequences? The risk factors may be reviewed again. She/he thinks we should review the risk factors.
The launch of the new product has a tight schedule. The deadlines you set are not achievable. The schedule of the new product launch should be adjusted. The involved people might have some issues needing more time to be solved.
The wrong people had wrong responsibilities in this project. You have assigned the responsibilities wrong. The responsibilities could have been allocated differently in this project. Some people with more responsibilities weren't as capable as expected and vice versa.

Once you use a modal verb, make sure you point the object out, not the person. If you use YOU should, YOU could have etc., the modal verb itself loses its softness and you might sound as if you emphasize the person's fault, not the problem itself.

Interested about modal verbs and their usage? Then contact me here for Your English Progress private English lessons focused on business English.

2. Replace "a bit" and "pretty" with more sophisticated "rather" and "slightly"

Make a difference between your casual and business self. By using "rather" and "slightly" you sound far more professional especially in written form.

Before After
I had a bit long discussion with my boss about the issue. I had a slightly longer discussion with my boss.
Our budget has been a bit increased in comparison to the last year. Our budget has been slightly increased in comparison to the last year.
After my proposal the customer was pretty quiet. After my proposal the customer was rather quiet.
The new supplier's deliveries are often pretty delayed. The new supplier's deliveries are often rather delayed.

Contact me here and reveal more about polite business English phrases and change your casual English into a business one.

3. Turn your disagreement into thankfulness

It might be tempting to easily express a disagreement if we feel we cannot agree at all. But before you basically say it, try to think twice. Like in the point 1 I mention in this article the other side can take your words personally. Again, people usually consider your disagreement to be related more to their personality than to the opinion itself. By "I do not agree with your point" the other side might hear "You are wrong". Then your position for negotiation gets more difficult and the other person either withdraws into a defensive mode or even becomes offensive.

Instead, try to say: Thank you for your point of view/opinion/prognosis. I would just add.../I have a few remarks...

Have you noticed you do not even mention you disagree? However, you definitely do not use any words of agreement to confuse the other party. By being positive, diplomatic and respectful you are definitely closer to any agreement as people feel more comfortable discussing with you. The way how you say things oftenprevails in people's mind more then what you say.

Do you want to know more tips about how to handle an English business meeting? Then do not hesitate to contact me right here for Your English Progress private English courses.