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Communication for International Business by Bob Dignen and Ian Mcmaster

This article was inspired by Bob Dignen and Ian Mcmaster's Communication for International Business . If you enjoy this article then consider purchasing or borrowing the book.

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How to Successfully Communicate with International Business Professionals

“The moment we assume that we have complete knowledge, we become dangerous communicators.”

Before native English speakers communicate with non-native speakers, they must tailor the message to suit their international audience. International business professionals often complain that English, which is already a complex language, is spoken too quickly and with unneeded figures of speech and abbreviations. When preparing a speech for non-native speakers, consider the three following factors:

  1. “Culture” – Without understanding the cultural values of your audience, your message can not only be misunderstood, but also offensive.
  2. “Person” – Though culture is important, remember that individuals have different mind sets. Pay attention to the personalities of your audience members.
  3. “Business context” – Communicate within your “business environment” appropriately.

A survey conducted by Business Spotlight indicates that 86% of non-native speakers think that native speakers talk too quickly, 56% find the speakers’ words hard to understand and 56% say that speakers don’t pronounce words understandably. In order to bridge the language gap, understand and address non-native speakers’ complaints. The 11 following tips are a good place to start:

  1. “Slow down and stay slowed down” – If you have learned a foreign language or listened to foreign conversations, your biggest complaint would probably be that they talk too quickly. Talking slowly is being considerate of your audience.
  2. “Speak clearly” – Don’t needlessly shorten your words and phrases.
  3. “Speak more simply” – Avoid abbreviations and use the simplest words possible.
  4. “Check understanding” – Politely ensure that a non-native speaker understands you.
  5. “Use a standard accent” – Accents make comprehension even more difficult for non-native speakers. Utilize the “standard British or American pronunciation model.”
  6. “Speak less” – Talk to your colleagues in short segments, then offer them the chance to ask questions for clarity.
  7. “Be structured and logical” – Lay out your address in points, such as “firstly, secondly, and thirdly.”
  8. “Avoid humor” – Humor can break the ice in a situation where everyone shares the same language and cultural background; however, your jokes could offend people from another culture.
  9. “Take turns” – Get feedback. You want to communicate with business professionals, not share your thoughts without giving them the opportunity to comment.
  10. “Avoid sudden changes of subject” – Changing the subject suddenly and without proper transitions can confound your listener(s).
  11. “Native-to-native: Be careful!” – Don’t let native speakers’ presence dictate your communication strategy. If non-native speakers are also in attendance, continue to speak in a way they will understand.

Realize that you may be reflexively prejudiced against your foreign colleagues because they aren’t exactly like you. Be happy to meet international business professionals, as this will most likely garner a positive result from your meeting. Learn all you can about the people you deal with.

Email the people you meet before the actual get together. This breaks the ice and gives you an idea of what to expect. Nonverbal forms of communication can be effective, but ensure your emails are specific and not overwhelming.


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