Rituals and customs vary from culture to culture. This is also true in the business environment. Depending on where you are from, different rules apply to verbal communication. As a foreign-born professional it is important to understand how Americans communicate. Learning these communication customs will allow you to confidently communicate with an American audience.
• When engaging in the American business environment, ask questions. Asking questions communicates that you are interested in what the speaker is saying. Not knowing an answer is not considered shameful. Unless, you ask a question, it is assumed that you understand the content.
• Americans are uncomfortable with silence in conversations. Active verbal participation is encouraged and expected. Silence is often perceived as indifference or an unwillingness to participate.
• Americans highly value “networking”. Networking is simply an informal information exchange between you and another person (a co-worker, people in your industry, or a friend.) Since Americans prefer to hire people with whom they are acquainted, regularly attending networking events in your area is a good idea.
• Americans prefer direct communication to indirect communication. People who communicate directly, readily say what they want and need. With indirect communication, speakers do not immediately communicate preferences. If communication is indirect, a U.S. business person assumes that the speaker has no opinion.
• Before you interrupt a speaker, it is a good idea to wait for a pause and say, “Excuse me” before speaking. If there is a pause while you are speaking, it is perfectly acceptable for another person to interject.
• American English uses many local terms that are confusing to foreign-born professionals. Misunderstandings can occur if you are unfamiliar with local expressions. It’s a good idea to learn these terms.
Learning the subtleties of verbal American communication are very important for the foreign born professional. More than just learning dictionary definitions, it is important to understood how Americans communicate as a foundation for a successful business relationship.