Let me tell you a quick story. Some years ago when I first visited South East Asia as a Professional Speaker, I was somewhat apprehensive about how I well I would communicate with people from totally different cultures. After all, I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. It was even a challenge at times, to communicate with people 150 miles away in Aberdeen, whose culture was slightly different from mine. So how would I communicate with people on the other side of the world?
I needn’t have been concerned because the people I met and spoke to in Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia were much closer to me, in communication, than I had anticipated.
We need to understand the world
In this global economy, we all have to interact with suppliers, vendors and our counterparts in other cultures. Our effectiveness as cross-cultural communicators will be determined partly, by our knowledge of other cultures. Knowledge of food, art, fashion, behavior, customs, language and religion; all of this will stand us in good stead when we communicate with others. This knowledge can be gathered from books and other media; also from closely listening to and observing the people that we interact with.
We are all human
More importantly, our effectiveness as cross-cultural communicators will be determined by our emotional intelligence and human qualities.
Many business people seem to forget that when dealing with other people, they are dealing with human beings. Whatever culture these people have been raised and reside in, they still display human characteristics such as happiness, sadness, confidence, insecurities, desire for acknowledgement and acceptance of others. They experience anger and frustration, jealousy, fear of rejection, laziness and much more.
As humans, we are predominantly driven by our emotions when making decisions; whether to buy product or service or to accept what other people say.
When dealing with others, people will allow their emotions, rather than logic, to influence them.
Step 1 – Communicate on a Human and Business level.
When you work with suppliers, vendors, staff and customers; communication happens on two levels – the Human level and the Business Level. It is always better to open any interaction, be it written or verbal, on the Human Level before doing any business. This satisfies the individual’s need for acknowledgement, courteous treatment and acceptance of their viewpoints.
This does not mean that every time you interact with a supplier, a colleague or a customer, that you launch into some personal discussion. Opening on a Human Level can only take a couple of words, however, they have to be genuine.
The Business Level is about work related issues. If you interact with other people only on the Business Level, their needs on the Human Level will not be met and may get in the way of their ability to understand and respond positively to what you say.
When other people are angry or upset, they will demonstrate strong feelings. It is important to address these feeling on a Human Level or the business aspect may be disrupted and conflict will be created. You need to deal with the other person’s feelings, and then deal with their problem. When the business part of the interaction is completed, it is important to end on the Human Level
Step 2 – Get people to like you
Much of our success in cross-cultural communication will be determined by our ability to sell ourselves to others. Whether in our personal or working lives; people will judge us by what we say and what we do.
More importantly, this will be influenced by how likable we are. Likability is about being human; it’s about displaying warmth.
Warren Buffet, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, sometimes acclaimed as the world’s greatest investor, once said:
‘I’ve walked away from some great deals because I didn’t like the people I was dealing with.’
Likability in people will also be measured by their ability to really listen and be interested in others. Likable people use your name and look as if they care. We like people who have something positive to say and don’t whinge!
Likable people empathize with our problems and accept that we may have a different view of the world from them. Likability is demonstrated by a genuine smile, good eye contact, a sense of humor and relaxed open body language.
Step 3 – Be a credible communicator
When communicating with other people, and particularly when you’re trying to persuade them, the key ingredients are credibility and believability. Your credibility will be determined by the verbal, vocal and visual elements of your message.
If the words you say aren’t confirmed by your tone of voice and how you look, you won’t be believed. People will evaluate you (an average of 11 decisions within the first six seconds) based primarily on non-verbal information. We all tend to make snap judgements about other people, and often make mistakes – we stereotype.
So don’t fall into this trap when you meet other people, or speak to them on the phone. Also, be very aware, they will make decisions about you based on your tone of voice and body language.
Low self-esteem and self-image affect body language and tone of voice. People tend to make movements and display posture which indicates a lack of confidence. The people you communicate with, will sense from your tone of voice whether you are confident and believe in what you say.
