Interactions with foreign clients and customers are best begun by being quick to hear and slow to speak. By being alert and sensitive to THEIR EXPECTATIONS, using caution to avoid putting your map on others and by mirroring their cultural pattern of business and social behavior you can build rapport and win favor with foreign clients.
Stereotypes and summarizations are usually done prematurely in haste with a large amount of speculative presumption. Certainly many have hung themselves and thwarted many good business relationships by their impatience and lack of cross-cultural awareness.
Certainly some (and perhaps many) individuals in a particular group tend to share certain characteristics. Yet given socio-economic factors, which vary widely in foreign countries between the haves and have-nots, it is wise not to presume anything.
Undoubtedly the "up-and-out" live better and communicate differently than the "down-and-out" in any country or society. Not to mention that great disparity and invisible gulf between people within even their own cities and countries is an unspoken attitude which you must discern and appropriately navigate around respectfully with grace.
Nevertheless for Americans (citizens of the United States) especially (25% of which do not even own passports and therefore have most likely never journeyed abroad) generalizations simplify other cultures and people from different countries. America geographically however extends well beyond the United States including nations from Canada to Argentina (perhaps herein lies some of the confusion and arrogance as people in the USA often refer to themsleves as "Americans" in exclusive fashion, not even considering others within the Americas).
Of course this is the most lazy approach to dealing with people whom you know little about. And as I previously mentioned earlier, this clueless and self-absorbed disinterested approach rarely endears people to you and therefore seldom pays off.
Of course for self-centered, clueless and arrogant people generalizations help them cope and remain enclosed within their isolated rigid and frigid world. But if you are endeavoring to be successful in the global economy, you must abandon this mentality.
Generalizations therefore are only useful guidelines to get you started and perhaps in the vicinity of the individual with whom you are going to be interacting. Generalizations however should never hold you in captivity, nor be held to rigidly.
As you observe each individual's personality, social interactions, communication style, mannerisms and behavior adjust and modify your approach with them accordingly. Revise your opinions and responses as necessary to ensure a solid rapport, interpersonal connection and warm dialogue and communication are established.
Upon observing how an individual’s behavior and reactions match or differ from our understanding of their culture and expectations make the necessary adjustments in your interpersonal approach.
Stereotypes are often misnomers that misguide, misdirect and demean both your client and you (revealing your own stupidity and lack of cultural sensitivity).
Don't allow stereotypes and generalizations to distract you, nor interfere with your heartfelt sensitivity and ability to treat people as individuals.
I myself in all candor and honesty have repeatedly failed at this miserably (and that despite my good intentions). One of my most common blunders is to ask foreigners and immigrants now living in America, "Where are you from?"
At least half of more of them say coldly or sternly, "America" as if to assert their citizenship.
I however as a world traveler (having visited 60 countries and lived in several continents) simply was curious and hoping to connect with them at a cultural level and further familiarize myself with their ancestral origins and country.
Again despite our heartfelt intentions and sincerity, if spoken improperly we can easily erect walls of distrust and sow seeds of discord to frustrate and alienate the very people we are trying to connect with at a deeper level.
One thing I learned from my friends in east India when asking for someone's name is to say: "What is your GOOD name?"
By inserting the word "good" before name, it removes some suspicion and fear people have of you asking them their name.
Company reps sometimes feel threatened by you knowing their name, as if you are seeking to report them for poor service or something they've done wrong.
However when you insert "good" before name, your request for a person's name is perceived to be more positive and less threatening.
How amazing it is to see the interpersonal shift in cross-cultural communications with just one word, which greatly can alter the dialogue, interaction and means of expression.
Knowing this be extra careful and super sensitive. Choose your words wisely.
Bury stereotypes and generalizations as they can be presumptuous and hazardous to your business success.
Employ and put in place diversity business practicies and policies that honor people's differences cross-culturally. As you do expect employees, clients, associates and prospects to increase their level of respect for you and your company.
Cultural sensitivity will greatly enhance your ability to communicative effectively cross-culturally, increase company profitability and lead to successful transactions that result in repeat business.
Paul F Davis - worldwide speaker on diversity and executive consultant for success
info @ PaulFDavis.com
Paul F. Davis is a Global Property Specialist, Green Homes and Buildings Consultant and Debt Arbitrator for financial freedom.
Paul is the author of 18 books and a worldwide speaker who has touched 60 countries building bridges cross-culturally by joyfully disarming and empowering people throughout the earth to transcend their limitations and live their dreams!
info @ PaulFDavis.com
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