Negotiation models as tools for teaching Business English
Negotiation is a process which is supported by mental models that people already
possess and can be seen as a problem-solving discourse since both parties try to
solve problems or reach agreements. Becoming familiar with negotiation models and
their phases can help students upgrade their Business English terminology and raise
their self-esteem. The aim of the article is to point out some negotiation models
that have been proposed by experts and comprise 4/6/9 phases during which conversation
evolves. Helpful phrases for use in the model are also suggested. The emphasis is
on the use of diplomatic language, which is softer and more polite. In order for
students to successfully apply the model, they should be taught terminology from
different areas of business such as law, promotion, marketing, logistics, finance
and management prior to the creation of a negotiation discourse and the impacts of
non-verbal communication should also be mentioned.
Keywords: Business English, business terminology, negotiation models, diplomatic
language, phases in negotiations.
The use of negotiation models when teaching Business English encourages students
to be more creative, imagine a real business situation and act accordingly, and upgrade
and enrich their Business English terminology. Models do not give preference to any
style of language. Students are free to use short as well as long phrases, simple
as well as complex sentences, sophisticated as well as ordinary terminology and communicative
styles. Models are only used as a tool to help them retrieve the negotiation record
from their mind, follow it and produce an effective negotiation process which brings
profit and satisfaction and leaves them with a feeling that the negotiation process
has been conducted successfully.
The negotiation models that have so far been proposed comprise 4/6/9 phases during
which conversation evolves and helps the negotiating parties make decisions. Mental
models of negotiation consist of discourse phases. Successful negotiators should
follow these discourse phases when negotiating. Suggested phases are: Relationship
building, Agreeing procedure, Exchanging information, Questioning, Analyzing, Debating,
Generating options, Bargaining, Settling and concluding and Final greetings. All
these phases comprise structural variables, such as pause, interruption, clarifications,
reformulations etc., and content variables like recommendations, suggestions, promises,
warning, threats, acceptance, refusal etc. The emphasis is also on the use of diplomatic
language, which is softer and more polite.
2. Negotiation models and preparation as a pre-phase
Three variations of a negotiation model structure that have been proposed by different
authors are presented below. The models start with the Relationship building phase;
however, prior to the negotiation process there is always a preparation period. This
is not part of the model but is an essential element of the negotiation process.
During preparation, the negotiators have to decide on their objectives, the style
of negotiating, the target price, reservation point, BATNA (best alternative to a
negotiated agreement), type of agreement etc. Brainstorming for generating options
and ideas is very helpful. Besides, in our case of role playing the negotiations,
the students had to precisely define their role in the conversation and their role
in the company for which they are acting as representatives.
2.1 REBC 4-phase model (Emmerson, 2009, 126)
1) Relationship building: getting to know the other person, exchanging information
about the two companies, discussing the market, and generally building trust.
2) Exploring initial positions, stating needs and asking questions. In a commercial
negotiation, the supplier explains the product in depth and shows how it brings value
to the customer’s business.
3) Bargaining – not just on price, but on a range of linked issues such as quantity,
minimum order, discounts, delivery time, service plans and warranties (guarantees),
terms of payment, exclusivity in a particular market, the duration of the contract,
transport costs, arrangements for sharing advertising costs, penalties if clauses
in the contract are not respected.
1) Relationship building: the negotiators establish rapport. It is important to show
interest in what the other side has to say and to create a positive climate for the
whole negotiation process.
2) Agreeing procedure: the negotiators state the objectives clearly and agree on
them with the other party in order to create a climate of cooperation. Arguments
on objectives are expressed. Checking the agreement and acceptance of objectives
is necessary. Suggestions are recommended.
3) Exchanging information: questions are asked to obtain more information about the
customer’s needs and interests. If one side listens to its opponent, the other side
will show interest as well. In this way we build trust. Learning about interests
is essential if you want to make a good business deal. In selling, people usually
forget that people’s fundamental interests are basic needs, such as security, economic
well-being, comfort, recognition or control over one’s life.
4) Questioning: this is a continuation of the previous phase and the two phases can
be joined into one. The questions asked during negotiations and the responses to
the questions help clarify positions, generate new ideas and options before making
5) Options: during this phase options and ideas are generated. Brainstorming for
ideas is also recommended prior to the onset of the negotiation process.
6) Biddingand Bargaining: when options have been evaluated, negotiators should put
forward their proposals and bids. Various aspects should be considered here: prices,
dates, payment terms, delivery time, liabilities, warranties, transport costs etc.
7) Settling and concluding: it is advisable for negotiators to summarize which agreements
have already been reached and which responsibilities have already been assigned.
It is essential to point out any issues which still have to be agreed on and resolved
in the near future. Summarizing can be used to check comprehension, play for time
and maintain a positive atmosphere by reviewing progress and to finally conclude
the meeting or negotiation.
