How can you build a business relationship with your client when you have the feeling you can’t get into the conversation? Your conversation partner talks and talks and you lose interest in the conversation.
This could just be the way your client communicates. But it might also be related to his/ her culture.
This is just one communication style you can encounter when dealing with different cultures in business.
You might also encounter people with a more passive style of communication. They might not talk much and silence could also be used as part of a conversation.
Finally, there can also be different types of formality used in a conversation. Understanding different levels of formality in English is key to your ability to make connections with your English-speaking clients and colleagues. I am going to help you deal with all three of these communication styles, so you can feel more confident in business English communication.
Better Business English Communication: dealing with talkative types.
Let’s have a look at the first situation described. How would you react when your conversation partner talks a lot?
Surely it depends on the situation but in general there is always the opportunity to interrupt politely. For example:
- May I come in here?,
- May I interrupt?
- Wait a minute, Susan.
In this way, no harm is done and you have created a nice opportunity to contribute your ideas to the conversation
This conversation style is often found in more extrovert cultures like the Southern Europeans for example.
Better Business English Communication: more reserved conversation styles
With a more reserved, passive conversation style it might be a good idea to be patient and to listen actively. You could for example repeat some key words your conversation partner used to get him/ her talking a little more. Let’s have a look at an example:
Yrsa from Iceland: You have really nice weather in Italy.
Salvatore: What exactly is nice weather for you, Yrsa?
This way Yrsa can dive deeper into the conversation and Salvatore might find some common ground with her.
You can find this passive conversation style in Northern European and Asian countries. Depending on your own personality it can be a little challenging especially when there are phases of silence in the conversation. In this case it is recommendable to accept the silence for some time. So you can build trust with your conversation partner.
Better Business English Communication: formal conversation styles
Finally you may come across formal conversation styles in your Business English communication. In Germany for example we distinguish between Du and Sie when addressing somebody. It is similar to tu and vous in French.
When we need to communicate with somebody from an English speaking country in a CEO position for example it is not so easy to call him/ her by the first name. Not being sure how formal to be is an issue in many languages, for example sometimes people don’t know whether they should use Sie or Du when they speak to the CEO in German after addressing him by his first name in English before. When we use Sie some people tend to respect the other person a little more, especially when it is a rather hierarchical business or company. But when you show your line manager less respect because you are using first names and Du you can seem like a stressful person to deal with.
On the opposite the language the CEO uses for communicating with us defines the level of formality we use with each other. He could say for example: “Please take a seat.” Or: “May I ask you to take a seat.” The first example is less formal than the second one.
Here it is important also to listen actively to recognize the above-mentioned differences in communication. Then you can react as required in the situation.
Sometimes people ask me for a coaching on one of the different communication styles. So I can help people in specific situations when it’s important to catch nuances of speech.
Your next steps for dealing with different communication styles in English
In general it is always important to listen to your gut feeling and be prepared for different conversation styles when you are dealing with communication partners from different cultures.
If it is possible try and roleplay some situations you personally thought of as difficult in the past. You will improve through practice and begin making better contacts with your English-speaking colleagues/clients. Besides you will help others to feel at ease when they are talking to you, which is more important than being “perfect”.
If you want to improve your communication skills in a Business English setting, and you are interested in getting help with your specific situation, please contact me.