Ep.2: Gerry Graham : Fear training negotiations no more !
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About the Episode:

In this episode, the Business Class ESL Breakroom invites seasoned ESL Business English trainer Gerry Graham to reveal his top tips for that daunting task: training negotiations for ESL Business English learners. 

A veteran trainer, Gerry has worked extensively in top European corporations and has a wealth of experience, plus a true gift for sharing his knowledge. 

You’re sure to come away reassured with insights and practical strategies to take to your next negotiations session.


hi welcome to the business class esl break room we’re a company of passionate language trainers and coaches we’re here to share ideas to improve our skills and strengthen the training community come in for some inspiration leave with tips to apply to your sessions today [Music] this morning we’re here with business class podcast talking shop it’s called the business esl break room and we got talking a week or two ago about negotiations which can be a real challenge for us trainers especially if you don’t have the business experience you may feel at a disadvantage now i know the right way to approach that is that we are language trainers and we’re there to coach them through it they are the experts and that is also very affirming for them our learners to remind them they’re the experts we’re here to help them bring out the language but i know you had some great insights um do you have any tips for negotiating teaching or showing people how to get the most out of well yeah as you said um we are not negotiators it is not our job our job is to facilitate the language of negotiation now the language and negotiation you can learn it from lots of different sources you can go on the internet you can see some examples you can see the different parts of negotiation i learned negotiation through a training course i did with the multinational company called 3m that everybody probably knows who makes post-it notes and when i started out i did not know anything about negotiation but since i’ve been working for on negotiations probably for over 30 years i’ve got a better insight now and see what they need and how to express themselves that is so important it’s not the fact that they are perfect in the language but they will never be like i will never be perfect in french but it’s the fact that they are able to communicate and to give their ideas to the other people and also hide their body language as well what do you mean by hide their body language because when you have a negotiation team if you’re in a group of negotiators and imagine that the chief negotiator says something that was not planned on and the other people in his group have a look of surprise on their face they’re actually telling the other negotiators on the other side that what the person is saying is probably not true interesting so this goes much beyond the language barrier or language itself this is super interesting it’s it’s really important that um it’s like a poker game and people have to i must admit that’s something that they have sometimes difficulty with uh is actually hiding what they’re what they hear for negotiations um i always ask them how they feel when they negotiate and also the very first question i asked them is when did they start negotiating and they all say well we never negotiated and i said of course you did you started when you were a child and they say but why and i said but you used to say to your parents if i’m good can i go to bed later if i’m good can i have this present and that is first of negotiation first startup was negotiation except we’ve forgotten that we’ve gotten that innocence that’s a great point and it builds a little confidence to be able to say oh actually yeah i’ve been doing this my whole life yeah that’s fun and i said to them do you hear if they’ve got kids i ask them if they hear it from their kids and say yeah funny yes i do but i never realized it was negotiating that’s of course it is mm-hmm so it’s it’s it’s always from the very beginning you’ve been negotiating now and that’s a great way to bring in the if questions and the conditionals as well to bring it home is more real yeah to their everyday and people get intimidated by those as well but you’re linked to negotiating yeah so basically what i do afterwards i ask um people to give me the the breakdown of negotiation and they always say but we just negotiate and i said but you don’t just negotiate you walk in to a negotiation with your hands the same length you don’t walk into negotiation with nothing to talk about uh and some most of the people have already done negotiating in their own language whether it be french german spanish whatever um so i asked them what are the different parts of negotiation or what we call in the technical language the stages of a negotiation and i give them tips i don’t let them do it without tips on so basically if you look at any book or anything on the internet and any other training there are actually four stages of a negotiation okay do you lay out the four stages with them or i i make them find them i make them find them i never i never give anything freely brilliant which is like a negotiation and how do you put that to them well for example the first stage of a negotiation i say okay well when you have a negotiation what do you do um when they say well we eventually they’ll come and say well we talked about it before and i said well what you call that um that part of a negotiation and they said but it’s not important i said you know it is quite important and i also ask them to say you know what what are