Negotiation Skills – Choosing the Right Words

Training & Learning

2020-09-29-Negotiation-Skills

Have you ever noticed how quickly children learn to effectively negotiate with their parents?

No? Well then, picture this:

Mom takes her child to the store. Seeing so many wonderful and colorful items, the child picks up an irresistible object and proclaims, “I want this!

Mom, being the good mother that she is, tells her child to “put it back.”

She then echoes an age-old adage that we’ve all heard:

“You don’t always get what you want.”

Having made a mental note of this, the next time the child is in the store with Mom, they pick up an item of interest.

Softly, but firmly, the child says, “Mom, I need this.”

By expressing “need” over “want,” the child has effectively opened a negotiation, as Mom responds by asking, “Why do you need this, sweetheart?”

This early life exchange demonstrates what most of us learned long ago: considerately expressing your needs, rather than making demands, will increase your chances of getting what you want.

But, what makes an effective negotiator? And what communication strategies for your business English are effective for successful negotiations?

Effective negotiators

Knowing what you want, being able to express what you want, and considering what your counterpart wants are all part of the answer to these questions.

Of course, there are other elements to consider as well, such as style and technique, but being able to effectively express your wants means choosing the right words in.

In my work as a trainer, improving a person's business English and negotiation skills is about much more than improving their grammar, or their vocabulary. It is about teaching them to set a positive tone with their business language that conveys a clear and simple message.

Did you know that Acolad's approach to language learning means learning skills in a foreign language that develop competence at work? Read more about how our training service can benefit your company here.


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Negotiations in international business today most often employ business English as a common tool. How well you use that tool will determine your effectiveness, and thus your success at getting your message through in international business. 

Effective business negotiation skills utilize appropriate business vocabulary that delivers simple, clear, polite and considerate expressions of what is needed to reach an agreement that everyone can be happy with.

Negotiating across cultures already has enough risks of misunderstandings due to cultural differences without adding poor word choice or rudeness to the mix.

In the following sections we will look at some of the basic lessons that a typical training course for companies can teach.

Open, inclusive language

We can begin the process of sounding more open and approachable by first considering the use of pronouns.

Repeatedly using the first-person pronoun “I” excludes everyone else and makes you sound self-centered, e.g. “I need,” “I must have,” or “I would like to.”

Try replacing “I” and “my” with the more inclusive pronoun forms “we” and “our.”

Combine these pronouns with key words that express actions, like the following:

  • We will need to begin the process as soon as possible.
  • Our goal is to get the process going sooner rather than later.
  • We see the need to act sooner, if possible.
  • We feel that together, we can come to an agreement.
  • We envision a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

Active listening

Knowing what active listening really is and using it is also essential to strengthening your negotiation skills.

Here are a few phrases that I teach in my language training courses that will strongly indicate that you are really listening to what is being communicated and that you are prepared to consider what is being said:

  • We are taking into consideration what you have to say.
  • Let’s concentrate on what you feel is needed.
  • We welcome any proposal/suggestion/offer that you would like to make.
  • We are mindful of the situation/circumstances/need for …
  • Our goal is to listen to your requests/needs/requirements and consider ways to move forward.

As demonstrated here, solid negotiation skills require appropriate business vocabulary and phrasing, which are key in setting the right tone for negotiations. 

By being keenly aware and focusing on using these words and sentences, you are more likely to be viewed as approachableflexibleempathetic and friendly, to everyone’s satisfaction.

In addition, you will be adding to your business English and business vocabulary, which are frontline tools for communication in international business today.

If you would like to learn more about our training services for companies, or about how to become a more effective negotiator in English, Finnish, Swedish, French, German, or any other language, then take a look at our training service pages by clicking the button below.

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