If you don’t feel confident in a particular situation, act or pretend to be confident. Walk into a room as if you own the place. Pick up the phone and speak in a clear, confident and distinct manner.
You confidence and credibility will be determined by the self-talk that goes on inside your head.
Listen to that self-talk and ask yourself – ‘Is what I’m saying allowing me to be confident, positive and credible?’ If so – great! ‘Or is it holding me back and stopping me achieve my goals?’ If this is the case – STOP IT, change the program!
By talking to yourself in a positive manner, you’ll start to feel physically better; you’ll look better, sound more confident and credible. Words have an enormous power to create change in the chemistry of your body. Your heart rate, blood pressure, muscles, nerves and breathing will all react to the words you say to yourself and this will evident to other people.
‘Who you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Make no mistake about it, if you build your knowledge of other cultures and couple that with these 3 Steps, you will become an even more effective cross-cultural communicator.
If you’re a business owner or a manager then absence can be a real pain! It’s inconvenient, it’s damaging to customer service, you lose sales and it costs your business money. And as we all know, not all days taken off work are due to genuine sickness. Many employees take a “sickie” because their morale is low and they just don’t like or can’t do their work.
Make people happy
The challenge for managers and team leaders is to make people happier at work. And if people are happy at work then they are less likely to take a day off every time they wake up with a stuffy nose. Some bosses think that paying more money, improving job security or working conditions is the answer.
It isn’t and it’s also something that can be very hard to achieve.
Get on their wavelength
People who employ or supervise others need to become more tuned to their employees’ emotional needs and find out what really motivates them. This is also much easier to achieve than paying more money or improving job security, however there is no quick fix. Some years ago I inherited a tele-sales operation with low staff morale and poor sales results. It took nearly six months to fix. The long-term benefits were of course worth it in terms of fewer days lost due to sickness and an increase in sales.
To reduce the number of sickies there are 3 steps you need to consider:
1. Pick the right person for the job.
You need to get better at interviewing and selecting people. Take more time over it; pay more attention to the applicant’s human side rather than their qualifications or experience. Get to know them better.
Find out what makes them happy, how well they get on with other people and how much energy and enthusiasm they have.
Make sure they know what they’re getting into and be sure the job suits them.
2. You need to believe in your people.
If you’ve interviewed well and picked the right person for the job then you need to trust them to do that job. You need to constantly demonstrate to your people that you trust and believe in them by what you say, your tone of voice and also by your body language.
If you believe that your people are not to be trusted, that they’re unable to make a decision without checking with you; that they’ll turn up late and go home early, then that’s exactly what they’ll do.
If on the other hand you believe that they’ll do their job well, that they can be trusted to make decisions, and they’ll give you a fair day’s work, then it’s more likely this is what you’ll get.
As with all theories there is no guarantee that it will work every time, however the majority of employees are reasonable people and if you treat them as such then they’re more likely to behave in a positive manner.
3. Give feedback and coach.
This is probably the most important thing you can do to motivate your team members.
This is where so many managers and team leaders fall down in dealing with their people; they’re hopeless at giving feedback.
Many managers are uncomfortable telling staff how they feel about their work performance be it good or bad.
Most employees want to know how they’re performing in their job; they want to know if they are doing it right or how they could do it better.
If you really want to motivate your people then you need to give them feedback on what they’re doing well and also – what needs improvement.
When you notice an employee doing something you do like, tell them about it. When you notice something you don’t like, tell them about it.
Do it as soon as possible. Acknowledging a job well done is not much good six months later. Also, if you don’t immediately call someone’s attention to something you’re not happy about, then they’ll assume its okay. Either that or they’ll think you didn’t notice or you don’t care.
Do it in private; why is it some managers still feel its okay to reprimand someone in front of their colleagues? Even the mildest rebuke can have a negative effect on morale.
