Business communication is often all about meetings. A ‘good meeting’ in English-speaking cultures is one in which different opinions are heard and decisions get made. In this post, we will explore some commonly used phrases for structuring a meeting and exchanging ideas.
Starting the meeting
The aim of this meeting is to… / Today, I’d like to…
A workplace meeting without an aim is just a conversation, or worse, a lecture. If the chair of a meeting says at the start of the meeting what they want to achieve by the end, this is usually a good sign. The chair may wish to…
- find a solution for…
Any thoughts? / Any ideas?
This phrase signals that now is the time to make suggestions. If you have a brilliant idea, speak up!
Agreeing and disagreeing
It is rare to hear anybody tell a colleague directly that their idea is a bad one. While there are many vague phrases for disagreeing with somebody, agreements are usually more direct. ‘Good idea’ means simply: ‘Good idea!’
Absolutely. / Definitely. / 100%
Just like ‘Good idea,’ these short phrases show unambiguous agreement.
I’m not 100% sure about that.
Above, we mentioned that disagreements can be less direct. Unfortunately, ‘I’m not 100% sure about that’ does not mean that the speaker is 99% sure and needs only a little persuasion. The real meaning of this phrase is: ‘I completely disagree.’
I see what you mean. / I see where you’re coming from. / I hear what you’re saying.
When somebody raises a problem or disagreement, sometimes the next speaker does not just agree or disagree. The most constructive response is to acknowledge the new information and adjust the shared plan accordingly. ‘I see what you mean’ tells the last speaker that their point has been understood.
However, pay careful attention to the tone of voice! ‘I see where you’re coming from’ can sometimes be used to dismiss a contribution. And while it sounds gentle and encouraging, ‘I hear what you’re saying’ often really means: ‘I’m going to ignore what you just said.’
Ending the meeting
Let’s wrap things up there.
‘Wrap up’ in this context means ‘finish.’ That’s enough discussion for today!
The ‘next steps’ are the things that everyone agrees to do after the meeting. It’s always helpful to summarise the next steps before closing the meeting and confirm them in writing afterwards.
Let’s arrange a follow-up / catch-up next week.
A ‘follow-up’ is a second meeting to check progress on the ‘next steps.’ In a social context, a ‘catch-up’ might be a cup of tea and a chat among friends. At work, however, it is usually a short meeting to check how a project is going.
That was a good meeting!
Understanding how to signal your thoughts and intentions clearly is an essential part of business communication in English. Everyone loves a productive and engaging meeting.
Of course, directness and efficiency are not everything. As we have seen above, it also helps to know a few gentle and indirect phrases to make sure your working relationships run smoothly, even when there are disagreements.
Which of these phrases have you heard before? And which will you try to use in future?