Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt: F.U.D and Communication Success

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with several business managers, one an international business manager. He mentioned the term “FUD”.  When speaking with a national salesperson a few days later, I heard the same term, F.U.D.  When I asked for a definition, they explained that uncertainties and expectations might lead someone to make decisions about a person or item before the individual has fully researched it.

New Positions, Job Searches and Networking

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) enter into communication success when we walk into a room of strangers.  To allay these feelings, individuals often may make judgments and conclusion before they have even heard someone else speak.

What are they wearing? Is the other person someone of similar or different nationality or background?  They begin to make judgments about the other person’s communication patterns before the other person speaks.

First Impressions

A colleague of mine speaks Standard American English. She sounds like one of our broadcast journalists.  She is of Indian descent and was raised in the USA and Europe.  She does speak four other languages with appropriate pronunciation for each language.

At times, she has been mistaken as being of Latin descent with another person proclaiming that they cannot understand her because they immediately assumed that she would be speaking with a Spanish accent.  The other person made an “auditory” judgment because of a “visual” cue.  These are difficult to maneuver.

Team Communication

However, most international teams work to overcome these first impressions, especially during meeting and teleconferences.   What happens when they try three times and still do not fully understand their colleagues?   Uncertainty creeps in.

Team members may ask another familiar colleague to explain later or they may ask for repetitions.  If that doesn’t work, they ask more questions, ask for written data or set up more meetings.

Fear creeps in before following meetings.  Doubt creates distrust or passivity.   Work is delayed, incomplete or cast aside.  Time and Cost overruns ensue.


Siow Vigman, former CFO for Dr. Fresh, LLC and former CFO of Guitar Center, has more information in the Dec/Jan 2013 article, Global Challenges in Workforce Solutions magazine.

Strategies for Successful Clarity and Productivity

To avoid the Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt outcomes in multicultural communication, here are three strategies.

  • Establish a Global Mentoring program similar to one designed by IBM in 2008.  When team members have mentors from other cultures, they are more likely to have collaboration by increased cultural intelligence, accent and language familiarity.
  • According to a new study from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, live face-to- face interactions demonstrated greater out put and increased trust.
  • The best communication is through repetition of ideas and in small segments.
    • Make plans to discuss three (3) simple ideas related to one (1) subject at a time.
    • Use written format before the meetings (emails): With the meeting and after the meeting for feedback and understanding.
    • Check-up and Follow-up with each participant and their mentors before and after the meeting.

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