Anyone who’s ever taught a business English class knows that their students are busy people. Sometimes they get sidetracked by their other tasks – even during class. This means we have to make the most of the time we have with our learners and focus on what they really need.
How you do this depends on the sector your students work in (or plan to work in), their previous experiences studying English and their own strengths and weaknesses.
Teachers often focus on teaching hard skills, such as writing reports or running meetings. We do this because it can be challenging for many business students to do these things in English and also because hard skills have an immediate and positive impact on their workdays.
But, if there’s one thing that all business people can benefit from, it’s soft skills.
Soft skills are interpersonal or people skills. They include things like active listening, teamwork, decision-making and influencing skills. Mastering these skills will help students progress more rapidly and become more independent learners. However, isolating the specific vocabulary or grammar structures that these skills use is complex and they often get overlooked in language learning classes as a result.
Five essential communication skills for business students
1. Listening actively
People mistakenly think that communication is just about speaking. However, one of the best ways to be a good communicator is to listen to the person you are talking to. Learners can show interest in what someone is saying is by asking clarifying questions and rephrasing what they’ve said to make sure they’ve understood them fully. The more they listen, the easier it will be to respond.
2. Influencing others
In order to manage employees and clients effectively your students will need to be able to influence others. This can be done by building rapport, explaining why they are doing something, asking the right questions and selling themselves in a certain way.
3. Negotiating successfully
The key to closing sales, getting a good price for something, or running a happy team is the art of negotiation. Successful negotiators determine their objectives before starting, prepare fully to support their positions and always leave their emotions at home (or in the office).
4. Dealing with different communication styles
In the world of business, students will come across people who communicate differently. The three basic communication styles are aggressive, passive and assertive. They’ll need to know how to deal with these different styles if they want to succeed.
5. Speaking clearly and concisely
Students need to learn to express themselves clearly and convey their message in as few words as possible. It’s easy to ramble when you are nervous, so encourage them to think about what they want to say and maybe even make some brief notes beforehand.
How they apply these skills will depend on the issue at stake, the situation and who they’re talking to, so they will need to adjust their behaviour accordingly. The more time you spend on this in class, the easier it will become.
How does Business Partner tackle these communication skills
Business Partner is Pearson’s new eight-level business English course that teaches real-world language and business skills.
The third lesson in each unit is dedicated to communication skills and is aimed at introducing students to the soft skills that are needed to function in international teams and across different cultures, something which is becoming increasingly common in today’s globalized world.
The course raises students’ awareness of different communication styles to help avoid misunderstandings and so they can be more perceptive and adapt their own styles according to the audience.
Each lesson is split into two parts (as you can see in the image below).
The first part of the lesson is a video-based training program that addresses communication issues, styles and behaviors. First, the students are shown a set up video (like the one below) and are asked questions about what they would do in each situation.
There are then two follow up videos (option A and B) which students watch. They should think about how the body language, behaviors and language used affects the outcomes of each situation. The lesson finishes with a conclusion video and a discussion around what they’ve seen.Option A Option B Conclusion
The second part of the lesson provides students with functional language which they can use in similar situations to the ones they’ve watched in part one.
The lesson ends with a collaborative task that is related to the topic of the lesson and is designed to help students practise the functional language identified in the video.