Recently, I attended the annual NECINA (New England Chinese Information and Networking Association) in the KMPG Conference center in downtown Boston.

 

They had an impressive list of distinguished speakers, including Dr. Peter Petri, the Founding Dean of Brandeis International School of Business, and Mr. Harry Zhu, founder and CEO of Wayou Networks, MA in Physics from Harvard and past president of Carbonite China.    Each was knowledgeable and engaging.  Some participants took notes on their phones.

 

Then Ms. Liqi Peng, Global Brand Director, Proctor and Gamble spoke.  She addressed several topics on leadership, many of which were about culture and communication differences in a Chinese workplace and a Western workplace.  She cited some of her experiences with phrases one should not use in the Western workplace and the consequences.  And, she gave the audience more appropriate responses.

I noticed many more participants taking notes.

 

We can talk about specific behaviors expected in communication styles in order to advance, yet, most often, we want to know what transitional phrases and words to say and when to say them.

 

These resources are often included in our training, targeting speaking clarity and accent, pause and body language during the role-playing as well as giving the individuals specific and meaningful vocabulary and phrasing strategies for effective leadership communication in a Western workplace.

 

Here are some phrases to use in different scenarios:

For Negotiations And Confirmation Of Terms*:

  • Just to confirm, we ….
  • Per our agreement, you will……, And, we will…
  • As you agreed, you will …

 

Phrases To Effectively Respond To Others Ideas Include: Hint: Use “We” or “That” versus “you” **

  • “Name”, That is an interesting/thought provoking idea/concept…
  • That / this opens up some considerations for ….
  • We may want to consider…..

 

Phrases To Use With Your Boss: Hint: Use “We” or “That versus “you” **

  • ….. to do what is best for the team/project/company. 
  • ..…to do what will increase marketability / productivity / possibilities /…
  • I look forward to working on this.. /…. with you/.. OR  ” I appreciate the opportunity to ….”

 

These are only some that work well in the Western workplace.  Here are strategies to implement these.  You will notice more positive responses to your ideas.

  • Take a small notebook or use your smartphone into meetings or on teleconferences:
  • Document “transitional phrases” that the leaders and/or savvy communicators use
  • Take one phrase a week and work it into your daily communication.

 

**Resources: Christopher Wright’s “Quick Business English System” and “How to Say It at Work “ by Jack Griffin.

Are you working on getting your great ideas understood?  You have worked hard to develop these ideas.  Now is your time to shine.  Here is how.

With all that we are asked to do, it is often difficult to recall the sequences of steps necessary to add the American accent.  Here is a quick “review”.

The Review from October 1, 2013: In order of importance:

  • Resolution: Realize that it takes lots of practice to gain a new skill.  Resolve to do what it takes.
  • Professional Software: The best interactive software that I’ve found in the last twenty years is English Talk Shop.  http://www.englishtalkshop.com/.   Start with the “LISTEN & CHOOSE” segment.  You can’t say a sound that you can’t hear!
    Contact me for a discount code on each program. 
  • Find a Mentor:  It’s best to have a native North American English speaker as a mentor to help when there are questions.
  • Toastmasters International clubs:http://www.toastmasters.org/ are good place to find and use mentors. Look up “Find a Club” on the upper right or on the Left sidebar to find clubs near you.  Visit those that say: “Open to all.
  • Decrease your Speaking Rate to 100-110 WPM [Words Per Minute]: Often, your listeners must “edit” what you are saying. That means that it will take them extra time to determine the words.  If they have to edit more than 2 or 3 times in a couple of sentences, they often stop listening.

The “Rest of the Story” May, 2014

  • Listening Discrimination: Can you hear the differences between two words with the two different sounds in single words or short phrases? If we cannot hear the differences in the speech of someone else, then how would we be able to detect if we are pronouncing it correctly or incorrectly?  Your ability to hear the differences in all of your accent targets must be at 90% accuracy across ten sets of ten lists (100 trials). “English Talk Shop” has an excellent tool to help a student accomplish this.
  • Speaking:  Single Words: Basically, one cannot run correctly if they are not walking correctly.  We must start with single words.  One sound at a time –

EXAMPLE: *Target three (3) words with the sound that you want to change

*Practice these initially, at three sets of each target sound in single words. Do this with your mentor.