you doing said we’re preparing i said exactly and that’s the first part of negotiation preparation and preparation is what you want and what you want or what you can give the other party okay so all the preliminary that is what you’re doing internally with your colleagues yeah okay so this is actually before you actually go up um so it’s always the idea of yeah okay and i would say okay imagine you’re you have a situation what you want and what can you give freely that doesn’t impair doesn’t have a problem with what you want to okay so that’s that’s more or less the first stage of negotiation though okay brilliant so you set the stage but you send them off on on the search for that yeah and would you tell them to to look that up now with you or look it up for the next well what they do is they they try to find what what’s uh if they have a situation that they’re actually working on at the moment or have worked on in the past they’ll say okay well maybe um i wanted this but i didn’t get it and i would say well why did you not get it did you prepare in advance saying maybe not as much as we should have done and i said but it’s the same in french if you’re negotiating in friendship it’s exactly the same idea so that was that’s basically i i get them to elicit uh things that they have done or maybe an imaginary situation what would they do excellent so if i’m hearing you correctly you either you analyze the previous experience in their native language or you get them to imagine yeah imagine something now excellent so that’s that’s the first stage thank you for now and begs the question if i may ask what’s stage two so as you said the second part of a negotiation um is where the people come together and they come together and they actually discuss what they what they want in fact in the second stage of negotiating we have the people come and they discuss we call it this the discussion period and in the discussion part the people will make meet face to face and they will state what they want what they really want in the negotiation or what they want to get what result they want so some problem here is that you know people state their um uh their what they want but then we have to watch this idea for the signals the body language here because there were actually with the competitors now because you have to think them as competitors because they want one thing and you want one thing and you can think of the good old brexit debate you know they want they want but you have to watch what the signals are as well so they talk they don’t do anything about changing what they say they just state exactly what they want okay and that’s really part two part two is when you’re there with them at the very beginning after the social chit chat at the beginning okay and then you go into the actual negotiation part okay okay so the third part move on to the third part the third part is that you propose things you propose what you want and they propose what they want now the problem is with proposals sometimes people do not realize that they have to have a realistic offer like by saying you know i want 100 discount that’s not realistic okay true okay i want you to do everything for me that’s not realistic right and but in a business context do you have you come across people that can come it depends on the it depends on the negotiation because sometimes you we talk about a hard negotiation and people demand uh things that could be too realistic okay and you know the people don’t will just say well no we can’t do that and i could lay to an end of a negotiation yeah that makes me think of the big players in business like the walmarts of the world who because of just the nature of their science have forced businesses to comply with their demands that are accessible yeah but they maybe have done things that have been excessive but they’ve actually probably done what a lot of people do as well in this part of a negotiation is that they’re prepared to move because that’s what yes in this part in the proposition part sorry the proposal part you have to um be prepared to move on things meaning prepared to accept reject to make a decision exactly okay and where this part comes in uh we talk about the conditional what if then perhaps so yeah if you give us this we could give you this okay so this part is the the the proposal part is really the part where you have to think about the conditional and i personally find this extremely important that they realize that what they say could mean two different things if they what we call mixed conditionals now we’re getting into some complex training because you need a certain level of english to even get your head around mixed conditional yeah most people are kind of clinging desperately to the latter they’ve learned and i can give you a simple example um one person in a negotiation said well if you give me two million dollars i could invest it in the company and i said well okay as i was being i was in the room i said well actually no i’m not going to give you the two million dollars and the person was quite surprised at my reaction and i said yeah well so when we broke up and we talked about the condition and the mixing of the conditional i said you know you said you could if you give me the money i could do something i could invest it but you could also buy a car you could also go on a holiday so i don’t have anything firm yeah you didn’t say i will no and so therefore therefore i i wanted to show you that in a negotiation a simple mistake like that could end in negotiation and the person actually realized that yeah i didn’t realize i was doing that i said yep it can be a problem so you have to be