8) Greetings: when the negotiation has come to an end, negotiators will exchange
final greetings, thank for cooperation, and look forward to further activities.
3. Diplomatic language
Every discourse is an act of power: speaking or writing always has an effect. Every
negotiation can empower the speaker if it is conducted skillfully and collaboratively.
The use of diplomatic language in negotiations adds a polite tone to the conversation.
The language becomes less direct and softer. Also, the application of political correctness
(the chairperson, the ombudsperson etc.) is essential so as not to offend the other
party. Here are some examples of diplomatic language expressions:
Table 1: Diplomatic language (Emmerson, 2009, p. 130)
4. Business English terminology and the process of acquisition
Creating a negotiation process through a negotiation model requires sound knowledge
of terminology from the areas of negotiating, marketing, sale, logistics, finance
and law. This should be taught prior to the creation of a negotiation process. A
good way to follow students’ progress is to instruct them to write a negotiating
dialogue (e.g. sales) before they study the phases of one of the 4/6/9 phase models.
The explanation of business terminology is then carried out, usually through discussions
and exercises with a lexical approach. The third stage includes the preparation and
writing of the negotiating dialogue according to the model. During the final stage
the students role-play the conversation.
The terminology that is acquired by students through the process of learning Business
English by means of negotiation models comes from different areas of business. To
promote a product and sell it, students should know the terminology from the area
of marketing and should become familiar with the marketing mix. To negotiate payment
terms they should learn the terminology from the areas of finance and accounting.
If the product is to be delivered, logistics can play an important role when negotiating
the time, place and method of delivery. Negotiation usually leads to the contract
or agreement being signed. This can be a sales contract. Further, non-disclosure
agreements are necessary today and penalties for not fulfilling contract conditions
have to be defined. This is why the basics of legal terminology also have to be included.
Effective business communication is very important and correspondence – formal letters,
orders, offers, complaints etc. – has to be practiced.
Another issue of interest is abbreviations. They frequently occur in written forms
and it is practical to devote some time to explaining abbreviations that may pop
up during the negotiation process. Some abbreviations are explained here: USP (unique
selling proposition – what feature or benefit makes your product unique and better
than any other product in the area); BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement
– what happens if your opponent is stronger, and you are sure that they will win
– in this case it is good to have an alternative – at least from a psychological
point of view: AIDA (attraction, interest, desire, action – in promoting a product
various advertisements are created. They should be designed in a way that attracts
customers, triggers interest which develops into desire which leads to action, i.e.
people actually buying the product); COD (cash on delivery – a method of payment);
B2B (business to business); B2C (business to customer) etc.
5. Helpful phrases that can be used in certain phases of a negotiation process
5.1 Relationship building
I would like to welcome you to … . / Welcome to … . / Have a seat. /
How was your flight? / Would you like something to drink? /
What’s new on the market? / I see you are still a market leader. /
Have you introduced any new methods? / What’s the key to your success?
5.2 Agreeing procedure
To start with, I think we should establish the overall procedure. /
Does that seem acceptable to you? / Is there anything you'd like to change? /
Does this fit with your objectives? / Do you have any suggestions? /
Would you say that is a fair representation of your position? /
May we leave that till later and first look at … ? / Can we deal with … first?
5.3 Exchanging information, stating needs, clarifying, looking for options
Our main concern is … . / We need … . / Can you do that? /
Could you clarify one point for me? / What exactly do you mean by … ? /
I'm not sure I fully understand your point. /
Can I ask a hypothetical question? / Just for the sake of argument, what if … ? /
Suppose that … . / But what’s the real value for a customer? /
Can you make the slight customization that we talked about earlier? /
For us, priorities are comfort and … . / How flexible can you be on that? /
Could you explain that in more detail? / The way I see it is … . /
In other words you are saying … .
5.4.1 Proposing, responding to proposals
May I ask, please, what your proposal is in connection with our company? /
It involves … . / It leaves out … . /
After serious consideration, we are prepared to respond to your proposal. /
That sounds reasonable. /
As far as your proposal is concerned, we think that … . /
Would you like to elaborate on that? /
If you agree to that, we can close the deal today. /
So, what you are suggesting is … .
Would you be willing to accept a compromise? /
How flexible can you be on that? / I’m ready to sign that if you can … . /
We would be willing to … , provided, of course, that … . /
We'd like to make an alternative proposal. /
We are ready to accept your offer; however, there would be one condition. /
May we offer an alternative?
5.4.3. Refusing a proposal
That’s not really a viable option for us. /
That would be very difficult for us because … . / I’m sorry, we can’t accept that.
Unfortunately, we must decline your offer for the following reasons.
5.4.4. Playing for time
We'll have to consult our colleagues back in the office. /
We'll have to get back to you on it. /
I don’t have the authority to make that decision by myself.
5.4.5. Accepting a proposal
We are happy to accept this agreement. / I’m all in favor of that. /
I think we have a deal.