So there you have it; these steps will take time and thought however they’ll make a huge difference as to how employees feel about their work.
If they feel good and gain satisfaction from their work then they are less likely to find a reason to ‘take a sickie’.
Excerpt from How to be a Motivational Manager
Has this ever happened to you? You go to speak to your boss, a colleague or even someone in your personal life and you feel they’re not listening. How does that make you feel? Not very good I suspect.
When I bring this up in a management seminar, some managers start to feel a bit uncomfortable.
Now I know you know this stuff, but I’m going to prick you conscience.
Here comes the lecture
If you want to have a good relationship with the people in your team or even your customers, colleagues, friends and family, then you need to be a good listener.
You need to look and sound like you’re listening. When face to face you need to look interested, nod your head and keep good eye contact. Over the phone you need to make the occasional – ‘Uh-Huh – I see.’
I’ve seen managers, when faced with a problem from a team member, start to do something else, like work on the computer. I’ve also heard managers say – ‘It’s okay, I can do two things at once, I can listen to you and work on the computer.’
Maybe you can, but the message your team member gets is – ‘My problem isn’t that important, my manager just isn’t interested.’ (Are you starting to feel bad?)
When you’re spending time with people you need to give them your full attention. You need to look them in the eye, concentrate on them and make them feel that what they say is important and deserves your attention.
Get the pen and paper out
As well as looking interested in your team member’s or your customer’s problem, it’s a good idea to write it down.
I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking – ‘I’ll remember that when I get back to the office and I’ll check it out.’
However, one person I was with said – ‘You wont do anything about what I’ve said Alan because you wont remember it.’
From that point on I wrote things down.
It’s also a good idea to paraphrase – to repeat back what the person has said to ensure your understanding and let them know you’ve been listening.
It may seem like a simple thing but it’s very important to use names. You could say in response to a problem – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that.’
Its far better to say – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that Susan, thank you for bringing it to my attention.’
That’s a much better way for a caring manager to act.
A person’s name is one of the warmest sounds they hear. It says – ‘I recognize you as an individual.’
However, don’t overdo it as it may come across as patronizing.
So just some food for thought.
Many people believe that to be a good communicator you need to be a good speaker when in fact – you need to be a great listener!
Excerpt from How to be a Motivational Manager
Most people are not particularly good listeners. They are easily distracted and interrupted by other stuff going on in their brain.
They might be tired, in a hurry, confused, physically uncomfortable, don’t understand your jargon, or maybe just thinking about what they will say next.
So if you want to get your message across, then it’s important to take into account all of these points. And it’s also important to ensure you are making the best of your speaking skills.
The problem is that, the words you use, although essential, can be contradicted by your tone of voice and your body language.
Many people are now familiar with the results of research conducted by Dr Albert Mehrabian. This tell us that the impact of a message is dependent 7% on the words we use, 38% on tone and a whacking great 55% on body language.
I’ve read articles that take issue with these figures, suggesting that words are more important and have greater impact than Dr Mehrabian suggests.
I wouldn’t be prepared to put any figures on these three aspects of communication, however, I am totally convinced that how you look and how you sound are far more important than what you say.
Recently I conducted a one to one training session in selling skills for a director of a small computer software company. A video camera was used to record this director’s sale pitch to a potential customer, a role played by me.
When I replayed this recording, my director client was horrified to watch his presentation. In his pitch he used words such as, ‘Young exciting company – staff with lots of enthusiasm for their product – lots of energy and passion for what they are doing.’
The only thing was that he, the person in the video, had about as much excitement, enthusiasm, energy and passion as a plate of cold porridge.
He was saying the words but they just weren’t convincing. He was dull monotone and boring, and he knew it. The good thing was, that once he’d realized it, he could do something about it.
On occasion people say to me. ‘I am as I am; I’m a quieter sort of person. I can’t leap up and down and get excited about something even though I feel it inside.’
