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Diplomacy

Special

learn how
to be diplomatic
like a native speaker
03 Focus
Diplomacy series OWAD Business English Trainer | Oktober 2014

50
Shades of
Diplomacy
Chester Karras once described the perfect
diplomat as "Someone who can tell you to go
to hell in such a way that you look forward to
the trip." Why is it necessary to be diplomatic,
and when and how do we use language in or-
der to leave the right impression?

Delivering bad news, responding to com-


plaints, giving instructions,... are situations
where a wrong choice of words can easily lead
to ill-feelings and damaged relationships.

The many shades of diplomacy depend on Following 1. Apologizing, the next issues of OBET will
many factors: existing relationship, intention, cover diplomacy for 2. Clarifying, 3. Disagreeing, 4.
urgency, emotions, age group, power position, Interrupting, 5. Refusing, 6. Instructing, 7. Complain-
personality, gender, culture, social context, ing, 8. Warning, 9. Asking for Help, 10. Sympathizing.
and whether one is writing or speaking.

Straight translations can be dangerous. "Kom- Ich wnsche Ihnen viel Erfolg und
men Sie hier, bitte" feels fine in German, vor allem Spa!
whereas the English "You come here please"
could be rather offensive. "Would you mind Ihr
coming over here for just a moment" is fine, Paul Smith
whereby the addition of "if it's not too much
trouble, please!" is sliding towards sarcasm.

To sensitize you to shades of English diplo-


macy, we are presenting polite expressions in
matrix-form for 10 difficult situations. Study
the examples and get a feeling for language in
2-dimensional space. A good, general strategy
is to match the formality and sophistication
level of your partner, except where he's being
nasty, in which case,... better stay nice.
04 Diplomacy series OWAD Business English Trainer | February 2017

The top 10 most challenging situations


Episode I/X: Apologizing

To kick off our series the top 10 most challenging sit- The vertical axis Formality is a function of power
uations for non-native professional speakers, today we distance. It progresses from idiomatic or colloquial,
are featuring Apologizing. to more formal respectful expressions. Although the
modern style is write as you speak, many people still
The + plus or - minus signs do not indicate good or bad write with more formality than they speak.
expressions, they simply indicate magnitude.
The horizontal axis Sophistication is a function of Ultimately, our choice of wording will depend on our in-
vocabulary frequency and shows how nuanced or tention, the situation and the style of our counterpart.
rhetorically complex the expression is.

HIGH (+) I very much regret any inconvenience you may have suffered

You have my personal guarantee that this will never recur

I sincerely regret what has happened

Please accept my apologies for what has happened

I deeply regret what has happened

Will you please forgive my indiscretion


Formality

I cannot express how sorry I am

LOW (-) Sophistication HIGH (+)


04 Diplomacy series OWAD Business English Trainer | March 2017

The top 10 most challenging situations


Situation 2: Clarifying

To kick off our series the top 10 most challenging sit- The vertical axis Formality is a function of power
uations for non-native professional speakers, today we distance. It progresses from idiomatic or colloquial,
are featuring Clarifying. to more formal respectful expressions. Although the
modern style is write as you speak, many people still
The + plus or - minus signs do not indicate good or bad write with more formality than they speak.
expressions, they simply indicate magnitude.
The horizontal axis Sophistication is a function of Ultimately, our choice of wording will depend on our in-
vocabulary frequency and shows how nuanced or tention, the situation and the style of our counterpart.
rhetorically complex the expression is.

HIGH (+)
Formality

LOW (-) Sophistication HIGH (+)


07 Diplomacy series OWAD Business English Trainer | April 2017

The top 10 most challenging situations


Situation 3: Disagreeing

As part of our on-going series the top 10 most chal- The vertical axis Formality is a function of power
lenging situations for non-native professional speak- distance. It progresses from idiomatic or colloquial,
ers, today we are featuring Disagreeing. to more formal respectful expressions. Although the
modern style is write as you speak, many people still
The + plus or - minus signs do not indicate good or bad write with more formality than they speak.
expressions, they simply indicate magnitude.
The horizontal axis Sophistication is a function of Ultimately, our choice of wording will depend on our in-
vocabulary frequency and shows how nuanced or tention, the situation and the style of our counterpart.
rhetorically complex the expression is.

HIGH (+)
Formality

LOW (-) Sophistication HIGH (+)


06 Diplomacy Series OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

The Top 10 Most Challenging Situations


Situation 4: Interrupting

As part of our on-going series the top 10 most chal- The vertical axis Formality is a function of power
lenging situations for non-native professional speak- distance. It progresses from idiomatic or colloquial,
ers, today we are featuring Interrupting. to more formal respectful expressions. Although the
modern style is write as you speak, many people still
The + plus or - minus signs do not indicate good or bad write with more formality than they speak.
expressions, they simply indicate magnitude.
The horizontal axis Sophistication is a function of Ultimately, our choice of wording will depend on our in-
vocabulary frequency and shows how nuanced or tention, the situation and the style of our counterpart.
rhetorically complex the expression is.

