The Language of Meetings The following general features of English are needed for effective communication in meetings.• Using would, could, or might to make what you say more tentative.• Presenting your view as a question not a statement.
The Language of Meetings• Using a grammatical negative (adding n’t) to make a suggestion more open and therefore more negotiable.• Using an introductory phrase to prepare the listener for your message.• Adding I’m afraid to make clear that you recognize the unhelpfulness of your response.
The Language of Meetings• Using words which qualify or restrict what you say to make your position more flexible (a bit difficult, a slight problem).• Using not with a positive word instead of the obvious negative word (not very convenient, I don’t agree).• Using a comparative (better, more convenient) to soften your message.
The Language of Meetings• Using a continuous form (I was wondering) instead of a simple form (I wondered) to make a suggestion more flexible.• Using stress as an important way of making the message more effective. (It is important …)
Using WouldWould is often added to make anystatement more tentative. It takes away thedogmatic tone of many statements.That is unacceptable.That would be unacceptable.That does not meet our requirements.That would not meet ourrequirements.
QuestionsOften suggestions are presented in questionform:That is too late.Is that too late?That would be too late.Would that be too late?
Adding n’t to SuggestionsIn addition to presenting suggestions inquestion form suggestions all sound moretentative if they are grammatically negative:Isn’t that too late?Wouldn’t that be too late?
Introductory PhrasesOften we introduce our reaction with a wordor phrase which tells the listener what kindof comment we are going to make. Somephrases warn the listener that disagreementfollows.Warnings: Frankly, With respect, To behonest. To put it bluntly,Neutral: Actually, In those circumstances,well, in fact, as a matter of fact,
I’m afraid.I’m afraid is used to show that the speakerrecognizes that his/her reaction is in someway unhelpful or unwelcome. It may warn ofdisagreement, but its general meaning iswider and indicates the speaker seeshis/her reaction as unavoidably unhelpful:Could I speak to Jack please?I’m afraid he is out of the country atthe moment.
QualifiersSuccessful meetings often depend onavoiding direct disagreement. The moregeneral the statement, the more likely it is toproduce disagreement. Good negotiatorsoften restrict general statements by usingqualifiers. The most commen ones are:a slight misunderstandinga little bit too early
Qualifierssome reservationsa short delaya bit of a problema little more time
Not + very + positive adjective Often English avoids negative adjectives, preferring not + positive equivalent: The hotel was dirty. The hotel wasn’t very clean. The food was cold. The food wasn’t very hot.
Not + very + positive adjective The previously mentioned feature is not only true with an adjective construction. Notice these examples: I disagree completely. I don’t agree at all. I reject what you say. I don’t accept what you say.
ComparativesIn offering an alternative suggestion, thecomparative is often used.Wouldn’t the 31st be moreconvenient?It might be cheaper by air.The implication is that the other person’ssuggestion is acceptable but yours is moreacceptable. For this reason the comparativeis more tactful.
Continuous formsIn English the simple past is used if thespeaker sees the event as a single whole,while the past continuous is used if thespeaker sees the event as ‘stretched out’ intime. For this reason the continuous form ismore flexible, because the event can be‘interrupted’, while the simple past is moreoften used to express facts or events seenas finished and complete.
Continuous formsWe intended to make new arrangementsfor next year.In this case the simple past gives theimpression that the speaker means ‘this iswhat we did before we started our presentdiscussion’; it gives the impression that theperson you are speaking to is excluded.
Continuous formsWe were intending to make newarrangements for next year.The continuous form is used with verbs likehope, discuss, etc. It gives the impression ofincluding the other partner in the discussion.For this reason continuous forms seemmore friendly and open, and are oftenappropriate if you are trying to engage theother person in an open negotiation.
Stressed wordsGrammar and vocabulary are, of course,important in getting your meaning across.Less obviously, but equally importantly, thewords which you give special stress to canchange the meaning of what you say.Contrast this pair:It’s rather a large house.It’s rather a large house.
Stressed wordsThe most important use of this kind is theword quite. If quite is stressed, it is aqualification (quite interested, but not very),but if the following adjective is stressed,quite means very (quite interested).Note: native speakers often use quiteinstead of very, but it has the meaning ofvery. It is the word following quite whichreceives the heavy stress.
Stressed auxiliariesMany English verb forms which look thesame on paper, have two different forms inspeech. In one case the auxiliary verb, orpart of the verb (be) is stressed, and in theother case the word is unstressed. The twosentences do not mean the same thing.Usually parts of (be) in auxiliary verbs inEnglish are unstressed. Sometimes, there isa special way of writing these specialunstressed forms:
Stressed auxiliariesI’ve sent you the details already.It’s for o’clock.Sometimes, there is no special way ofwriting them but they are unstressed, andweakly pronounced.We can make alternative arrangements.(can is unstressed)
Stressed auxiliariesIn every case, however, it is possible to givea heavy stress to the normally unstressedpart of (be) or the auxiliary. If you do this, itshows special emotion. It can be used tocorrect the other person:I thought you were Belgian.I am Belgian.