Taking time to develop good communication skills can be highly rewarding especially when doing business in English. Being able to communicate effectively will help you to build stronger relationships with your co-workers, clients, and get your ideas across successfully. You might be the most competent person in your field, but if you can’t talk effectively with your team and your supervisors, no one will ever know that.
Read on for some top tips for good communication skills for business in English.
1. Show That You're Listening
Good communication skills means you listen actively and pay attention to what’s being said around you, even if you’re not part of the conversation. Listening to native English speakers can help you to improve your own communication skills; you’ll pick up on body language, intonation, and accents.
When you’re taking part in a conversation, let the other person speak without interrupting, and hopefully they’ll repay the favor for you when you’re talking. You need to learn how to carry out a smooth, engaging conversation by knowing how to respond to the speaker with short, appropriate phrases and expressions.
Try these following phrases and expressions for business in English:
Show enthusiastic support and agreement. It is very important that you show support or interest in what the speaker is saying:
“Definitely!” or “Yes, definitely!”
Show that you are listening (neutral). Using communication skills does not mean you have to talk endlessly. You don’t need to say much to show that you are interested and listening. Here are a few phrases and expressions you can use to show that you are listening:
“Is that right?”
“That’s too bad.”
“I’m sorry you’re going through that.”
2. Express Lack of Understanding
Expressing your lack of understanding about something shows that you are listening to the speaker. The first step is simply to tell that person that you have not understood them fully. Telling the speaker that you did not understand them fully is very important especially in business in English.
Here are a few useful phrases to use:
“I’m sorry but I'm not sure (that) I understand.”
“Sorry, I’m not sure (that) I know what you mean.”
“Sorry but I don’t quite follow you.”
Using the word “that” in two of the phrases is more suited for business in English or formal communication. Other times you may understand part of what someone has said but need clarity on other parts. In such situations, you can be more exact.
“I’m sorry but I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “tech giants”.
“Sorry but I don’t quite follow what you’re saying about the new guidelines.”
3. Ask for Clarification
After expressing your lack of understanding, the next step is to ask the person for clarifications on what he/ she has said. Asking for clarifications is essential for business in English. Here are some phrases you can use:
“So you’re saying…is that right?”
“So just to clarify…?”
“Do you mean…?
“Am I right in saying…?”
“So what you’re saying is…?”
For other phrases, you can use “can” or “could”, with could being a little more formal:
“Could you say it in another way?”
“Can you clarify that for me?”
“Could you rephrase that?”
“When you say…, do you mean…?”
The phrase “When you say…, do you mean…?” is not a complete sentence of course. Here is an example of how to use it:
“When you say the employees are unsatisfied with the new policies, do you mean with the new schedules?”
Other times, you may simply need more information or a helpful example. In such situations, the following are useful:
“Could you be more specific?”
“Can you give me an example?”
“Could you elaborate on that?”
4. Ask Questions
Improve your communication skills by asking questions- it will help to show that you’re interested in who you’re talking to and what they’re saying. As a business English learner, you’re probably often most focused on what to say and how to say something.
But asking questions is a necessary part of doing business in English. You often need to seek the opinions and ideas of others to get your job done. Asking questions is the best way to keep a conversation going, and it will help you out too by making sure you’re not the one that has to do all the talking. Here are a few examples that could come in handy at work:
"What do you think about that?"
"What do you think of this idea?"
"How about you?"
"How do you propose we handle this?"
"Why do you think that?"
"Are there any other options we can consider?"
You can memorize questions like these and ask them at the right time. But don’t just ask; be sure to pay close attention to the answers you receive. While taking note, also listen for new and unfamiliar language that might be useful to you. If you want to memorize more questions for the office, here is a guide to business English questions for different situations.
5. Body Language
While verbal and written communication skills and strategies both play their part in business in English, it’s crucial not to overlook the importance of body language. Non-verbal communication like the way you hold yourself in a meeting, or your ability to commit to eye contact can either harm or enhance the message you’re sending.
Often times, you are saying one thing, but your body is saying something different. You might not know this but your body speaks almost as loudly as when you actually talk. The way you sit, for example, the way you hold your hands while talking in front of an audience, even which direction you look at - all these things can change the meaning of the words you speak, especially in a work environment.
For example, if you tell someone that their presentation for a product launch was great, but your arms are crossed and you’re not smiling, they might think that you don’t actually mean it.
When it comes to body language for business communication skills, body language can be:
A substitution: Sometimes, body language can replace verbal communication. For example, if you’re in a conversation with a client who just won’t stop talking, you can’t just tell them to be quiet. However, you can glance at your watch, or step back to indicate that you need to go.
A way to accentuate speech: Sometimes, body language in business can accentuate or enhance your verbal communication. For instance, you might point at a subject you’re discussing.
Repetitive: Body language in business communications can also be used to repeat and therefore draw extra focus to an idea. For example, if you’re reminding your employees to use the sign-in sheet when they come into the office, you can point to the sheet, or pick it up.
The key to successful body language for business in English is figuring out how you want to present yourself in day-to-day conversations. Some companies even host body language seminars to help their employees or staff become more fluent in body language.
Improving your communications skills in English is a difficult task, but one that can be achieved with some hard work and by paying particular attention to how we come across in conversation. If you need some extra help, check out our business English course.