Englische Muttersprachler sind sehr bemüht, nicht zu direkt oder gar herrisch zu klingen, wenn sie Ratschläge geben. Umso wichtiger ist es, auch als Deutscher in der Fremdsprache Fingerspitzengefühl walten zu lassen. Der BANKINGCLUB und Business Spotlight liefern dazu einige nützliche Wendungen.
Here is a whole range of common suggestion styles:
“You should talk to your boss.”
This is a very direct suggestion, almost a command. While it is not impolite in itself, it is often inappropriate in business situations. Be careful to use this only with business partners and colleagues you know on a more friendly, intimate level. Others may consider such phrasing rude and inappropriate.
“Maybe you should take a short break and come back to it later.”
This is far more common in business situations. The softener “maybe” signals that the speaker does not consider himself or herself in a position to give direct advice or orders. Still, this phrasing can be seen as inappropriate, especially when you don’t know the other person well, or when the listener is in a higher position than you.
“Maybe we should have a meeting so all these issues can be discussed.”
This is an appropriate phrasing for many business contexts, even when talking to someone of a higher rank. Notice that here, the phrasing “maybe we should” is far less direct and “confrontational” than “maybe you should”.
“Why don’t you try approaching the boss another way?”
This is also a very common phrasing in business situations, but it should also be used with caution. It is used among colleagues who know each other and work in an informal atmosphere. To others, the phrasing can sound a little too direct and critical.
“Have you thought about talking to the others in the department about it?”
Instead of implying that the other person has done something wrong, you are wrapping your suggestion into a neutral question. The listener is free to take the advice, or to treat it as an information-gathering exercise. This phrasing is appropriate when you don’t know the other person well, or when you wish to be careful.
“How about coming by later so I can help you with the accounts?”
This is a very positive, friendly phrasing, used mainly for suggestions in an informal context. People who begin their suggestions like this usually expect a positive response, as they are trying to offer friendly help.
- “You might think about finishing the other project first before starting a new one.”
- “You might try taking the figures for the whole year and dividing by 12.”
- “You may want to give Richard in Marketing a call about those figures.”
This is probably the most popular type of suggestion in business contexts. While it may imply that the speaker is in a position of knowing better than the listener, the phrasing is so indirect that it is suitable for most situations. It should probably not be used, however, with someone who is in a higher position than you.
When trying to persuade someone, it is best to avoid criticizing that person’s ideas directly. It is better to express your views by showing that you have the same goal in mind, just a different way of getting there. Here are some useful techniques.
Build on what your conversation partner has said. That way, he or she will feel more involved in the idea. Try to avoid overusing the word “but”, which indicates disagreement.
- “You mentioned improving our customer service. Wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to look at our sales strategy in general?”
- “Your suggestion is good, although I’m not sure we have the funds available. Wouldn’t something smaller in scale be better?”
If someone makes a suggestion with which you disagree, package your criticism in the form of a question or — if you want to make a stronger point — a statement beginning with “surely…”. In this way you invite agreement.
- “Do you really think we should invest so heavily at such a politically uncertain time?”
- “Don’t you think the project would cause us some cash-flow difficulties?”
Guiding the listener
If you can keep control of the conversation, you will have more control of the outcome. Try to guide your listener back to the important points.
- ”If you take a look at the survey results, you’ll see that our customers are most interested in games.”
- “Why don’t we leave that issue aside for a moment and look at profitability in general?
What was good in the past is not necessarily good now. It can sometimes pay to point this out.
- “That would have been enough three years ago. At that time, our competition was not as advanced as it is now.”
- “Soon, no one will be talking about faxes. It’s time to branch out into new technologies.”
If (and only if) you think a decision might have serious consequences for the company, use strong, dramatic language. Do not overuse this technique.
- “We’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here that we can’t afford to pass up.”
- “An opportunity like this doesn’t come around every day. We have to take it now, or we will regret it.”
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