Well, it happened again.
WHY is this happening all the time?
Because people don’t know the rules until they break them. And then – it’s too late!
I heard a client say she got an unusual reaction from one of her British counterparts recently. They were in a meeting and when her colleague asked her what she thought about the proposal they were discussing, this intelligent, highly qualified, extremely articulate woman said ‘Impossible’.
And her British colleague looked slightly offended. And my client felt confused, awkward, and a little bit lost.
Buffilove to the rescue!
This simple ‘impossible’ works very well in the Netherlands. Here the culture of being down-to-earth, don’t rock the boat (oh, and my favorite one – ‘Just be normal, then you’ve being crazy enough’ – whoops, I think I broke that on my first day here) is heard throughout the language and how it’s structured. Something ‘kan’ (is possible) or ‘kan niet’ (is not possible). That’s it. Cool. Everyone gets it. Works beautifully in Dutch culture. Go Dutchies!
However, outside of Dutch culture, we might have a problem, Houston. (Oh, wait. In America we no longer have problems. We have ‘challenges’. So, Houston, we have a challenge. A big one.) |n English, when we want to give negative or bad news, we usually use ‘softening’ language. This make the bad news land a bit lighter, and keeps communication going smoothly. We use phrases like ‘I’m afraid’, ‘Unfortunately’. or ‘I’m sorry, but….’ to make that Bad News Plane not have a crash landing.
In general, when it comes to Business English, we would usually take this route (of course there are exceptions, but this is a great rule of thumb to follow):
1. Acknowledge what the person has said
2. Use ‘softening’ language
3. Give your opinion (with an optional temporary time indication)
4. End on an optimistic or hopeful note
Now let’s try that in practise.
Saying something like ‘Thanks for your proposal, Mike, but I’m afraid that’s not something that would work for my team at this point. Let me get back to you next quarter when I’ve seen the new figures.’
Sounds kind of peachy, right? You first acknowledge the speaker (hey, everyone wants to feel valued, right?) and then use softening language before state your opinion. Here the speaker (ok, me, the writer, actually) has also used a temporary time indicator (‘at this point’) to show that this might not be a permanent situation. If you leave this out, your counterpart might think this is true forever. However, if you want to continue the discussion at a later point, this is a very effective way of doing so. And then we end with something optimistic and perhaps even hopeful. Nobody feels offended, nobody thinks you’re arrogant. And hey, don’t we all want to live in a world like that?
The next time you have to give your opinion which is not what people might be expecting, try these 4 little steps and see what happens. Let me know how it goes!
I know you’re not rude, just Dutch.
And I love the Dutchies! (Even when they stick their heads out of the cornfields.)
Have a super day!
Wit lof xx buffi