extremely important that’s why i’m sort of insisting on the fact here that this part is probably one of the most important parts of the negotiation and then in terms of language to make sure the modals are clear yeah that people get the meaning of what this could actually mean and also you know um people might react differently and uh if people react in body language differently maybe you and you will fight you will think that you have made a mistake or you have lost a negotiation and it will destabilize you as well that’s a really interesting point you bring up about being sure you address body language in your training i mean that is well beyond language but it is it is another form of language yeah it’s like practically in all types of language all types of language learning learning if you use body language it doesn’t correspond to what your face is doing or what your hands are doing it can insult people right right and it could be the make or break of a negotiation yeah it’s fascinating and also you need some awareness of the culture you’re dealing with exactly their body language traditionally because european culture is not the same as african cultures not the same as um asian culture and you have to accept it so in in in the proposed part it’s so important especially if you’re working with multi-multilingual people and multinationals as well so you focus on conditional the body language and the modals excellent okay so the final the final part of a negotiation okay is the idea of bargaining now it gets fun okay and the bargaining is a little bit you can people say it’s the same as proposing yes and no you propose but you you’re doing in a trade you’re doing an exchange here because this is where you kind of shave down the the offer yeah and if you remember i said you have to remember you have to be prepared to move so when you prepare to move that comes in really into the bargaining part as well okay you give you take okay you trade what is cheap for you to trade okay but maybe valuable valuable for the other person yeah and i can give you a simple example of this and people it’s just to just to show you what it means okay imagine my car is broken down and my neighbor works beside where i work and i have a really important english session to do and we live in a place where uber it’s just impossible to get and there’s no trains anything so i said to my neighbor so okay i can do a uh bargaining here if you take me into work today i’ll give you two hours of english free okay for me english is free because it’s my language so i’m so used to doing it i can i don’t have to basically prepare for something like this but it’s really important for me to get into work so it’s important for me okay to get into work but the idea of doing the english session is cheap it’s not expensive though even two hours you’re very generous with your english yeah but imagine imagine that this is something that i really need to get into okay so it’s cheap for me but it’s valuable for him because he likes he would like to do something specific in english and you hear me say never give anything away for free always exchange and have this idea of exchanging and this is what you’re in part with your when you’re doing your obsession with negotiating or how do you yeah this is this is those are those are actually the four parts of negotiation uh that are actually similar in friendship yeah uh because i have had people who have said yeah we have done this type of thing in french as well okay and the same idea and some people say yeah great it’s a refresher yeah okay but all through the session all through this part of the session there has been a lot of vocabulary done on different things like agreeing disagreeing um expressing surprise expressing regret as well sometimes and what was what was being done and basically there’s a lot of things here but there’s also an important point before the negotiation that we haven’t talked about before the preparation before no before the negotiation itself before the meeting okay and that is the social part where you meet the people for the first time okay you do your social chit-chat um you enter a room for example uh when you’re meeting people what we say standing straight to show confidence because you’re portraying your company to somebody else right also uh when we are allowed to shake hands as well something really important is that your right hand is free it hasn’t got papers in it so you can put out your hand to shake hands or if it’s in an asian country where you have to bow you buy respectively to the people all of these type of things are so important as the things you do before the meeting before the actual meeting itself not it’s after the preparation but you’re in front of the people in the company i think this is brilliant because even if it’s not technically language based it puts this in a framework for the learner it gets them in the right frame of mind and opens the door to the cultural discussion of how we do things in an anglophone world and how they do it in their culture and it is very rich you know and i think any trainer listening would be very grateful to know have these suggestions so it’s much more than going in and doing conditionals with someone if negotiations is on the table for you it’s you’re giving them an entire framework so we have to remember that quite a lot of the people who do negotiations in english are people i’m not saying everybody but people are there are people who have a good enough level to negotiate and they’re not necessarily beginners no it does some sometimes you do have low level people low level students who are have to negotiate something and