Can we summarize your position up to this point? /
Can we review what we have agreed on so far? /
Now, let’s just take a moment to review what we’ve discussed. /
So, what we’ve finally decided on is … .
5.6 Analyzing an obstacle
The main obstacle to progress at the moment seems to be … . /
Let's take a closer look at this problem. / I would like to analyze this situation.
5.7 Final greetings
It has been a pleasure doing business with you. /
We look forward to cooperating with you again.
6. A comparison of two negotiating dialogues performed by students
Here is a comparison of two conversations on the theme of sales negotiating – one
written by the students before they learnt about the 9-phase negotiation model and
the second one written and presented by the students after they had been introduced
to it. The model was implemented at the Doba Faculty in Slovenia during the Business
English course. There were 36 participants.
The evaluation and comparison of these 72 conversations led to the following conclusions:
Their initial dialogues are shorter. The students use quite informal language. The
phases used are mostly Relationship building and Bargaining. A misconception that
negotiating is bargaining is present all the time. However, bargaining is just one
of the phases in a negotiation process during which the parties make offers and proposals,
with the other side accepting them, refusing them, or coming back with a counteroffer.
Their second dialogues are much better. The conversation follows the phases of the
negotiation model. The language is formal and more business terminology is used.
Sometimes students join two phases, e.g. Options and Questions or Bidding and Bargaining.
The following examples (Table 2) include extracts from conversations prepared by
the students. Note that the subjects of purchase may not be the same in all the dialogues.
The students' negotiations are about purchasing a house or a car, renting a hotel
etc. (S: supplier; C: customer)
Table 2: Extracts from the students’ negotiations
Learning about the 9-phase model of negotiation has had a very good impact on the
students, their creativity, innovativeness, self-esteem and on improving their Business
English. The students expressed a positive attitude to this method of learning Business
English. Some students feel that in ‘real life’ some adaptations of the model to
certain cultural specifics of a foreign country are necessary and that negotiators
should be aware of them.
7. Non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication is important in negotiations. This includes body language
as well as the tone of our voice or even our decision not to respond. Not answering
a question can communicate many things – that we are ignoring it, that we have not
heard it or that we simply do not know the answer. Walking briskly may show how confident
we are, while crossed our arms over our chest may be a sign of defensiveness. Open
palms suggest openness and sincerity, while rubbing an eye can be a sign of disbelief
and doubt. A tilted head means interest and, when somebody is stroking their chin,
they are trying to make a decision.
And even in our students’ role-plays of negotiations some of them crossed their arms
over the chest when they expressed disagreement with the proposed terms. In some
countries direct eye contact is desired whereas in certain parts of the world staring
may be impolite and a sign of disrespect. In order to understand non-verbal signs
we also have to consider cultural differences. In Anglo-Saxon environments, interpretations
of such signs may differ considerably from interpretations in other areas, e.g. Japan
Negotiation models enable students to study the principles of negotiation discourse
better. The particular realizations of this broad pattern may differ considerably
every time speakers engage in a sales negotiation because one of the special properties
of spoken discourse is that it is self-monitored. This means that negotiators have
the power to select or change their own discourse route when they interact according
to a wide variety of factors such as: (a) their negotiating styles, whether collaborative
or confrontational; (b) their personal relationship; and (c) the external circumstances
in which the speech event is embedded etc. (Firth, 1995, pp. 26-30).
Where are the sources of negotiation power? There is power in developing a good working
relationship between the people negotiating, in understanding interests, in inventing
an elegant option, there is power in using external standards, in developing a good
BATNA, in making a carefully crafted commitment, in knowing negotiation principles
and in using good business language (Fisher & Ury, 1991, pp. 179-186).
Non-verbal language can express even more than verbal language. Being aware of body
language, the tone of voice and the way people respond to different initiations,
taking cultural differences between various parts of the world into consideration,
may contribute to understanding the other party better and improving our own non-verbal
Finally, negotiation is a linguistic act. Its outcomes involve the careful use of
language. Individuals from different cultures may miscommunicate and the problems
of cross-cultural communication and negotiation should not be neglected. We should
realize that we all perceive the world differently. This realization should serve
as a guide to our effective communication with others.
1 Source: Management Study Guide, n. d.
2 Source: Nieto, n. d.
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Emmerson, P. (2009). Business Terminology Builder. Oxford: Macmillan Publishers Limited.
Firth, A. (1995). The Discourse of Negotiation. Oxford: Pergamon.
Fisher. R. & Ury, W. (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating agreement without giving
in. London: Penguin Books.
Fisher. R. (1998). Kako doseči dogovor: umetnost pogajanja. Ljubljana: Gospodarski
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from: http://journal.doba.si (29 April 2010).
Mulhollannd, J. (1991). The Language of Negotiation. London and New York: Routledge.
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