Along with the social progress and the technological development, economic globalization has become an irreversible trend. Modern enterprises must go abroad, participating in international competition to obtain the maximum economic benefit. In the international market, most communications between enterprises are completed through business negotiations.
The success of business negotiation is affected by various factors: time, place, dress of negotiators, body language, especially the negotiation language which is the main intermediary in the information transfer. “In business negotiations, two major factors affect the acts of the negotiators: First, economic benefits, and second, emotions. The former is the objective of the negotiations; the second is the determining factor affecting the achievement of objectives.” As all we know, the English language in business negotiations is required to be specific, concise, clear and correct to avoid misunderstandings and inconvenience in the business. This seems to negate the use of vague language. In reality, the language in business negotiations will become more rigorous, accurate, courteous, decent through the appropriate use of vague language. Therefore, after we learn the positive use of vague language and apply it appropriately in business negotiations, we can better achieve communicative results in business negotiations. Vague language in business negotiations in general can be divided into two categories: fuzziness and randomness. The functions of these two types of vague language in the negotiations are mainly presented as follows:
(1) Expressing euphemism and making the language implicit. If we use vague language in formal business activities, we can make some words appear to be more tactful, especially for some of provocative topics. Vague language is usually used to to cover up or to avoid something.
(2) Avoiding embarrassment and achieving the smooth realization of communication. In business negotiations, the most important thing is to try to promote the trade in a harmonious and friendly atmosphere. In particular, the factors involved in cross-border transactions, such as different cultural psychologies, social etiquettes and values, are more complex. In case, if your opinion is opposite to that of the other party, and it is not convenient for you to express directly, you can use vague language to “vague” the output information and make a flexible response. Hedge is the most common use of vague language to leave room for the others. Many scholars, especially sociologists state that hedge is an effective way to avoid acts detrimental to face.
(3) Rendering the atmosphere and trying to persuade the other party to accept your opinion psychologically. Let’s have a look at the following example:
① I’m sure you’ll find our price most favorable. Elsewhere prices for hardware have gone up tremendously in recent years. Our prices haven’t changed much.
In this example, the seller apparently render the fact that the price of hardware products has increasd greatly in the international market, and emphasize their prices are most favorable. Therefore, we could see that vagueness of the language has a positive effect in the negotiations.
(4) Detecting the other party’s intention and protect own interests. The randomness of language is mainly used for the detection of the intentions of both parties in the general detective stage at the beginning of negotiations. Both parties would usually sound each other’s interests out through the randomness of the language.