we give i would give them really simple expressions to you so okay but something really important in negotiation that and it’s important in all language but really important in negotiation is listen listen to what is said and not what you want to hear now how do you propose that when you’re there to be their language trainer and they’re expecting from you coaching on how to say this how to say that and you come along and say are you listening how do you approach that well it’s quite simple you can you can you can say a sentence and maybe two or three sentences later asked what i said five minutes ago or um what i sometimes do with people is i always ask them do you have you listen to the news today or i might put on a an excerpt from bbc news or sky news cnn news whatever and play it and i just say just listen to this and then get them maybe two or three minutes later to say what they heard and they’ll say sometimes they’ll say i don’t i didn’t hear anything um and it’s quite common because they don’t listen because they they want to think they have listened to the subject but sometimes they don’t listen to it at all and i always say that even in french when you listen to french radio you don’t listen to all of the radio you hear keywords and in the keywords you can put the you can fill in quite often what you’ve heard okay so you position this as a kind of practice yeah yeah because no matter what you can always go back and say would you remember what i said a few minutes ago uh or if somebody had said something in the session you can say okay can you remember what he said can you relate it back to me these are these are exercises we used to do or what i’ve been doing since i was i started out um in doing anything in the way of training in english because i had mentors who used to do it it was quite a common exercise that we used to do what did he say um so it’s the same thing listening and in the context of negotiating you want to be sure that they’ve heard what someone’s really saying or are you talking about listening between the lines you’re interpreting hearing what the person is saying really hearing yes it’s like a simple question and you’re going to say you know what it’s not if i say to people uh i used to say to them how many languages do you speak okay i used to say french german english spanish and i said but that’s not my answer and they would say but it is i said no what was my question and they would say how many and i said yeah it does i didn’t ask what language you speak i asked you how many it’s simple it’s okay you’re going to say it it’s it’s um being picky yeah but if there’s something in a negotiation and the person uh answers completely something completely different you know the negotiate the person who asked the question will sort of say well what to the answer right okay interesting so questioning uh questioning is important as well in negotiation surely so before we wrap up do you have any memorable moments or something that was really surprising that came out of a negotiating session with learners that has remained in your memory well i think in the negotiations some of the negotiation sessions i have been doing um is the surprise of the participants when they actually get the negotiation role play well done but there’s also a lot of frustration sometimes when the negotiation doesn’t go as planned and they leave the negotiation in a very very very frustrated way you may leave the session with you frustrated yeah because they’re all playing they haven’t managed to get a negotiation but i always say to them in real life that’s what happens yeah sometimes you get a negotiation sometimes you get a win-win solution right sometimes you get a lose-lose situation sometimes you are win and they lose or sometimes you lose and they win and it’s part of accepting it and you i always say to no matter what type of negotiation you’ve done if it’s win lose whatever think of how you could do it better the next time so then you’re prepared yeah it’s a great great advice and and that’s what’s as i always say to people you know if you’re in doubt make notes of things that happened during negotiation it could be like on body language it could be on style it could be on on vocabulary could be actually the person speaking very quietly yeah so what you are not able to understand what he’s saying right or questions that they use and as i always say the classic question in in the english language that a lot of non-native speakers have difficulty with is would you mind yeah of course you know would you mind giving me ten thousand dollars no i said great give me the ten thousand dollars yeah and i always say to people no matter what how many times you ask them to repeat if you hear the would you mind or do you mind ask for repetition automatically don’t even answer it until you’re sure of the answer okay i’ll show the question though brilliant that’s great that’s great well thank you so much for these little tips i think anybody who’s facing a training in negotiation in english i think would feel a lot more equipped to go in and give some quality time to their learners so thanks a million you’re welcome okay bye thanks for joining us in the business class esl break room a podcast designed to bring business english trainers useful ideas inspiration and conversation that motivates follow us on instagram at business underscore class underscored language and subscribe to the esl break room playlist on spotify deezer or apple music for new episodes see you next time now 

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Sue Nally

Sue Nally

Business English Trainer

Certified Advanced Neurolanguage® Coach.