HIGH (+)
Formality

LOW (-) Sophistication HIGH (+)


04 Diplomacy Series OWAD Business English Trainer | June 2017

The Top 10 Most Challenging Situations


Situation 5: Refusing

As part of our on-going series the top 10 most chal- The vertical axis Formality is a function of power
lenging situations for non-native professional speak- distance. It progresses from idiomatic or colloquial,
ers, today we are featuring Refusing. to more formal respectful expressions. Although the
modern style is write as you speak, many people still
The + plus or - minus signs do not indicate good or bad write with more formality than they speak.
expressions, they simply indicate magnitude.
The horizontal axis Sophistication is a function of Ultimately, our choice of wording will depend on our in-
vocabulary frequency and shows how nuanced or tention, the situation and the style of our counterpart.
rhetorically complex the expression is.

HIGH (+)
Formality

LOW (-) Sophistication HIGH (+)


13 Small Talk Professional OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

Don't Mention
The War! Brexit / /

_
Political minefields in the office:
Donald Trump and Brexit

_
14 Small Talk Professional OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

We used to say Don't Mention The making references to the war while Political minefields in the
War. Now, when dealing with Brit- serving a group of outraged Ger- office
ish and US colleagues and business man guests.
partners, we have to ask ourselves There are several ways to respond
how to handle topics that are on in a professional manner when po-
lots of people's minds: Donald litical topics arise in the office:
Trump and Brexit.
Avoid & deflect: If you really don't
Thanks to 24-hour news coverage want to discuss a particular topic,
and instant access to happenings you can deftly avoid or deflect the
around the world, these issues subject. People will get the sense
seep into our private conversa- that you might be uncomfortable
tions every day. Although they with the topic without you coming
have major implications for our right out and admitting it.
businesses and jobs, such topics
are nonetheless delicate and high- Empathise & express: By first tell-
ly-political. You have your opinion ing someone you understand how
and your business partners and they feel, you put them at ease, not
colleagues have theirs. There's a on the defensive. Express your own
50/50 chance your views will clash. opinion, but soften it by couching
it in general terms (people in Ger-
Seldom have we lived and worked many believe...we generally think
in such an emotional political envi- that...the consensus in other parts
ronment. But we all have our jobs of Europe is that...what I've read is
to do and many of us work at inter- that...).
national companies. The question The art of diplomacy
is how to get through this minefield Express & qualify: Here you can
without disrupting personal and Still, we can't live in a bubble and state an opinion upfront, but then
business relationships and without expect to be successful at work. "pad it" a bit to soften the landing.
impacting work activities. Consider for a moment the not so
uncommon practice of hanging out
in a hotel bar with business part-
Toxic mixtures ners and customers or at an airport Vocabulary Trainer
bar with colleagues. These days
An old adage says "Don't have there's a good chance the televi-
your money where your honey is." sion monitors will be showing Don- to seep into einsickern
Although this expression is mean- ald Trump on CNN one moment
delicate heikel
while a bit hackneyed, the message and a roundtable Brexit discussion
remains valid: don't mix romance on BBC the next. It's difficult to es- to clash mit etw. kollidieren,
and work. That's easier said than cape these touchy subjects in our with sth. aneinander geraten
done. We're only human after all. modern world. to throw a einen Strich durch die
The same goes for politics and wrench into sth. Rechnung machen
business. Generally speaking, such The question is, how do we handle
topics should be avoided. Bringing these inevitable situations when inevitable unausweichlich,
them up can create uncomfortable they arise? Telling someone that vorprogrammiert
situations. We all rely on personal you prefer not to discuss a certain to broach sth. etw. ansprechen
relationships at work to perform topic, without conveying your opin-
deftly geschickt
our jobs, so why throw a wrench ion, is an art in and of itself. Not
into them? offending someone who directly to couch sth. etw. formulieren
broaches the subject with you and
Political minefields can also be bad shares their view - uninvited - can
for business. An extreme, but still also be problematic. To help you
illustrative example is the infamous navigate these shallow waters, fol-
Monty Python sketch titled "Don't lowing are a few sample dialogues
Mention The War", in which British that you can adapt to our own
pub owner John Cleese insists on needs and the situation at hand.
15 Small Talk Professional OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

Situation 1
Customers from the UK visit your offices in Germany. During a meeting break, they engage in a discussion of
Brexit and try to get you involved.

