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Business Contract Negotiation

Gain confidence when negotiating a contract with an English speaking business partner

The art of negotiation is a perfect sparring ring to hone your communication skills in English. There are so many things we need to keep in mind when negotiating in our second language! Idiomatic expressions, building rapport, managing emotions, choosing questions to be more or less direct, more or less persuasive – in short, there is so much space to practice and to grow – regardless of our General English Level. For this reason, we propose a series of conversations (each one is standalone and not connected to the following Conversation Club sessions) that belong to the world of Negotiation. Here’s one of these sessions, today we’re focusing on Business Contract Negotiation. But there are many other things we’ll negotiate together!

Prepared with love by: My Personal English Coach

How to get the best out of your

Helloooo! Just a few words of support for those of you who are starting your experience in our Conversation Club and don’t feel very confident. 

Don’t worry, we’re here for you!

If you feel you need it, follow the first piece of advice in the image on the left and review all the language bits we think can be useful for you.

We are your Coaches and we know you well! We know that using Idioms & Phrasal Verbs can be a real challenge, so those are often the language elements we’ll suggest you use 🙃

After the preparation (you’ll find both the vocabulary and the conversation questions on this page), we invite you to participate in the Club session. You have received an email with the ZOOM link for the session:

On Tuesdays, the Club takes place from 7:00 PM to 7:30 PM, and on Thursdays, from 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM. If you haven’t received the access instructions via email, please, get in touch with us:

If you want to practice more after the Club session, you can come back here to do the Follow Up activity (at the bottom of the page). Are you ready? Let’s begin!

Idiomatic Expressions Used In Business Negotiations

  • Ballpark figure: An approximate estimate. Example: “Could you give me a ballpark figure for the budget we’re negotiating? 🤷‍♂️”
  • Cut to the chase: Get to the main point without unnecessary details. Example: “Let’s cut to the chase and discuss the critical terms of the contract. ⏭️”
  • Play hardball: Negotiate aggressively and firmly. Example: “They’re playing hardball on the price, so we need to be prepared. ⚾️”
  • Read between the lines: Understand the underlying meaning, often beyond what is explicitly stated. Example: “Their response seems vague; we might need to read between the lines. 📖🔍”
  • Toe the line: Follow the rules or conform to expectations. Example: “We need to toe the line while negotiating to maintain a professional image. 👞”
  • Bite the bullet: Face a difficult situation or decision with courage. Example: “Even though it’s challenging, we’ll have to bite the bullet and address the contract’s complexities. 💪🔫”
  • Call the shots: Make important decisions and be in control. Example: “As the project lead, you get to call the shots during the negotiation. 📣”
  • Break the ice: Initiate a conversation to ease tension or awkwardness. Example: Let’s start by breaking the ice and discussing our common goals.
  • Hold all the cards: Have the advantage or control in a situation. Example: “With our strong position, we hold all the cards in this negotiation. 🃏”
  • Iron out the details: Resolve and finalise the finer points of an agreement. Example: “We’re close to an agreement; we just need to iron out the details.🛠️”

The Most Common Phrasal Verbs used in Business Negotiation

  1. Back down: Retreat or withdraw from a stance or demand. Example: “They initially insisted on those terms, but eventually they had to back down. ⬅️🔽”
  2. Flesh out: Add more details or information to make something clearer. Example: “Let’s flesh out the clauses related to payment terms in the contract. 💡📜”
  3. Hold off: Delay or postpone making a decision or taking action. Example: “We should hold off on signing until we clarify the legal implications. ⏳🚫”
  4. Work out: Resolve, solve, or reach an agreement through negotiation. Example: “We need to work out the distribution logistics before finalizing the contract. 👥🔄”
  5. Stand up for: Defend or advocate for one’s position or interests. Example: “We must stand up for our intellectual property rights in the negotiation. 🛡️🆚”
  6. Get around: Find a way to overcome a problem or obstacle. Example: “We need to get around the issue of conflicting deadlines in the contract. 🛤️🔄”
  7. Hold up: Delay or hinder progress, often due to unforeseen issues. Example: “The unexpected supply chain disruption could hold up the negotiation process. ⏸️🚫”
  8. Put off: Postpone or reschedule a meeting or decision. Example: “Due to conflicting schedules, we’ll have to put off the negotiation until next week. 📅🚫”
  9. Talk over: Discuss thoroughly or review in detail. Example: “Let’s talk over the terms to ensure we’re all on the same page. 💬🔄”
  10. Break down: Analyze, explain, or simplify complex concepts. Example: “Let’s break down the contractual obligations into more manageable sections. 🧩🔍”

Round 1 – Let’s Warm Up

  1. Have you ever been involved in a complex business contract negotiation? What were some of the key challenges you faced?
  2. In your opinion, what’s the most crucial aspect of successful contract negotiation? Is it the terms, the relationship, or something else?
  3. Negotiating contracts often involves finding a balance between your organisation’s interests and the other party’s. How do you approach creating win-win scenarios in these situations?
  4. Legal jargon can be quite daunting in contracts. How do you navigate through the complexities of contract language to ensure both parties truly understand the terms?

Round 2: Let’s Explore it!

  1. The art of compromise is essential in contract negotiation. Can you share a time when you had to make significant concessions to reach an agreement? What did you learn from that experience?
  2. Emotions can sometimes get in the way of rational negotiation. How do you manage emotions during intense contract discussions to ensure productive outcomes?
  3. Cultural differences can play a significant role in contract negotiations, especially in international business deals. Do you have any strategies for navigating these cultural nuances?

Download All The Vocabulary for the Last Conversation Round: The Role Play

Round 3: The Final One – We Role Play!

This is a role play that you can come back to more than once, as the space for negotiation is HUGE!

Download the PDF to get :

  1. Key Legal Terms You May Need
  2. Your Instructions
  3. The Agreement You Will Be Negotiating

Best of luck in your negotiation!

Remember – there is always more! Here is your Follow Up video:

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