my American audiences. In fact, the
group was completely silent at times.
Initially, I thought they were uninterested in my content, but I quickly
learned that the Japanese are very
respectful and do not want to lose face
or get embarrassed in front of their
peers. They are also very good listeners
and want to absorb as much knowledge
as possible, especially from a well-known speaker or author. They tend to
take lots of notes and wait until the end
of the seminar to ask questions, instead
of constantly interrupting the instructor
as some American audiences do.
You can learn a lot about your
clients and colleagues by noticing their
nonverbal communication, such as
body language and facial expressions.
And the best way to put others at ease
is to smile. Smiling is the universal language and is never misunderstood.
Put Relationships First
In the United States, we often make
business our first priority, shaking
hands and then sitting down to hammer
out the deal. In other cultures, such
as in Asia, Latin America and the
Middle East, people put a premium
on relationship protocol that helps
build the basis of a relationship.
You may go to
tea several times in
Japan, or be given
a tour of the city
in South America,
followed by lunch
before ever dis-
time and are built
on trust and respect.
I also try to get to know a little bit
of personal information about my
hosts, without being nosey or invasive.
In turn, I tell them a little bit about my
interests and hobbies. I do this slowly
and only if I think it’s appropriate. This
openness helps establish a common
bond and provides something interesting to talk about other than business.
When traveling internationally, notice
how people act, dress and treat each
other. If you can interpret a situation
correctly, you can improve your ability
to fit in.
Most recently, I went to Mexico
City and I noticed that no one on the
streets was wearing shorts. This seemed
odd to me since it was hot and humid
outside. My taxi driver (who was originally born and raised in California) told
me that people are more conservative
and don’t want to get a lot of sun on
their legs. That’s when I changed my
plans and decided not to wear a t-shirt
and shorts during my sightseeing trip
around the city. I wanted to blend in
instead of standing out.
Speaking of standing out, you can
usually tell an American from a local
by the shoes they wear. If you want to
blend in, avoid wearing white sneakers
out in public. This is a sure sign that
you’re a tourist! Also, try to avoid
being too loud or outspoken in public.
Study your surroundings and notice
how others behave. Where do people
place their hands during dinner?
How does your host signal the server?
You can learn a lot
about your clients and
colleagues by noticing their
such as body language and
facial expressions. And the
best way to put others at ease
is to smile. Smiling is the
universal language and is
When people don’t
share the same language,
lines of communication can
weaken and misunderstandings
are apt to take place.
A book signing at the Bookworm,
Toasting to a successful
conference in Hangzhou,