Business English Paraphrasing Skills Can Be a CEO’s Best Friend
International CEOs need business English paraphrasing skills to communicate effectively, increase credibility, and build strong relationships. It is common for non-native English-speaking CEOs to not be confident in their English ability, and paraphrasing is a great skill to help offset language difficulty. The following story illustrates this skill.
A biotech company’s CEO met with a potential investor to discuss a new drug they were developing. The CEO was extremely passionate about the drug and its potential to save lives, but he was not a native English speaker and had difficulty expressing his ideas clearly.
The potential investor, a native English speaker, was having difficulty following the CEO’s pitch. He kept interrupting the CEO to ask for clarification. “I’m sorry, could you please repeat that? I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” he said.
The CEO, who was getting frustrated, repeated the same phrase over and over, hoping that the investor would understand. “Our drug is a game-changer. It’s going to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
The investor, who was starting to lose patience, finally snapped. “I still have no idea what you’re talking about. Could you please use simpler language and provide specific examples?” he said.
The CEO, realizing his mistake, apologized and started paraphrasing his pitch in simpler terms. He used examples and analogies to illustrate his ideas and emphasized the key points. The investor was able to understand the CEO’s pitch much better, and the meeting ended on a positive note.
What exactly is paraphrasing, and how can it benefit you as a CEO?
In the simplest form, paraphrasing is using different words to say the same thing. Formally, paraphrasing means ‘to state something written or spoken in different words, especially in a shorter and simpler form to make the meaning clearer.” It’s a valuable skill for communicating information clearly and concisely and building stronger relationships with clients, partners, and investors.
To help better explain paraphrasing, below, you will find situations and examples that help define paraphrasing.
Four specific ways that a business executive can use paraphrasing to their advantage.
1. Using different words to say the same thing. Paraphrasing involves substituting words or phrases with synonyms to express the same idea in a different way.. For example, instead of saying, “Our company’s new product is a game-changer. It will revolutionize the industry,” you can say, “Our company’s new product is highly innovative and will have a significant impact on the industry.” In this example, the words “game-changer” and “revolutionize” have been replaced with the synonym “innovative” to express the same idea in a different language.
2. Using examples and analogies. Illustrating ideas with examples or analogies can make them more relatable and easier to understand. For example, instead of saying, “Our software improves efficiency by automating tasks,” you could say, “Imagine if you had a personal assistant who could handle all of your simple tasks. That’s what our software does – it’s like having a virtual assistant to help you be more productive.”
3. Asking for clarification. If you are unsure of the meaning or intent of the original message, it is important to seek clarification rather than making assumptions or guessing. For example, you could say, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand what you mean by ‘synergy.’ Could you please explain it in more detail?”
4. Active listening and summarizing. Paying close attention to the original message and understanding the main points and key ideas is essential to effective paraphrasing. You can also use summarizing to condense the main points of the original message into a short summary using your language. For example, instead of repeating all of the details of a long report, you could say, “The main points are that our sales have increased by 25%, and our expenses have decreased by 10%.”
Why are paraphrasing skills particularly important for CEOs?
All CEOs leading a company in any language will benefit significantly from using paraphrasing skills. However, non-native English-speaking CEOs need business English paraphrasing skills to communicate effectively, even without fluent English. By improving communication skills, you don’t need to have the best English fluency to be a successful leader.
Four business situations using the skill of paraphrasing.
1. When someone doesn’t understand what you said. If you notice someone is having trouble following your message, it may be because you are using technical terms or jargon that they are unfamiliar with. Instead of repeating the exact words over and over, try paraphrasing your message in simpler terms using examples or analogies.
Below is an excellent example of what you can do without repeating yourself.
2. Small talk. Paraphrasing can also be helpful in small talk situations, such as networking events or social gatherings. You can build rapport and strengthen your relationships by actively listening and expressing interest in the other person’s ideas. Everyone loves the feeling when the other person is genuinely interested in what you are saying. The Complete Small Talk Guide illustrates this skill in great detail.
3. In meetings. Paraphrasing can help you clarify and summarize key points in meetings, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that important information is not lost. When someone has proposed an idea in a meeting and needs additional discussion, paraphrasing can be very effective. For example, after listening to someone’s idea, you then say, “What I hear you saying is ……” and summarize what the other person has said in your own words. It keeps everything clear for everyone participating in the meeting.
4. Question & Answer (Q&A) sessions. Paraphrasing can also be helpful in Q&A sessions, whether you are answering questions from a client, a partner, or an investor. By paraphrasing the question, you can make sure that you fully understand what is being asked before you provide your answer. This communication skill ensures that you understand the question and gives you more time to think of a great response to the question.
In summary, business English paraphrasing skills are essential for non-native English-speaking CEOs. By expressing complex or technical information clearly and concisely, you can communicate more effectively with your audience and avoid misunderstandings. Whether engaging in small talk, participating in meetings, or answering questions, paraphrasing can help you build strong relationships and succeed in business.