In today’s world, English is the language of business.
It is the only reason some students study English in the first place, and they want practical lessons and specific skills that will be useful to them in the corporate world. One skill businesspersons need is being able to negotiate. It’s not always an easy process, but it is one you can help your students learn. Here is how to prepare your ESL students for negotiation in the real world of business with a simple four step teaching plan.
4 Easy Steps to Negotiating in English
Step One: Get Ready to Negotiate
The first step in negotiation is to be very clear what your goals are. When negotiating in English, negotiators have to know what they want from the outset of the negotiation process. Individuals should keep in mind, however, that the person or group with whom they are negotiating also want a specific outcome. Tell your students that to make the most of this type of conversation, they should anticipate before the meeting what the other person wants from the negotiation process. Then they should take a few minutes to think of alternative outcomes for their own goals that would be satisfactory.
To get ready to negotiate, your students should answer these questions.
- What is your goal in the negotiation?
- What areas are you willing to give a little?
- Which areas are you dead set on?
- What does the other person want?
- What leverage will you have in the negotiation?
Knowing the answers to these questions before going into a negotiation situation will help any English speaker achieve the best outcome.
Step Two: Know the Right Vocabulary
As with most language situations, negotiation has a certain set of vocabulary that a person should be familiar with. Take some time to review with your students the vocabulary they will need for a successful negotiation conversation. You can find a good list of negotiation vocabulary here.
When introducing the vocabulary, try giving students sentences that use each of the vocabulary words. Have students guess the meaning of the word from its context. Then give them a list of definitions and see if students can match each word to the correct definition. Finally, give them the English definitions of the vocabulary words. Have students copy these definitions down rather than giving them a list already written to help them cement the definitions in their minds.
Step Three: Keep Collaborative Negotiating Your Goal
Different individuals tend to naturally fall into one of four negotiating styles.
- I win. You lose. – People with this style will do almost anything to achieve their own goals during negotiation.
- You win. I lose. – People with this style want to make others happy, and they tend to give in on their own wants in order to satisfy the person with whom they are negotiating.
- You win. I win. – People with this style like to find a middle ground where both parties can be happy with the outcome of the negotiation.
- You lose. I lose. – People with this style don’t really care about winning as long as the other person doesn’t get what they want.
The best business negotiations are collaborative negotiations. Collaborative negotiations fit into the third style of negotiations – you win, I win. When your students plan on negotiating in English, they should strive to walk away from the conversation satisfied as well as making the other party satisfied, too.
Challenge your students to think about a situation in which they negotiated for something. Which negotiation style did they use? What is their natural type? Students must be aware of their instinctive negotiating style so they can be more aware of what they are striving for in a business negotiation situation.
Step Four: Have the Conversation
When it comes time to have the negotiation conversation, here are the steps your students should follow.
- Make eye contact. Eye contact is not appropriate in every culture but in English business negations, eye contact is a sign of honesty. Make eye contact while you speak so the other person trusts you and is willing to work toward a common goal.
- Start with small talk. Warm up to the negotiation with some friendly chatting, which will help set a good tone for the conversation and set up a nice rapport with the other person.
- Let the other person speak first. This is especially important if you want more from the person than they want from you. The more you listen, the better you will understand the person with whom you are talking as well as their needs.
- Take your time. Expect to spend at least fifteen minutes in any negotiation conversation. Anything less than that and one or both sides probably didn’t get to express themselves fully.
- Let the other person know you are hearing what they are saying. You can do this by restating what they have said in your own words. This way you can check that you have good comprehension and the other person feels you respect and value their opinions and needs. You can use phrases like, “So what you’re saying is…What I am hearing is…Let me see if I understand you…”
- Be polite. Do not raise your voice, use strong language, or lose your temper even if the other person does. Extend respect to the other person as you talk and carry yourself in a professional manner.
- Be aware of body language. Up to 90% of what a person communicates can be through nonverbal means. That means that body language can tell you more than a person’s words do. Pay attention to how the other person moves while you listen, and you will have a better picture of where the person is coming from. Also pay attention to your own body language. Do not touch your face or look away from the person or at your phone. Maintain eye contact, but don’t stare. Nod when you agree with what the other person is saying.
- Don’t hesitate to disagree but when you do, do it with respect. It is okay to have a different opinion than the person with whom you are speaking. Of you didn’t, you wouldn’t be negotiating in the first place. But you must express your opinions carefully while allowing the other person to have their own opinion. It is okay to agree to disagree. Just work toward a common goal that you can both be happy with. To disagree, use phrases like “I’ll have to disagree with you on that one... I hear what you are saying but… From my perspective”
- Agree when it’s appropriate. Use phrases like “You have a good point. I agree with you. I think I can accept that.” Agreeing with the other person does not mean you are losing the negotiation.
- Arrive at a solution that is acceptable to you both. Work toward a goal you can both be satisfied with even if it is neither of your ideal outcome. Comprise where you can and stay firm where you need to.
Once your students understand the negotiation process, are prepared with the appropriate vocabulary, and are willing to come to a mutually beneficial agreement, they will be successful negotiators in English.
Give your students some practice negotiating with the following role plays.
- Negotiate a job offer and acceptance or rejection.
- Negotiate a contract for services rendered.
- Negotiate a price for a product one party will sell in their store.
- Negotiate a refund for an unsatisfactory product or service.