"...What do you think


Thomas?"
UK co-worker

Avoid & deflect Avoid & deflect


I really don't know enough to have formed I think that's an internal issue for the
an opinion yet... people of the UK to decide...

Empathise & express Empathise & express


I understand why you feel strongly about I get what you're saying, but from what
voting yes, but many people in Germany I've read...
believe...

Express & qualify Express & qualify


Although I think the Brexit will have I don't believe the Brexit will be as bad as
serious consequences for all of Europe, I'm some people think, but then again I'm not
hopeful a compromise solution can be found... a UK citizen...
16 Small Talk Professional OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

Situation 2
You travel to your German company's offices in the US. At dinner with some of your American colleagues, they
probe your opinion on Donald Trump.

Trump is finally going


to change things in
Washington. What do
Germans think about
all of this Thomas?
US colleague

What not to say...


Avoid & deflect Avoid & deflect
I think most Germans are tak- How could you possibly It's been an interesting de-
ing a wait and see attitude... vote that way? velopment to observe. I guess
we will see what happens...
If the UK wants to
leave Europe, that's fine
with me.
Empathise & express
Germans understand to a Trump is a danger to Empathise & express
certain extent why some people the world. We get your point about the
like Trump, but what we don't desire for change, but with the
quite comprehend is... How could American current situation we think...
voters be so stupid?

The Brits will get what


they deserve.
Express & qualify Express & qualify
There is concern about some of If you ask me, the We don't share his views on
his foreign policies, but things apocalypse is upon us. the environment as you know,
probably won't be as bad as the but the truth is, you can't
media makes them out to be... Brexit? I'm tired of always agree on everything...
hearing about it.
03 Special Feature OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

Men Beware, Women Take Care!


Cross-gender communication challenges at the workplace

The following story was related to mistake and ignore the wink! Now even sex should be an important dis-
me by a client many years ago (names let's move quickly on to the agenda." cussion topic with colleagues at work,
have been changed): The discomfort lasted much longer and even with clients.
"How would you like your coffee?" than the one hour meeting!
asked Rachael, the senior VP's per- Humour is serious
sonal assistant. Her question was Nowadays, and more than ever be-
directed to a group of German fore, men need to be ultra-careful Many large companies have explicit
managers just before a meeting at about what to say to female col- guidelines regarding appropriate
their Boston headquarters. "I'll take leagues. Stanley Bing's hilarious novel behaviour and language. Men in
it black, hot, and sweet. Just like you!" "You look nice today" describes how a particular would do well to follow
answered Hermann with a wink. The man's entire career unravels after an these. British Petroleum's code of
resulting silence was described by innocent compliment to his neurotic conduct for instance, explicitly for-
Hermann's boss as "deafening". After assistant. bids telling jokes of a racial, ethnic,
what seemed like an eternity, the religious, disability, age or sexual
American VP came to the rescue with Notwithstanding, there are impor- nature, not only within the compa-
"I'll put that down to a translation tant reasons why gender issues and ny, but with customers, contractors,
suppliers, joint venture partners and
other third parties. Besides a highly
responsive HR department, BP runs a
24-hour hotline and has a dedicated
ombudsman to engage with compli-
ance disputes.

Women take care


But whatever corporate guidelines
say, many females are still confronted
with clumsy comments and unwelcome
advances.
The clever put-down, while providing
emotional satisfaction, isn't going to
neutralize the office Romeo or please
a customer or business partner:

He: "Theres something wrong with my


eyes. I cant take them off you."
She: "Im having a problem with mine,
too. I cant see you getting anywhere
with me."

He: "Are you Jamaican? Because Ja-


maican me crazy!"
She: "No, Im Finnish. Finish with this
conversation!"

He: "I just Googled 'sexy' and a picture


of you came up."
She: "Youll get the same result if you
search for not interested."
04 Special Feature OWAD Business English Trainer | May 2017