My answer to these people is, ‘Don’t change your personality but do make a slight change to your behavior. Turn up the energy a little bit, put a bit more power in the enthusiasm, and warm up the passion just a tad more.
If you were to ask these same people about their football team, their children or their hobby, then just watch them get fired up or at least get a little bit warmer.
One quiet unassuming chap held me spellbound one day telling me about his hobby of beekeeping. It wasn’t so much what he was saying but how he was describing it. His eyes were shining, he was speaking quickly and he was using his hands to describe this subject which he had now made very interesting.
So if you want to get your message across to your employees, your customers or your colleagues, then show more of how you feel.
Other people will respond more to your feelings than to what you actually say.
Non-verbal communication is so powerful and we can use it much more to our advantage; this doesn’t mean in a manipulative way but more in a way that builds rapport with your team members.
People buy people first and they tend to buy people who are very much like themselves. Now, you can’t become exactly like one of your customers or a member of your staff. However, you can make slight adjustments to your behavior which will build rapport and improve communication.
Let’s say that you have a fairly strong voice or you speak fairly quickly.
If you’re communicating with a customer or someone in your team who has a soft voice’ or another team member who speaks slowly, then they may feel you’re a much different person from them and they may even feel intimidated. The obvious answer is to either talk with a soft voice or speak more slowly.
This is a technique is know as mirroring and it basically means behaving as closely as you can to the other person. Speak at the same level they do, speak at the same speed and with the same tone. This doesn’t mean mimicking the other person – this would quickly switch them right off you. It’s about subtlety becoming more like the other person.
Why do we not grow up speaking like children?
You can also learn to mirror words and phrases, posture, eye contact, facial expression and hand gestures. Some people say they feel uncomfortable doing this; however, they often mirror people unconsciously. Just watch someone talking to a small child or a baby. They crouch down to the child’s level, they put a soft smile on their face and they talk in a childlike way.
If we can do it with children, then we can do it with adults particularly if you want them to accept you and what you say.
When you spend time with your people then it’s inevitable that that you’ll hear about their concerns and problems. These could be on a human level; however they’re more likely to be on a business level.
Whether it’s a human or a business problem, the same rules apply.
1. Don’t get hooked
Don’t react to a concern. It’s very easy to react with – ‘Here we go again, the same old moans and groans. They’re always on about this and there’s nothing I can do.’
If you react this way, then it’ll show on your face and in your tone of voice. The team member then thinks – ‘What’s the point; he’s not interested in my problems, why should I bother.’
Get into thinking mode and stay out of it emotionally. Concentrate on listening non-defensively and actively. If the team member makes disparaging and emotional remarks – don’t rise to the bait.
2. Listen – listen – listen
Look and sound like you’re listening. When face to face you need to look interested, nod your head and keep good eye contact. Over the phone you need to make the occasional ‘Uh-Huh – I see.’
I’ve seen managers, when faced with a problem from a team member, start to do something else, like work on the computer. And I’ve heard them say – ‘It’s okay, I can do two things at once, I can listen to you and work on the computer.’ Maybe you can, but the message your team member gets is – ‘My problem isn’t that important, my manager just isn’t interested.’
When you’re spending time with your people you need to give them your full attention. You need to look them in the eye, concentrate on them and make them feel that what they say is important and deserves your attention
3. Write it down
As well as looking interested in your team member’s concern, it’s a good idea to write it down. I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking – ‘I’ll remember that when I get back to the office and I’ll check on it.’ However, one person I was with said – ‘You wont do anything about that Alan because you wont remember it.’ From that point on I wrote things down.
4. Repeat back
It’s also a good idea to paraphrase what the team member has said to ensure your understanding and let them know you’ve been listening
5. Use names
It may seem like a simple thing but it’s very important. You could say in response to a concern – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that.’
It would be far better to say – ‘I’ll speak to the accounts department about that Susan, thank you for bringing it to my attention.’
