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)

If you have a telephone, you have had the experience of talking to a support center person or a sales person with an accent.  My mother, who is very hearing impaired struggles with this.   And….so do many of the managers and their international teams, who are not hearing impaired.  The phone is better than straight email.  It allows for flexibility of Q & A’s. Until, someone stops listening… Why?

Sometimes it feels like we are dealing with multiple “distortions” on these phone conferences. So, we move closer to the phone.  Then we have others speak LOUDER, s-l-o-w-er, ask for repetitions or clarification.

Finally we ask the other person or get asked, “Can you send me an email about that?” or worse, someone just …..Stops Listening.

And, no matter how valuable the information is – the other person is not “buying” our ideas.  The tenet for many in sales is:  “A confused mind never buys.”

Why do people seem to understand each other when someone is talking live and yet struggle when they are on the phone?

Several reasons.

1. When speaking face to face we subconsciously use facial gestures and body language that cues the listener on the emotional tone as well as (even small) gestures that indicated size and shape of what we are discussing. Also a speaker can subconsciously monitor the listener’s body language and modify their message if they observe confusion.   We cannot observe each other on the phone.  Even videoconferencing is difficult as we feel constrained to  one position. In person, our subconscious gives us lots of information, letting us modify and edit much quicker. We do not get that with phone call meetings.

2. We all know that Native English speakers have a much more difficult time understanding speakers of English as a second language (L2 English speakers) than do the L2 speakers seem to understand each other.  Why?  “Not because it’s less difficult

It is because they are already accustomed to paying attention for longer periods.  However, they still get confused as we get confused with the differences in the pronunciation; the dropped syllables (“Idee” for “Ide-a”) strange vowels, (“Tex” for “Takes), different stress patterns (“e-CON-o-mic” for “e-co-NOM-ic”), along with different sentence rhythms that we are accustomed to in native English.

Most L2 English speakers will not tell you that they do not understand.  Most Native English speakers do not tell the L2 speakers that they do not understand.  They each get off of the phone and complain.

GOAL: Get the information on the First Call.

STRATEGY: Avoid confusion:

(a) Send a full transcript of information and information requests (in sentences) of your side of the conversation. Have them send their response, also.
(b) Speak slower and use repetition.
(c) Simplify the number of topics to be in the phone call.  Keep it to 3 or 4 topics at most:  (d) Have only one, yes, just  (1), primary “call to action” per phone call.  – Teams from Asia often feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of “deliverables” that their Western counterparts demand.

And often the language of the requests is filled with colloquialisms that are unfamiliar to them. So…they get confused and do not “deliver”. When they successfully deliver two or three different times, then make it two “deliverables”.  You need them to perform, so break it into small bites.