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Three useful business conversation helpers

Your ability to effectively communicate across cultural boundaries is important in business, whether you’re working with clients in America from elsewhere, or you’re traveling abroad for business. Here are three tips to help you along the way.

business communication

business communication

Ensuring effective communication while abroad

There’s no way around it-the world has gotten smaller. Although English is the name of the game when it comes to business communication abroad, here are some ways to ensure fluid and effective communication.

Tip one: avoid idiom and other confusing speak

When doing business cross-culturally, it’s important to go back to basics in terms of language use. This may seem obvious at first, but as native English speaking Americans often forget, our language is peppered with irony, sarcasm, metaphor, slang, and analogies. Regional dialects aside (the spigot versus faucet debate continues), informal English morphs greatly as time progresses.

Other confusing speak types to be avoided like the plague are idiom and double-negatives. It’s best to stick with standard English whenever possible, even when using a translator/interpreter.

Tip two: be confident and inspire confidence

Communicating effectively transcends just the spoken word. Body language and presentation go a long way in getting a message across. Psychologically, when we don’t confidently communicate, we send our listener mixed signals. Speaking positively about a deal or contract while frowning and shaking your head, or avoiding eye contact and shrugging a lot, could leave your listener feeling uninspired and doubtful of your ability.

One sure fire way to inspire confidence that crosses cultural boundaries is to boost your listeners buy-in and self-assurance. Stay away from phrases like “wouldn’t you agree…” or “don’t you think…” and ask questions that elicit a simple yes/no response. In this way, your listener feels better about making a definitive or assertive choice.

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Tip three: listen

Listening is of the utmost importance when communicating across cultures. While silence can be used as a negotiation tactic, it also aides conversation flow. When you stop talking and listen, it not only allows your conversation counterpart an opportunity to speak, but also gives you time to process the conversation and see if there are any language or cultural gaps. Language processing times vary, so silence gives your counterpart time to understand and formulate a response. Also, it shows that you too are invested in the conversation.

One thing to remember is that although someone may speak English or have a “working knowledge” of the language, be careful not to assume that their understanding of cultural and language nuance is the same as yours.

Written By

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

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