Do you adapt first within your intercultural context? If you do — bravo! That means you don’t a keep a who-should-adapt-to-who-first score card. You also know how to adapt to another culture’s customs and values, such as how to express politeness. However, are you able to adapt how you speak and listen when using English as a second language with people from other cultures?
Increase Your Awareness of How You Speak and Listen
Becoming more aware of speaking and listening is the first step to expanding your ability to adapt how you communicate interculturally. That’s the approach I take with my clients and seminar participants, who are looking for ways to resolve their intercultural communication problems. On their own they rarely consider examining how they speak or listen. That is why I often claim that for most of us, language is transparent. In other words, we do not see what it is or how it works.
You Can Change How You Speak and Listen
I noticed that her style of speaking included lengthy explanations of the legal principles that lay behind her recommendations. I found it difficult to understand what she was saying, due to those complicated explanations. When people do not understand you, they tend to mistrust your competence. I pointed this out to her and she agreed to adapt, with my guidance.
Over the course of several sessions I helped her to become more aware of her way of speaking and listening. I also taught her my practical and easy to learn five-step CLEAR Method for expressing opinions more concisely and confidently. She began practicing that immediately during meetings with her colleagues.
After three sessions she reported significant results. She told me that, “I was not aware before meeting you that it was my long explanations that were confusing others. It is now obvious to me that none of my clients really want me to explain why I write the contracts the way I do or why I give them my recommendations.” As a result of adapting how she spoke to her colleagues, her meetings were taking less time and they trusted her more.
You Can Master Writing and Speaking in English as a Second Language
It is positive feedback like this from my clients that inspired me to write my book Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language. I know it’s a long title but I wanted to express that it is possible to master communicating in English as a foreign language. I see every day with my clients that effective intercultural communication is not a luxury in today’s fast-paced international business environment — it is a necessity.
When you are using English as a second language on the phone, in emails, during meetings or for presentations, are you adapting how you speak and listen as effectively as possible? From my perspective, that is an essential skill within an intercultural setting. If you are already in the habit of being the first to adapt to others, you can also be the one to lead the way in adapting how you speak and listen.
This site, my posts, actions and tweets, are all dedicated to increasing your awareness and expanding your competences in speaking and listening for intercultural business contexts. I hope you will continue to join me on this site and to keep adapting.