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It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it

How successfully you can express yourself in English depends on your language proficiency and your communication skills.

Recently, we went to a cafe where the food and service had always been very good. But this time, we didn't even get around to ordering any food because the staff were unpleasant on arrival, rude as we went to sit down and when we asked a question about the menu, well, we decided to walk out. And it wasn't just us. The people at the next table were complaining to each other too. Afterwards we found out that the cafe had been sold a few months ago.

We've all had such cafe and restaurant visits, where the food can be fresh, well-presented and delicious but the dining experience leaves a bitter aftertaste due to impolite, unfriendly and sloppy service by the waiting staff.

Similarly, how well we can express ourselves in English at work depends not only on language proficiency – the food – but also on communication skills – the service. Both factors are needed for successful interactions, whether speaking or writing.

Clients often ask me about how to make small talk, disagree politely in meetings, write a complaint email, have difficult conversations with team members, sound confident but not arrogant in job interviews, convey their condolences to business contacts and so on. We talk about using the appropriate language, finding the right tone of voice and suitable body language. Then we practise and I give feedback and we practise again.

In future articles, The Trunk will have some advice on these issues. If there are any specific questions you'd like me to address, feel free to email me.

© 2015 Christina Wielgolawski