A person’s name is one of the warmest sounds they ever hear. It says – ‘I recognize you as an individual.’
However, I suggest you don’t overdo it as it may come across as patronizing.
6. Take ownership
This is the same as dealing with an external customer. Your team members do not want to hear you say – ‘That’s nothing to do with me, that’s the sales departments fault.’ Do not blame someone or something else. It may be the responsibility of the sales department but it needs to be explained in a logical and factual wa
7. Watch out for people’s ego
If your team member is really wound up about something, let them get it off their chest. Don’t interrupt and don’t argue. Don’t jump in with solutions and try to solve the problem then and there. And for goodness sake, don’t ever say – ‘Calm down.’
8. See it from their point of vie
You might find it hard to understand what they’re on about; however put yourself in their shoes. If you were doing their job every day, how would you feel? You might even think that their concern is something fairly trivial and you think – ‘What’s the big deal, I’ll fix it right away.’
It is a big deal for the team member and they want you to appreciate it.
You don’t necessarily need to agree with them; however you need to accept the fact that it’s a problem for them
9. Be very aware of your body language and voice ton
We often exacerbate a situation without realizing it. Our tone of voice and our body language can often contradict what we’re saying. We may be saying ‘sorry’ however our tone and our body language may be communicating our frustration and annoyance. People listen with their eyes and will set greater credence on how you say something rather than what you say.
It’s also important to use a warm tone of voice when dealing with a team member’s problem. This doesn’t mean being ‘nicey-nicey’ or behaving in a non assertive manner. It’s about showing that you’re interested in what they’re saying and that you care
10. Words to avoid
The wrong tone of voice and body language can cause problems to get worse. However, using the wrong words can also cause problems. There are certain “trigger” words that cause people to become more difficult especially in emotionally charged situations and they should be avoided. These include:
Have to, as in – ‘You’ll have to speak to sales department yourself.’
I can’t or you can’t, as in – ‘I can’t do anything about that’ or ‘You can’t do that.’
I’ll try, as in ‘I’ll try and speak to finance department today.’
But, as in – ‘I agree with what you’re saying but……..’
Sorry, as in – ‘I’m sorry ‘bout that.’
Instead of the words ‘have to’ which are very controlling type words, why not try – ‘John, are you willing to…’ or just a straight ‘John, will you….’
Can’t, can be replaced with – ‘I’m unable to because….
‘I’ll try,’ which is pretty wishy-washy, can be replaced with something more honest – ‘This is what I can do Mary’ or ‘This is what I’m unable to do.’
‘But’ is a word that contradicts what was said before it, replace it with – ‘And’ or ‘However’ (which is a soft ‘but’) Instead of saying ‘but’ you could leave it out altogether.
For example; instead of – ‘I agree with what you’re saying but I can’t help you, use – ‘I agree with what you’re saying. The reason I’m unable to help you is……’
At the end of the day the answer to the team member could be ‘no’ however, choosing your words more carefully will have a more positive affect on how he or she reacts and ultimately responds to you.
‘Sorry’ is one of the words to avoid because it is so overused and it’s lost its value. Think of the number of times you’ve complained or commented about something and you hear – ‘Sorry ‘bout that.’ If you’re going to use the ‘sorry’ word then you need to use it as part of a whole sentence. ‘Susan, I’m sorry you’ve been receiving so many complaints.’
Sometimes it’s appropriate to use the word ‘apologize’ instead of ‘sorry.’ ‘Linda, I apologize for not getting you that information sooner.’
There are other things you can say instead of ‘sorry,’ you can empathize.
11. Deal with their feelings, and then deal with their problem
Using empathy is a very effective way to deal with a person’s feelings. Empathy isn’t about agreement, only acceptance of what the team member is saying and feeling. Basically the message is – ‘I understand how you feel.’
This really has to be a genuine response, the person will realize if you’re insincere and they’ll feel patronized.
