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Disagreement in business negotiations: A qualitative study of BELF usage in face-to-face business negotiations
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Knowledge of successful Business English as a lingua franca (BELF) has been recognized to be an essential element in overall business know-how (Kankaanranta & Louhiala-Salminen, 2010). In line with this notion, research has found that professionals use BELF and exploit a variety of discourse and pragmatic strategies that aid the process of cooperation and agreement so that mutual understanding can be reached (Firth, 1996; Kankaanranta & Planken, 2010; Pitzl, 2005). However, research has reported situations where business negotiators need to handle discord while maintaining a working rapport with the opposing party (e.g. Bjørge, 2012), indicating that the ability to produce the appropriate expression of disagreement is an imperative skill. Nonetheless, while there is now a better understanding of how business professionals establish common ground through using BELF, little work has been carried out on the subject on how professionals express disagreement in the same aspect (but see e.g. Bjørge, 2012; Stalpers, 1995).

The present study aims to address this gap and expand the current knowledge on how business professionals express and handle disagreement in naturally-occurring face-to-face negotiations. The collected material consists of approximately 4 hours of BELF discourse recorded at a business convention in Germany. Fifteen disagreement episodes were identified, transcribed and analyzed using Conversation Analytic (CA) procedures. The present paper seeks to explore two aspects of the current topic, namely how business professionals (using BELF) express disagreement during business negotiations, and whether mitigation strategies are used when disagreement is expressed. The findings suggest that disagreements are solely content-related and are expressed in a variety of ways as they are coupled with a varied use of mitigation devices (i.e. delay and added support). Furthermore, there were instances of unmitigated expressions in the form of blunt contradictions. It is suggested that disagreements in BELF negotiations are required actions and may serve a dual purpose. The main goal of expressing disagreement is to increase clarity in cases where essential information may be misinterpreted or misguided; additionally, it indicates the speaker’s stance in the argument. Lastly, as there is a need for better knowledge of successful BELF, the present study is likely to be of interest for those who are engaged in the global business discourse community as well as researchers studying international business settings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
BELF, expressing disagreement, business negotiations, conversation analysis
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133218OAI: diva2:957895
Available from: 2016-09-05 Created: 2016-09-05 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved

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