It has been said that people form an impression of you within the first 15 seconds of meeting you. Have you thought about the kind of impression that you are making? Have you wondered how you might improve the way you come across?
Body language and other forms of non-verbal communication have a big part to play in the way people (from whichever country) will view you, and it is wise to consider how people from different countries will react to certain behaviours.
There are two main types of body language: conscious and unconscious.
Conscious body language includes your hand movements and other gestures that you may make when explaining something, telling a story, showing your feelings about something or underlining a particular point.
Unconscious body language includes your facial expressions while you are listening, your body’s alignment or posture (such as the position of your hands, arms, legs and feet), your proximity to the person you are talking to and certain other things that you cannot really control, such as your physical appearance.
Cultural etiquette varies between countries so it is very important to do a little research before meeting someone important (perhaps someone that you would like to do business with) and pay attention to how other people from that culture treat each other and deal with social matters.
Remember that as in your own language, what matters is not just what you say but also how you say it! And this applies to body language as well: it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it!
Here are some general tips on body language that, if followed, will help you to avoid embarrassing social mistakes or faux pas:
1. Be careful about touching other people physically. People from different countries have different views on what is acceptable and what is not. For example, it is very rude to touch someone’s head in Thailand. If you are not sure, don’t touch!
2. You can make respectful eye contact, but never stare.
3. Smile warmly, but make sure that your smiles are carefully measured and that you do not appear to be laughing at the other person.
4. Be very careful with humour, especially humour that mocks other people. It is quite difficult to gauge what is funny to other cultures and sometimes the people you are talking to will not show you directly that you have offended them.
5. Try to stay still when standing or sitting. Do not fidget. Staying still will give a much better impression, particularly in Eastern cultures.
6. Listen carefully to what other people are saying and be careful not to interrupt. Give the other person the chance to have their say.
7. Don’t point or beckon people with your forefinger alone: it may be better to use your whole hand.
8. If you are visiting another country, as people from that country how they think you look and come across in conversation. They may be able to show up something that you do that could cause offence when you are travelling.
9. Never sit with your feet (especially the soles of your feet) pointing towards a person: in some countries this is considered very rude.
10. Watch out for hand gestures! A lot of the gestures that you think of as normal can mean something very different (and sometimes very rude) in another country!
Cultural Consultancy services and Etiquette Training provided by International Contacts
At International Contacts we have years of experience of meeting and doing business with people from all over the world.
At first hand we have come across a lot of the cultural issues that can hinder people in their communications with other people and companies.
We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss how we might be able to smooth your own international communications and give you a set of culture-specific tips that can really open the door to better relationships with your overseas contacts.
This might include organising a cultural briefing or an etiquette training programme for you and your staff on a particular country and its cultural norms, values and beliefs.
It might mean arranging a focused language and culture workshop to pass on some key linguistic structures and business practices.
Or it could even mean one of our consultants accompanying you on a market visit to help with negotiations and setting up an agreement with an overseas business partner.
For a free initial telephone consultation, please call David Jones on: (07966) 578999.