Master ‘Play it by Ear’ in Business English | Real-World Examples and Tips!

Learn the useful business English phrase “play it by ear” with clear examples and a dialogue.

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What Does “Play it by Ear” Mean?

“Play it by ear” means to handle a situation without a fixed plan, adapting as you go.

Here are a few examples to help you understand this phrase better:

Unplanned Meeting:
Imagine you have a meeting but no agenda. You decide to play it by ear and discuss topics as they come up.

Idea Sharing Session:
During a idea sharing session, instead of following a strict structure, you play it by ear and let ideas flow naturally.

Project Management:
When managing a project with many variables, you might say, “We’ll play it by ear and adjust our project plan as needed.”

Presentation Preparation:
If you’re preparing a presentation and aren’t sure how much time you’ll have, you might decide to play it by ear and adjust your content as needed during the meeting.

Conversation Example

Let’s dive into a conversation to understand this better:

Joshua: Hi Kayla, do we have a plan for the client meeting today?

Kayla: Not really. I thought we’d play it by ear and see what the client wants to focus on.

Joshua: I’m not comfortable with that approach. I prefer to be well-prepared. What if the client expects a detailed proposal from us?

Kayla: I understand, Joshua. While I like to play it by ear sometimes, I see your point. Let’s strike a balance. How about we draft a basic agenda to guide us while still remaining flexible to address any specific concerns the client may have?

Joshua: That sounds better. I just want to make sure we address all necessary points and leave a good impression.

Kayla: Absolutely. I’ll draft an agenda and share it with you shortly so we can both be prepared. We’ll play it by ear as needed during the meeting.

Joshua: Thanks, Kayla. I appreciate the balance between being prepared and staying adaptable.