Communicating in some formal situations (such as business meetings, interviews, and negotiations) requires a speaker to use different ways to express his/her ideas. In daily conversations with friends or family, it is okay to be straight to the point or to neglect politeness in speech. However, this is not the case with formal conversations. For example, it is strongly suggested to use a diplomatic and polite way to speak in a business negotiation. How so? Often times, a client or a potential investor has the need to be highly respected, not only through behavior but also by the way we speak. Therefore, as a negotiator or a representative of a company, one has to master the art of diplomacy and negotiation language.
There are a few tips for those encountering such formal situations. In language use, a speaker needs to use soft or less-direct sentences and to avoid confrontation. So how does a speaker ‘soften’ or make his/her sentences less direct? First, he/she can use ‘qualifiers’ in front of a word. There are two types of them: increasing and decreasing qualifiers. In an attempt to make sentences soft or less direct, a speaker needs to use decreasing qualifiers such as a little, a bit, slightly, small, etc. Here are a few examples of using decreasing qualifiers:
- Instead of saying: We are behind our original schedule.
One should say: We are a bit behind our original schedule.
In this sentence, the qualifier ‘a bit’ makes it softer and more polite.
- Instead of saying: It is different from what I had in mind.
One should say: It is slightly different from what I had in mind.
In this sentence, the qualifier ‘slightly’ makes it less-direct and therefore, more polite and diplomatic.
The next strategy that one might use to avoid directness is to use negative questions. Compare these two:
- We need a new budgeting plan, right?
- Don’t you think we need a new budgeting plan?
In the first sentence, the direct question sounds too affirmative and somehow intimidating, while the second question implies more indirect and less confronting meaning.
Although there are still many ways to soften one’s sentences in negotiations, those two strategies (using decreasing qualifier and negative question) in language use might be helpful for diplomatic and polite negotiating.
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