Examples of empathy would be – ‘Chris, I can understand that you’re angry,’ or ‘I see what you mean.’ Again these responses need to be genuine.
12. Build rapport
Sometimes it’s useful to add another phrase to the empathy response, including yourself in the picture – ‘I can understand how you feel Colin, I don’t like that either when it happens to me.’ This has the effect of getting on the team members side and builds rapport.
Some people get concerned when using this response; they believe it’ll lead to – ‘Well why don’t you do something about it then?’
The majority of your team won’t respond this way if they realize that you are a reasonable and caring person. If they do then continue empathizing and tell the individual what you’ll do about the situation.
13. Under promise, over deliver
Whatever way you respond to a team member’s problem, do not make a rod for your own back. It’s often tempting in a difficult situation to make promises that are difficult to keep.
We say things like – ‘I’ll get this sorted this afternoon Paul and I’ll phone you back.’ It may be extremely difficult to get it sorted this afternoon.
Far better to say – ‘I’ll get this sorted by tomorrow afternoon Paul.’ Then phone Paul back the same afternoon or early the next morning and he’ll think you’re great.
14. You don’t win them all
Remember, everyone gets a little mad from time to time and you won’t always be able to placate or resolve your team member’s problem; there’s no magic formula. However the majority of people in this world are reasonable people, and if you treat them as such, then they’re more likely to respond in a positive manner.
NLP practitioners talk about mirroring and matching the behaviour of other people. It’s not about mimicking them, it’s more about behaving as they do, making them feel that you have good rapport with them. Many people do this naturally; let me give you an example.
Let’s say that you had just met some friends and they had a small child with them. You would stand and talk with your friends in an adult manner. When they introduced you to the child you’d probably squat down to the child’s level, speak more softly and with a more child like voice. In other words you don’t use the same words, tone of voice, or body language with the child as you would do with the adults.
When interacting with adults, it improves your ability to build rapport, if you match the other person’s words, tone and body language.
Say for example, you were dealing with someone who spoke fairly quietly and slowly. It would improve your rapport building, if you spoke quietly and slowly. Your natural style may be to speak quickly and loudly, but that will not improve your rapport building skills.
One of the other factors highlighted by NLP is that we all have a sensory preference when we communicate with other people. There are the visual people who are more influenced by what they see. The auditory people are more influenced by what comes in through their ears. And then, there are the kinaesthetic people, who are more concerned by how something feels. There are also olfactory people who are primarily influenced by smell and gustatory people who are influenced by taste; however, these are less common.
Most of us communicate from our visual, audible or kinaesthetic senses. Visual people will say things like – ‘I see what you mean’ or ‘This looks good to me.’ Whereas an auditory person would say – ‘I hear what you’re saying’ or ‘This sound good to me.’ The kinaesthetic person would say – ‘I get a good feeling about this’ or ‘This feels good to me.’
To build rapport with another person, particularly a difficult person, it makes sense to use their sensory preference. To a visual person you might say – ‘Show me what you mean.’ If you observed that the person you were interacting with was an auditory person, it would be better to say – ‘Tell me what you mean.’ If you were aware that you were with a kinaesthetic person, you would say – ‘Can you demonstrate what you mean?
If you want to get better at identifying the different preferences, think about yourself or those closest to you.
I, for example, am very visual and kinaesthetic. I know this because I’m not particularly interested in music. I own about six CD’s and I’ve only ever been to two music concerts in my life. I’d far rather watch a film or see some kind of production in the theatre. I’m interested in art, and I always spot friends in the street before they see me. If you want to explain something to me, it’s best to show me a drawing or something written down. My kinaesthetic side is satisfied if you let me get my hands on something.
People, who are not highly auditory, are also not particularly good readers of books. This is because, when we read, we tend to talk to ourselves inside our brain. So reading is more an auditory sense than a visual one.
To build good rapport with difficult people, find out what their sensory preference is, and communicate to them from that level.