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Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I want look at some quick and easy hacks you can use to improve your business English.
Business is all about relationships, and relationships are founded on good communication. And while English may seem like a difficult language, being a great communicator and connecting with people isn’t rocket science. You can learn just a few techniques that will take your business English skills to the next level. And I’m not talking about learning a thousand new words or some obscure rules of grammar. The tips I want to give you are fully within your grasp right now.
Let’s start with a real easy one: keep it simple. Use the language you know, and that your listeners know, to communicate your message in simple terms. Do you really think a sophisticated vocabulary is going to impress people? Or help you negotiate a good price from a supplier? Probably not. And it won’t help you connect with people on a human level. Listen to any great political speech or watch any great presentation online, and you’ll notice that the speaker keeps things simple.
Simple also means short, or concise. Why use 50 words when you can use 15? Everyone appreciates language that is clear and to-the-point. So keep it simple, and you’ll keep people engaged.
But what happens when other people don’t keep it simple? Communication is a two-way street, and sometimes you find yourself scratching your head at what someone else is saying. So what you really need to do is to clarify. And remember to be specific about what it is you don’t understand. If a supplier tells you a part is “temporarily unavailable,” which isn’t very clear, don’t just raise your eyebrows and say “pardon?” Instead, say something like “what exactly do you mean when you say this part is temporarily unavailable?” That will encourage the speaker to be more specific.
Another way to clarify is to check back and confirm. That sounds something like “So, you think we shouldn’t build a new website, right?” Or maybe it means saying “You’re saying John is the best applicant, am I correct?” Checking back and confirming is a great way to clarify because it poses a yes-no question. The person can either say “yes, that’s what I mean,” or “no, that’s not what I mean.” And if it’s the latter, the person can then give it another shot. And you can bet they’ll be extra clear so you don’t have to ask again.
So, we’ve talked about being simple and clarifying. Now here’s another crucial technique for communicating clearly: connect your ideas. Your ideas are, in fact, connected, right? So make that clear to your listeners. You can use simple linking words, like “and,” “so,” and “but.”
Or you can dress it up a bit with some more formal expressions. For example, you might say: “Product A is the cheapest. However, cost is not the only consideration. We also need to think about quality. For this reason, I think we should go with Product B.” Can you hear how important those words “however” and “also” and “for this reason” are? These linking words help show the connection between your ideas. And they help listeners see your logic.
Connecting your ideas can also mean showing a sequence. And once again, you don’t have to get fancy. Basic words like “first,” “second,” “next,” and “lastly” can help people see where you’re going. But if you don’t connect your ideas, they will sound like a random collection of thoughts. And you yourself might have to answer some of those clarifying questions I just mentioned.
Now there’s one more business English hack I want to give you today: remember to be polite and courteous. After all, you’re trying to connect with people and make a good impression, right? There’s an old saying that goes like this: “people buy from people they like.” So be friendly and polite.
And being polite begins with those little words we call modals, like “could,” “might,” and “would.” Whether you’re making a suggestion, giving feedback, or asking permission, modals are your ticket to courtesy. And remember that questions are always better than commands. So we don’t say “give me a pen.” Instead, use a modal and a question and say: “could I have a pen?” You don’t have to go over the top, but with a simple, polite, and courteous approach, you’ll do great.
So, let’s run through these four tips once again. First of all, I suggested keeping it simple to keep people engaged. Next, I advised you to ask questions to clarify when you don’t understand. Then I talked about the importance of connecting your ideas so listeners can understand your train of thought. And finally, I suggested making sure you’re friendly and polite. These are all great ways to communicate better and connect with people. But is that all there is to it? No, actually, I’ve got a few more great techniques for you in our next episode. So be sure to tune in!
That’s all for today. So long. And see you again soon.