*Attain a 90% correct on each of three successive sets of each of the sounds.

*Choose 3 more. And continue the process until you have 20-30 words with that target sound in the beginning, middle or final positions of words. Example: “Those: mother: bathe”

  • Phrases: Use the “English Talk Shop” phrases or something similar. Record, listen and assess yourself 20 to 30 times.  Listen and assess.
    Are you at 9 of 10 correct?  If not, ask a mentor to listen and grade you until you are at 90% for each set of 10 phrases.
  • Sentence Reading: Use the sentences in English Talk Shop. Listen and score your efforts.
    Did you make the correct sound/stress pattern/linking 9 out of 10 times? If not, again, use your mentor.
  • Responses in Sentences & Phrases: EXAMPLE:
    *Create your own sentences and phrases with the words with target sound. Or you can type the target word into “Google”.   There you will find multiple sentences from articles or websites.
    *Read and Record these and play each on back.  Does it sound correct? If not, do NOT proceed until you can make the sound correctly.
    *Next:  Pull out a word or phrase and design a new sentence without writing or reading it. Record this.  Does it sound better or worse? Say 90% correctly.
  • Cannot determine this as yet?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor.  What do they say?
  • Paragraph Reading:
    *Choose a paragraph from a favorite newspaper or professional publication.  Even better, a white paper related to your industry.  You want to increase your clarity in your industry to increase your prospects of advancing.
    *Hi-light one target sound in all of the words of a paragraph with yellow. For example:  For all of the /th/ sounds throughout the paper.
    *Read, Record, Replay and Assess: Did you produce 90% of them correctly?  If not, do it again until you can do it three (3) times in a row.
  • Still uncertain if it is correct or not?  Record a “memo” on your phone and text or email it to your mentor or to me at: p.thesier@accentmgtgroup.com. I will be happy to listen and give you a free analysis.
  • Finally!    Multiple Sentences: 60 Second Reply: Most of what we do throughout our workday is respond to questions from colleagues and clients on the phone or in meetings.  These are usually “extemporaneous”. This means that we often know what we are talking about, yet it is not a “prepared” speech.  However, these situations often cause individuals to speak less clearly.
  • To practice, have a mentor at your work ask you questions and have you record your responses.  Again, Record, Replay and Assess. How did you do?  If it is not 90% across three successive tries….Try again.  You must be able to have control at an “automatic” level.

UPDATES:

I’m traveling again this summer.  If you are in any of these places, too, Contact me!  Let’s have a cup of tea or coffee.

May 30, 2014 – June 15, 2014: Clients in Massachusetts at TechSandBox.org

June 5, 2014 – TV Guest of Helen Fu: Your Health Compass: http://www.westfordcat.org/

June 5, 2014:  9am – 10:30am Toastmasters at TechSandbox.org

August 20  – 27, 2014: Malaysia:  Toastmasters International World Conference

 

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.

Last week, I spent several days with one of my “accountability partners”.  I call them my AP’s.  You may call them a Mentor.

I work with one who guides me through social media.  She gently guides me and gives me next steps.  This works “a bit”.  I am posting a bit more.

However, my “Accountability Partner” for business strategies is tough.  She has pushed herself harder  toward her goals than most others I know.  And she pushes me to become better.  Analyzing specific steps and actions that I take, having me rework and redo.

Having to be told, “Not good enough.  You can do better.” is not pleasant, yet, I get better. She demands more. It’s startling and I work to meet her standards.

This is what you want in your own Accountability Partner – Someone that listens to your practice of your speaking speed, your target word lists or paragraphs, analyzes it with you and says:

“Not good enough. You can do better.”

You practice, get feedback and try again.

If you want to get better at programming, you share it with an experienced programmer and get their feedback. Then, go practice again.

However, I hear so many folks say that they cannot “find” someone to listen to them.

Have they asked, really?

 

The greatest word in the English language is “Help”.

Most Americans that I know in the workplace want to see their international colleagues succeed.  All they want to know is how to help.

