Business English – Top 10 Skills for Business English (1)

Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m your host, Tim Simmons, and today I
want to look at some of the business English skills everyone needs in order to be successful. As any guru worth his weight in salt will
tell you, business is all about relationships. That means connecting with new people, and
maintaining good relations with people in your existing network. And one of the ways we do this is through
small talk. We call it small talk because it’s not about
big important business topics. It’s about things like the weekend, the
weather, sports, or family. You hear it every time someone walks into
the office and says “Oh hey Dave, how’s it going?” Or at a conference when someone says “So,
where are you from?” Making small talk in English allows us to
connect with people, find out more about them, and set a mood.

This kind of conversation involves a back
and forth of simple comments, questions, and answers. You need to show interest in the other person,
but also reveal a bit about yourself. And it’s important to stick to topics that
are common to both people. Once you’ve broken the ice with small talk,
then you can move on to bigger topics. And that’s where you bring in the skill
of expressing opinions in English. Exactly how you do that depends on the situation. If you’re in a meeting and want to add your
perspective, you might just introduce it with an expression like “the way I see things”
or “as far as I’m concerned.” But if you’re making a suggestion or pitching
an idea, there are a couple of ways to go about it.

You might do it carefully with words like
“perhaps” or “maybe” or “we could.” Or, if you want to state something more confidently,
you can use stronger words like “have to” or “should.” The important thing here is that you assess
the situation and adapt your language accordingly. If you’re new to a team or the most junior
person in the room and you come out with guns blazing, telling everyone what must happen,
you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot. After all, conversation isn’t just about
speaking; it’s also about listening, and that leads me to asking questions. I don’t just mean “yes or no” questions. I mean substantive questions that show that
you’re listening and engaged. This could include follow-up questions during
small talk, which helps you connect with people.

Beyond small talk, this also includes discerning
and sincere questions about people’s ideas. This is a big part of being an active listener,
which means listening to understand, not just listening to respond. Of course, being a good listener doesn’t
mean being a yes-man. Participating in a meeting or negotiations
in English requires the ability to reject ideas. And that’s not as simple as saying “no”
or “I disagree.” Most situations require a more nuanced or
careful approach. If you don’t like someone’s idea, you
might soften your comment by expressing uncertainty.

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