How I went from restrained communicator to confident communicator

Veröffentlicht am 15. Mai 2024 um 09:37

Do you find it embarrassing to communicate in English in business?

Imagine you are in the middle of explaining a process in a video call. But suddenly, there you are, missing a word. You panic start thinking in your native language. The silence is embarrassing for you until the chair of the meeting steps in and continues the discussion.

If you've had a few awkward moments in your Business English, believe me, you're not alone.


How I went from restrained communicator to confident communicator


No one wants to feel insecure, and we especially don't want our business partners to notice our struggles.

I know how you feel, I was in a similar situation when I started working in Ireland.

Back then, I was a relatively restrained communicator. In some situations, like team meetings or discussions with my colleagues, I noticed that my vocabulary and sentence structure sometimes reached their limits.  

I had just completed my A-levels in English. But it didn’t help much because I didn’t have a clue how to communicate in business.

To make matters worse, I was in Dublin for 9 months, and I needed to be able to communicate in order to keep my job as an investigator.

 Read on to learn what helped me survive my first work experience abroad. These are actionable steps you can also use to make your first--or your next work experience in English a success.


1. Onboarding with a bilingual German trainer: a lifeline for restrained English speakers.


During my first 3 months in Dublin, I improved quickly because of onboarding training.

Why did it matter that my trainer spoke German too? It helped me to be more confident in speaking English.

I was less restrained and more courageous speaking English with him because I knew he was also in a similar situation at some stage in his career.

So, he knew what it felt like to make mistakes when speaking, and sometimes, he sounded more German than English at first, too.

Speaking English in business is much more daunting as there is so much more at stake for you. It's important to find a 'safe place' to practice when you're getting started because the stakes are high, and it's too easy to feel so scared that you freeze--and don't even want to open your mouth.

With this extra practice, I went from being too shy to speak to my colleagues to having casual conversations within several weeks. Besides, I had to practice every day outside of work in real life.


2. Curiosity: the force that breaks you out of your shell.


When I first arrived in Dublin, I didn't speak much in English.

But sometimes, curiosity got the better of me. I wanted to learn more about this fantastic country I had the opportunity to live in and the people around me.

That meant I had to communicate with them and learn as much as possible.

What is their way of life like?

What are the traditions and stories behind their habits? What is modern Ireland like? If you are interested in sports, economics, or politics, try to discover these themes as much as possible. You could join groups or courses dealing with your area of interest.


3. Getting out of your comfort zone: when personal growth starts


There is nothing like the necessity to motivate you to speak English. I urgently needed accommodation in Dublin because I had only booked a room in a youth hostel for 2 weeks.

It meant bus rides after work to check out rooms I could rent.

At that time, there wasn’t a sign on the bus which announced the next stop. You had to know where to get off the bus.

So, I had no choice but to ask the bus driver to let me know when we were at the right stop.

It took me a lot of courage to leave my comfort zone, go on these trips and talk to potential landlords in English.

But it was certainly worth the effort.


So, if you need to show a customer your company, 

  • negotiate with suppliers or customers, 
  • Lead an interview
  • Explain a process
  • give a presentation

You might also need to leave your comfort zone because your English is a little rusty, and these situations seem challenging.

If I messed up on the bus, it just meant getting lost for a bit in friendly Dublin. But if you fear risking your career, you can always contact a trusted coach to practice first! Or take a risk in an informal meetup. In case you are not sure how to find the right coach, you can find some advice in my blog: '3 questions to ask when you are looking for a business English coach'.


4. Takeaway


Communicating in business can be much more stressful than in other situations. Even if you have a high level of English, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are well-equipped for business communication.

It is a little like learning a new language because there are different expressions and vocabulary you need, the language is more polite, and intercultural communication is highly significant.

I experienced that myself when I worked as an investigator in Ireland. Moreover, I see it in my daily business life. Some of my clients do have a high level of general English, but they still need to learn skills like how to speak English on the telephone, in meetings, how to give a presentation, etc.

It is even more challenging when you need to deal with problems, as I had in my job as an investigator. I had to inform clients that large amounts of money were missing because some information had been accidentally exchanged.

So, I literally had to get out of my comfort zone and deal hands-on with the tasks given to me by my line managers. Combined with a little curiosity and interest in Irish culture and tradition, I managed to become a confident communicator in business.


Do you want more tips on how you can become a better Business English communicator with less stress? Sign up for my newsletter.

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