Tips for discussions

Do you have to use English in discussions or meetings?

These can be difficult because the speech is often fast and the speaker’s turns change quickly.  They are also difficult because sometimes you may want to interrupt or disagree with other speakers.

Below are some tips and phrases that can help you take part in discussions.

Plan before the discussion
You will usually know the topics before the discussion so plan what you want to say in advance.  Make extra plans for the topics you feel strongly about.  Also, try and predict what the other speakers might say about the topics and how you might react.

Disagree politely
While it’s OK to disagree with the other speakers, remember to do it politely and respectfully.  Include phrases like “I’m sorry but…”, “I understand, but…” and “I’m afraid…” to make your disagreements less confrontational.

Active listening
Show the other speakers you’re listening to them.  React to their opinions.  This could be just having some eye-contact and nodding your head.  This could be saying things like “uh huh” or  “I see”.  Ask for more details when you need them using phrases like “what kind of…”, “could you give me an example?”

Check understanding
Be sure to check and clarify and if you don’t understand.  Sometimes how you make eye-contact is enough to tell someone you don’t understand.  You can also use phrases like “what do you mean by ______?” or “do you mean_____ or ______?  You can also check people are understanding your opinions with phrases like “are you following me?”

Equal opportunities
Take an active part in the discussion, but make sure all the other speakers also have a chance to speak.  It’s nice to invite others to speak using phrases like “what do you think?” or “how about you?”.  Help to make the discussion as interactive as possible.

Reflect on the discussion
After finishing the discussion, think about how well you could take part (considering the points above). Think about how you can further improve your discussion skills for next time.  This is also a good time to check any language you didn’t understand.

Below are some common phrases that can be used in meetings and discussions:

Related links:

How to explain things in detail

Helping the audience understand your presentation

How can I disagree politely?

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