Useful expressions for negotiating

For successful negotiations you need to consider the personalities of the people involved, their culture, and their level of English. Using diplomatic language to build a relationship and reach a compromise is vital. Here are expressions you can use during each stage of the process:

1. Starting the negotiation

  • Let’s get down to business, shall we?
  • Shall we get started?
  • Let’s make a start, shall we?

2. Stating your position/ purpose

  • What we are looking for is...
  • Our main concern is...
  • There are two main areas that we would like to discuss…
  • We have little/ no room for movement on price…

3. Finding out what the other side is looking for/ wants

  • Would your team consider...
  • Can I clarify your position on...?
  • Would you consider/ be willing to...
  • How feasible is it for you to...?
  • What are your views on...?
  • Would you be able to...?

4. Offering a compromise

The use of modal auxiliary verbs and conditional clauses will help you set out what you are willing to accept as a compromise.

  • We can accept that if  you...
  • We might/ may be able to...
  • We would be able to...
  • Would you be willing to...?
  • We may accept your offer on condition that...
  • We could offer you ... if you can agree on...

5. Checking understanding

  • When you say, ‘improve on the offer’, what do you mean?
  • Have I got this right? You said you could finalise that by December?
  • If I understand you correctly, you said you could finalise that by December.

6. Clarifying

  • Could you clarify your last point for me?
  • Does anything I have suggested/ proposed seem unclear to you?

7. Rejecting an offer

To soften bad news use these expressions before you give the bad news:

  • Unfortunately...
  • I am afraid...
  • Sorry...

For example:

  • I am afraid (your proposal) is out of the question.
  • I am sorry, but we cannot accept that.
  • That’s really not an option I am afraid.

8. Asking for a reaction to the offer

  • How does that sound to you?
  • Would that be acceptable?

9. Nearing settlement

  • The last sticking point is...
  • There are just a few loose ends to tie up...

10. Agreeing and closing the deal

  • That seems acceptable/ reasonable to us.
  • I think we have a deal.
  • I think we can agree to that.
  • I think we have covered everything, that’s a deal.

11. A final point on being polite

There are several techniques in English to sound more polite; moving away from the focus of ‘you’ can make you sound less direct and therefore polite. Here is an example:

  • Perhaps I am not making myself clear.

The use of ‘perhaps’ helps to soften the sentence.

Good luck!


Vital: necessary, important.

Concern: to be connected or related with.

Movement: the act, process or result of moving.

Acceptable: capable or worthy of being.

Reasonable: moderate, logical.

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