First of all, I just wanted to thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart for your kind birthday wishes! I got hundreds of them and I have tried very hard to respond personally to every single person that wrote me. If I missed you, please forgive me! I didn’t mean to. My birthday was wonderful and full of touching surprises. I love being 52!
But now back to business. And how to ruin yours with just 1 word. 🙂
I was working with a client on his negotiating skills in English and something struck me right away. He used 1 word incorrectly. Which gave his counterpart 100% the wrong idea and made all of his preparation go out the window.
What did he say?
‘Well, when we agree, we’d like to implement this right away.’
This sentence might not seem wrong, but it gave his counterpart the completely wrong impression. You see, he started off the session with this statement. Which means, basically, that he was telling his counterpart that BEFORE the negotiations had actually started, he had already agreed.
He said ‘when’.
He should have said ‘if’.
In English there is a huge difference between ‘if’ and ‘when’.
We use ‘when’ to talk about things that happen in general, or about things that are certain, even if you don’t know when exactly they will happen:
‘When I go on holiday, I always travel first class.’
‘When it rains, I always bring my laundry inside.’
‘When your order arrives, please check it carefully.’
And when you START a negotiation session with ‘When we agree…’ what you are really saying is ‘We know we will agree already. We don’t even need to negotiate. Done and dusted. Pass the champagne!’
We use ‘if’ to talk about things that are hypothetical, or when you are not able to commit yet. For example:
‘If I go on holiday later this year, it will be a miracle!’
‘If it rains, I’ll cancel the company picnic, so we might need a plan B.’
‘If you are not satisfied with your order, please contact our Customer Service Department.’
(And yes, I have actually seen ‘When you are not happy with your purchase….’. This means ‘We are fully aware that we shipped you something you hate.’ Holy moly, Batman!)
So….in negotiations, keep to the ‘if’ until you are READY to commit.
These phrases might be useful:
‘If you are willing to lower your prices, we might consider increasing our order.’
‘We would agree to that if you could deliver by September 31.’
‘If you are able to get confirmation by Friday, I’ll make sure this is approved next week.’
Negotiation skills is the focus of module 6 in my Great in 8 Program, where I work intensely with a small group of highly-motivated, fluent speakers, who want to go from functional to totally professional in their English communication skills. We have weekly coaching calls, 8 weeks of personal mentorship, an exclusive (and safe!) Masterclass Day, and lifetime access to my Business English online course. We also have in-depth modules on Networking, Presentations, Formal and Informal Language, Writing Skills, Vocabulary Development and so much more.
We start on September 14, and there are 2 spaces left.
Is one of them yours?
Let me know – or just keep hoping for the best in your professional English!
When you’re ready to make a change, and invest in your personal and professional development, let me know.
Have a super week!