Another option is simply to ignore > "Thanks Ronnie, but you'll under- When all else fails, or even afterwards,
the male advance, but this may be stand that my significant other would talking openly about gender issues is
misinterpreted as shy interest and be less than happy if I were to accept always healthy. Just beware of what
leave the woman vulnerable to further that kind of invitation" you read. Popular psychology books
advances. like "Men are from Mars, Women are
The important thing about making a from Venus" or "Why Women Talk
The best strategy is to start soft and refusal is not to wait for one's coun- and Men Don't Listen" have done a
subtle, after all, why use a hammer terpart to answer, but to change the lot to emphasise how differently the
when a feather will do the trick quite subject quickly with a statement fol- sexes think and behave, but many of
nicely? lowed by an open question: their conclusions are based on shaky
assumptions and insufficient evidence.
The art of the soft "no" > "By the way, I understand you were
in Frankfurt some years ago. Has the The "fact" that the average woman
> "Mr Jones, I'll accept that compli- city changed much in the meantime?" speaks 20,000 words per day and
ment in the professional spirit I'm sure men only 7,000 went viral in 2006.
it was intended" > "On a different note, you might Never substantiated, this urban myth
be interested in our current music strengthened the belief that women
> "Oh dear, Mr Hopkins, I'm wonder- festival. Which genre would be your are not only the more talkative sex, but
ing how a native speaker would phrase particular favourite?" three times more. In the same spirit,
an elegant refusal to that charming we now have toilet-signage where the
request" > "Regarding the meeting, we're entire ladies door is painted with the
really excited about the new campaign. same word hundreds of times: "blah,
> "Really, Mr Watson! I'm sure you How do you suggest we kick-off?" blah, blah, blah," the gents has just
didn't mean what I think I heard you the single "blah"! BP would definitely
just say" not approve.

If you're interested in learning more


about what people think about gender,
check out OWAD's current online sur-
vey "Should Little Girls Wear Pink?" at
gender.owad-survey.com

Paul Smith

Vocabulary Trainer

discomfort Unannehmlichkeit,
Unbehagen

to unravel zerstren, auer


Kontrolle geraten

put-down Demtigung
vulnerable gefhrdet
shaky zweifelhaft
insufficient unzureichend
13 Language Situations OWAD Business English Trainer | March 2017

Language Situations
by Ken Taylor, Senior Partner, Paul Smith Associates

So deuten Sie
verborgene Signale
_
Listening between the lines

_
14 Language Situations OWAD Business English Trainer | March 2017

We will never agree to what you I have some doubts about the
Our price for that
are proposing is a clear statement project.
of position. But if you add the quantity is $40,000. How many are some?
words in its present form, you im-
mediately indicate a potential will- Different quantity, different price! There seems to be a slight mis-
ingness to negotiate. understanding.
This is often used as a serious
Giving and understanding these These are extremely warning of difficulties.
kinds of signals are all part of the
skill of negotiating. But reading
reasonable conditions We just need a little more time.
between the lines in this way can we propose. Try to get your business partners
be a problem for a second lan- to specify how much more time
guage speaker. If your negotiating This is their preferred position, but they need.
partner says to you in English We its negotiable.
would find it extremely difficult to Qualifying difficulties is part of
meet that deadline, what does he Here are five more sentences with what many cultures need to keep
mean exactly? hidden signals. What is the possi- the business relationship harmoni-
bility for negotiation? The answers ous. Although it's usually not a de-
It's basically a question of listening are at the end of the article. liberate attempt to hide the truth,
between the lines. That means lis- be aware that soft words can some-
tening for words that make definite a) It is not our normal practice to times hide deep disagreement.
statements more tentative and pay within 30 days.
listening for statements that only Answers:
rule out one of the possible alter- b) We never give discounts of more
natives. Extremely difficult is not than 5 per cent. a) So whos normal? Its negotiable.
the same as impossible. And may-
be that deadline could be negoti- c) We are not prepared to discuss b) Never say never! And 1 per cent
ated too. this now. - 5 per cent are negotiable anyway.

d) Our production line is not set up c) But we are prepared to discuss


Here are some examples: to deal with these requirements. it later.

e) I am not empowered to negoti- d) So lets negotiate the alterna-


We never negotiate on ate these levels of discount. tive requirements or the costs of
re-setting the production line.
price!
Hidden signals of e) Take me to your boss!
While this sounds very definite, the
hidden signal is that they would
a third kind
happily discuss delivery, quality Vocabulary Trainer
and quantities. There are also hidden signals of
another kind. Some cultures prefer
These are our standard to make difficulties and differences tentative vorsichtig, vorlufig
of opinion less obvious than they
contract terms. really are. They do this for reasons
implication Andeutung
discount Rabatt
of politeness and to imply that all
empowered ermchtigt
The implication is that there are problems can be solved. We have
also non-standard terms available. a bit of a problem with this. This considerable erheblich, deutlich
can mean that the problem is a con- deliberate absichtlich, bewusst
We could not produce siderable one.
those quantities in that Here are some other examples:
time frame.
Theres a short delay in produc-
But they are prepared to negotiate tion.
either the quantities or the times. Check the exact timing.
Impressum Leitende Redakteurin:
Eva Blumenthal-Braun
Die Informationen dieser Publikation dienen aus-
schlielich der Information des Empfngers. Alle Da-
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