Never let a story get in the way of a good phrasal verb

The ever-feared phrasal verb is one of the main causes of concern for advanced business English speakers. This is especially the case in the workplace where native speaking colleagues consider them to be the easiest thing in the world to slip into conversation.

Generally speaking, business English phrasal verbs are a less formal way of communicating, which pretty much means they are being spoken in meetings, over the phone and in the lunchroom. They are probably being used in most emails too but rarely in more formal emails, official documents or reports where more Latin-based words are preferred.

So how to conquer the phrasal verb in the business English context?

My number one tip for improving your phrasal verb knowledge is to listen. Listen to your colleagues and develop your own personal phrasal verb lexicon and start working them into your conversations and emails where possible. If you currently have a teacher, present your list and ask for an activity that will help you exercise them. If not, find a confidante who will help you use them correctly.

By successfully stealing phrasal verbs from your colleagues you will find the ones that are most suitable to your unique business English context. The trick with phrasal verbs is that there are thousands of them and the other trick is getting the word order right.

Take a look at this online tool Lexchecker and see if your phrasal verb explanation can be found here.

Otherwise, search this online thesaurus for the correct usage and related synonyms.

And here is a good list of business English phrasal verbs to test your knowledge.

If you’re going it alone, why not try reading the MX newspaper on your commute home for a good variety of phrasal verbs. At least this might keep you more entertained than reading the articles. You could also try taking a few phrasal verbs from your favourite movie the next time you watch it – that shouldn’t detract from the storyline too much. Anyway, never let a story get in the way of a good phrasal verb.

8 tips on how to prepare for meetings

We all know that if – before any meeting, discussion, or even an important conversation – we prepare ourselves by thinking carefully about what we want to achieve and how we’re going to achieve it, the result will be far better than if we just go in cold and hope for the best.  What we say, and how we say it, can be critically important.

Here is a series of steps you can take that will help you prepare the language you’ll need if you’re going to get the result you want:

1.  What is the purpose of the meeting, discussion or conversation?  Who will be present?

2.  What is your role? Who will you be speaking to? What will you be saying?  Will you be presenting? Proposing? Explaining?  Asking questions or answering them?

3.  Depending upon the nature of the encounter, think of what you’re most likely to have to say – particularly your opening comment(s) if you’re leading the discussion – and any key issues you want to raise, points you want to make, questions you plan to ask, or answers you expect you’ll have to give.

4.  Write these down as you think of them and then go back and turn them into good sentences.  (If you’re in a course, bring these to class so that together with the trainer you can polish them.)

5.  Practice the sentences so that they become second nature and you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to construct them when it comes time to speak.

6.  Come prepared to your classes so that you can role-play the language for each situation with the trainer until you are confident in your ability to deliver it well whenever it’s needed.

7.  But . . . remember that the pursuit of perfection can be the enemy of effective communication, and that sometimes it’s better to continue to speak out firmly and confidently even if you stumble or realise you’ve made a mistake.  Doing so will make you far easier to listen to than if you hesitate and backtrack as you struggle for 100% correctness.

8.  Recognise too that that each situation you prepare for in this way will strengthen your ability to perform well even when you’re faced with a situation you haven’t rehearsed – and that the more preparation practice you have the more effective you will become.

Storytelling and Building Rapport

www.ted.comIf you’re not familiar with Ted.com, get in there now – but be careful! These up-to-20-minute presentations are highly engaging and addictive. They’re stories told by people with a passion and often a profession in the field of medicine, environmental science, the arts and business.

Ted Talks have become very useful not only as a source of entertainment but also as a learning tool. The Ted style of storytelling is effective yet highly diverse in style, so, you might ask yourself, how could I ever learn to communicate like that?

I speak to a lot of people – managers and students – about corporate-level English and one of the main communication skills needing change is the increase the confidence levels towards being able to more effectively building rapport with clients and colleagues.

I remember what this was like. I lived in France for a number of years and my French was good but, even when it was at its best, I still felt that there was part of my personality missing in French. There was still part of me that I couldn’t easily communicate to those around me. This not only knocked my confidence but also knocked my ability to have that easy, casual conversation that usually leads to making others feel at ease, which leads into building rapport and then trust and later friends.

Don’t worry, I did eventually make some friends but it took much more effort in French than it normally does in English.

I am convinced that one way to put others at ease and build rapport, whether in a personal or a business situation, is to have a handle on a couple of personal stories that you can pull out in different situations.

Start looking around you at people who handle social situations well and see what stories they tell about themselves. It can be tricky finding the right story for the right situation but start by observing and then give it a shot.

Ted Talks are fabulous for this. The speakers often integrate personal experience and story into their talks. Take a look at these ones and let me know if you find any others that you think use this theory too.

Elif Shafak – The politics of fiction

Brené Brown – The power of vulnerability

Andrew Stanton – The clues to a great story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

 

The Elephant in the Room

131209 elephant-in-the-room imageIf English is your second language it can be common to be nervous in client meetings. It is also common that your client might be a little nervous too.

The possibility of not being understood or not understanding what someone else says often creates tensions on both sides of the conversation.

A good way to diffuse all this discomfort, is to acknowledge the elephant in the room, which will hopefully put both parties more at ease to getting down to business, building rapport and focusing on what is important. You might say something like,

“As you might be able to guess, English is not my first language so I want you to feel comfortable to ask for clarification if you don’t understand anything I say and, similarly, I will ask you any questions if there is something I am unsure about.”

If your client feels confident that you will go away making sure you understand the situation fully and that they are free to ask questions for clarification, you will both have greater confidence in each other and your professionalism will shine.