Authentic English: Yes or no?
“Könnten Sie mal eben…?” Sie können eben nicht — aber wie kommen Sie nur ohne Gesichtsverlust aus der Sache heraus? Es gibt viele Situationen, wie Besprechungen und Verhandlungen, in denen Sie etwas zustimmen oder es ablehnen müssen. „Nein“ ist erstaunlich schwer über die Lippen zu bringen. Wie man das Wort richtig benutzt, zeigt Ihnen der BANKINGCLUB in Zusammenarbeit mit Business Spotlight.
Agreeing and disagreeing
Look at these examples in which two colleagues discuss how to do a job:
Sue: You could write one cover memo explaining it.
Jenny: That’s a good idea.
Sue: It should have these quantities for the first production run.
Jenny: I’m not sure it’s worthwhile for such a minor production run, because, uh, the gross margin is gonna be so low.”
When Jenny agrees, she simply says “That’s a good idea”. But when she disagrees, she uses a much longer sentence and does not say “I disagree” or “That’s a bad idea”. Instead, she disagrees indirectly by saying “I’m not sure”. She also gives a reason for disagreeing (“because…”) and she hesitates (“uh”). This is typical.
In the next example, two colleagues discuss how frequently they should do a job. Andy disagrees with Don’s suggestion, but begins by being vague and indirect (“well, weekly, I mean”). He, too, hesitates (“uh”) and gives a reason why he disagrees (“because”).
Don: So I can do them, let’s say weekly, or something like that… I don’t think it pays to do it any more often than that.
Andy: Well, weekly, I mean, you have to do it, uh… more often than that right now, for this week and next week, because we’ve gotta have them all in the system by a week on Friday.
So when people disagree, they usually say much more than when they agree, and they express themselves more indirectly. Sometimes people even seem to agree before disagreeing by saying “Yes, but…” or “I agree, but…”. In the following example, Andrea does this when talking to a colleague about late payments from customers:
Becky: I mean, with Diane… she’s a regular customer.
Andrea: Right. I agree with that, but when we’re carrying them for a hundred days?
Here are some guidelines for the next time someone asks you to do something you can’t or don’t want to do. Don’t sound guilty
If you sound guilty, you will give the impression that you think you are being unfriendly in saying “no”. This sounds defensive and unprofessional, and gives the other person the “moral advantage”. That is why you should avoid saying “I’m sorry” or over-explaining. Instead, use the softener “I’m afraid” and keep your explanation to a minimum. Look at the following examples:
Guilty: Oh, Mr Wills, I’m terribly sorry, but I don’t think I have time for that right now.
Better: I’m afraid I don’t have time at the moment.
Guilty: I’m sorry, I really wish I could — you see, I’m working on that high-priority project you asked me to take on, and I’ve got all this other work to do. Just this once, do you think you could ask someone else?
Better: I’m afraid I’m tied up with this project. Perhaps someone else is free this afternoon.
If you get an invitation that you would like to accept in principle, but simply don’t have time for now, you can offer an alternative. For example:
• I’m afraid I haven’t got any time this week, but perhaps we could get together next week some time.
• I’m afraid I’ve already made other plans for dinner, but what about lunch tomorrow?
Stand your ground
If the other person insists, don’t be afraid to sound like a broken record — but remember to keep aggression out of your voice:
You: I’m afraid I can’t.
Colleague: But it’s only two hours!
You: I’m afraid I can’t.
Colleague: But I haven’t got anyone else!
You: I´m afraid I can’t.
Saying no to the boss
This is difficult — after all, your boss has every right to ask you to do things. But often it helps to show that the problem is one of time, not of willingness. Here are some possible answers:
• I’ve got the whole week plan need for the Mita project already. Is this task being given higher priority now?
• Which of my projects would you like me to give up in order to do this?
• I’m tied up with the budget planning at the moment, which I’m supposed to finish by Friday. I’ll be able to start working on this on Friday afternoon.
• I’m afraid I’ve got plans for this evening that can’t be changed, but I could offer to do two hours of overtime tomorrow.
© Business Spotlight
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