Here is how to ask someone to help you with reducing your speaking speed:

  1. Choose a set of three (3) different paragraphs; each at 100 to 120 words.  Find paragraphs with shorter words and sentences in them.  News articles are designed for this.
  2. Practice each of the paragraphs until you can say each in about 55 to 60 seconds.  Yes – Practice! Honor the other person’s willingness to help you.
  3. The day before the set time – The 20 or 30 minutes that they work with you – Send them the three (3) paragraphs and tell your AP that you want to do these in 55 – 60 seconds.
  4. On the meeting day – be ready with your own recorder (Try the voice memo app on your phone.)  Have the paragraph color-coded at the commas and periods, so you can tell where you are pausing.
  5. Be ready – to accept Feedback: You WANT feedback. So that you try again and again until you feel comfortable speaking slower in front of another person.

This is the goal.   You want to be able to be understood in front of a listener.

 

Now, it’s my turn.  I want to use social media more.  I think it’s time to ask my Social Media AP to get tough with me.  Do more practice. And, get more feedback.

 

And next, ….. Who is your Communication Accountability Partner  that is giving you feedback? Go ask a Toastmaster, a co-worker, a teacher, someone who will be honest with you, so that you may Effectively Communicate your Brilliance.

 

Recently, I gave a presentation and a workshop to a large group of International MBA students at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Three second-year MBA students assisted me.  Two of them were from China.

Each had a story of  “code-switching” of accents and grammar when they were doing their internships. They noted that when they spoke Mandarin with another student from China before going to a meeting where they spoke English, they found that their American colleagues less understood their English.

After listening to a meeting recording, they understood.  They were “code-switching”: In effect, using some Mandarin sound system, rhythm and grammar rules when they were speaking English.

The confused listener did not understand and stopped listening to the speaker.

Does this happen to you?

A Sports Analogy

All of us watch or play an athletic sport, correct?  And in each one of these sports, the players use the muscles in their legs, arms and hands in similar yet also different moves, timing and strength, dependent upon the desired target movement. Those muscles are the same muscles for each sport, yet moved differently.

As one moves the muscles the same way consistently, the muscles develop adaptation and facilitation to produce the similar sequence with out conscious thought.  This is called procedural memory.

Coaches highly discourage playing different sports during a season so that the athlete does not “confuse” the muscle -procedural memory. Confusing the muscle memory makes them less effective players on the field.

The same holds true for speaking.  Sound systems are practiced repeatedly within our mother tongue or with peers who sound as we do.  Yet when we change to a different language the “accent – procedural memory” of our first language over-rides and code – switching ensues.  Now the listener is confused. The accent that the listener is accustomed to is the one that they grew up with.  When we “code-switch” or use sounds systems/accent of our 1st language with a 2nd language, the listener cannot understand the sounds, rhythm or words to understand the message.

Our listeners try, yet have difficulty understanding and stop listening.  We lose our listener.  And maybe the sale or a promotion………………

Knowing the Different “CODES” 

Sound System or Codes

Sound systems in speaking are produced by muscles in the mouth and throat using with specific movements of the lips, tongue, voice and breath to generate the target sound or movements in coordination with following movements. The timing of the each of these muscles and muscle groups yields changes in sounds, voicing and voicing timing, pitch tones, air-flow, linking, place of the articulators, resonance and rhythm.  Then there are accepted subtle body language behaviors that also contribute to communication.

Talking is another “sport” where we move the same muscles, approximately 72 muscles, and muscle groups around for the same desired results – Winning the game of “Effective communication” in the language we are using or ”playing”.

As said before, languages of the world share some sounds, yet not all.  In the following articles, you’ll see which sounds North American English (NAE) does not share with other languages.

Although there are many, other differences that we will also discuss include:

  • Clusters or consonant blends,
  • Word endings
  • Sound linking between words
  • Rhythm
  • Stress patterns and tones

NEXT TIME:  The strategies for the the sound system and accent “code” of North American English (NAE)

When I was in my first year of college, I was given the Book “The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck.  The first sentence resounded with me as I struggled with emotions.  I had just lost my mother in the middle of a week of very difficult university tests.  The rest of the paragraph gave me comfort and insight.

“Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth, because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult–once we truly understand and accept it–then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I was determining my direction in life and this helped to move me forward.

 

On visits home, my father had often invited me to come to one of his Toastmaster’s clubs.  In his downtown club was a gentleman who had been a favorite of mine as a teenager.  Courtney had been to radio announcer for our local city radio station. He had once had a deep resonant voice with a range of pitch and volume that could entertain even the most aloof listener. Now, he had lost his larynx and very nearly his life to cancer of the throat.

 

Yet, here was Courtney, arduously manipulating the limited electro-larynx, sounding like a robot and working to develop pacing and strategies that would somewhat humanize his speaking. To understand him, the audience had to listen very closely.  Each of us had to analyze, edit and wait as he spoke and closely watched his audience for cues; cues on what he was to change or repeat to be more readily understood.

 

His audience was a group of patient and supportive Toastmasters. The group was composed of a couple of farmers, two professionals – One a scientist from India and another an Asian engineer that were from the local research division of an international company; three or four local business owners, my father among them, a physician and Courtney.  We all listened raptly.

Please remember that I was a nineteen-year-old, not known for listening.  Like most, I liked to hear the sound of my own voice and have others listen to me.

This group of Toastmasters and Courtney taught me a fascinating lesson.  Listening was an invigorating experience.  I listened with my eyes and ears, watching and discerning each movement and analyzing how Courtney managed to make a robotic voice come alive.  I listened to the sounds and words, finding that I needed to edit and then come back to the speech, working to keep abreast of the story.  I watched Courtney observe his audience. He listened to their sighs, adjusted and repeated as needed, adding gestures and facial movements to illustrate his points. He did all this with a robotic-sounding, battery-powered mechanism he held against his scarred neck.

He worked as hard or even harder at listening and observing as the audience did.

Life, then, was extremely painful and difficult for Courtney.  He had accepted it and was moving on, trying, failing, retrying, learning and excelling.

The lesson gained from Courtney and Toastmasters was to:

  • Listen more intently
  • Observe more thoroughly …..And….
  • Find out how to help individuals of all types to become better speakers.

How to develop an “Articulate Advantage”, no matter what our circumstances.

Resistance to Change?
I periodically work with executive and communication coach, Suzanne Bates of Bates Communications and subscribe to her blog. Her weekly blog post, “Thoughts for Tuesday” struck a cord today.

This week’s “Thoughts for Tuesday” post was about moving and change…. something that most of my clients have done in a big way. Moving from one country to another. I understand. My husband and I have moved many times, both domestically and internationally.

Resistance happens.

It’s what my mother-in-law (my husband’s mother) calls the “Moving Crazies”.

With every move of many different extended family members, each individual has had to learn new ‘cultures” and communication styles of the regions, new traffic patterns, new foods, find new friends, support systems. And adapt to new schools and work environments.

It’s hard to learn new lifestyle habits. Our brain has its own resistance to change.

Having to learn new communication skills as well as new cultural behaviors can create “Resistance”. Most resist and then tentatively try again. You gain what seems to be an “acceptable” communication style, which works…for a while.

Then you get a new position, a new boss, or new co-workers. There are miscommunications and missed opportunities. You resist and ignore these, thinking that it will be okay. Yet, it’s not. You find more missed opportunities because you are left out of conversations or miss pieces of information.

I have great admiration for those who follow their careers to a totally new country, leaving family and familiar support systems far behind. I’ve done this.

Resistance happened.

And, as I’ve learned from a many of my clients, co-workers and friends… When misunderstandings happen;

Ask for help. Find out what you do right as well as what’s wrong.
Get advice for one to two actions that you can work to change for 30-60 days.
Daily practice that action. Nothing happens without practice.
Get an “Accountability Partner” to give you honest feedback every week or so.
When you can readily and easily do these actions, choose two more.
Celebrate your successes with a friend, a reward for habituating your new skill. When our success is celebrated with someone else, we are more likely to maintain that skill.
Enjoy and embrace the exhilaration of new learning. Change is worth it.