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April 9, 2019

Stop Speaking to Speak Better!

Building English Skills on Global Teams

I help tech workers like you prepare for all types of client facing conversations, meetings and interviews. When I do, I find a common thread in most of those I am coaching. Many, if not all, at some point answer a question or reply to a statement that was never said [by me]. 

When this first happened, I was confused, thinking maybe it was my accent that the coachee was not understanding. Or possibly, there was a new word or phrase that was not familiar to them [as most of the professionals I coach speak English as a Second Language]. However, when I dug deeper, my coachees revealed a few things to me that I had not considered. I want to share these findings with you, so that you do not make the same mistakes.

Common mistakes professionals make when I coached them for business interactions:
  • Not listening to the entire statement or question. Filling in the unheard words with assumed words, therefore not staying with the flow of the conversation or giving a 'wrong answer' to a question. 
  • Not focusing on what was said, but thinking about something else. 
  • Fearing to ask for clarificaiton if there was indeed a word that was lost in translation. Then, replacing the unknown word with a known word which had a very different meaning.
  • Assuming an 'order' to the questions, therefore if the questions come out of order, or the wording changes, the wrong question is answered or the wrong answer is given to the question.
  • Not waiting until the other person speaking or interviewing finishes their question or statement, and interrupting. This can be a big problem especially for client facing interviews or interviews at immigration for B1 or H1B visas, for example.
Listen your way to better responsesWhen coaching professionals, I notice immediately when the answer or response is incongruent from what was previously said or asked and call the coachee out on it. In such cases, I am often very direct and say, "That is not a correct response for this question." In some cases, I will ask them what question they answered and compare it to what I actually asked. In some cases, I need to point out the word or words the coachee confused to give an incorrect or incongruent answer.




Of course there are many other tips one can apply to listen and provide better responses. Here are a few more tips to help you listen better from US News & World Report:
  • Break any bad listening habits you have (analyze yourself to know more)
  • Face the speaker, check your body language and eye contact
  • Avoiding or not knowing how to paraphrase (summarize and ask clarifying questions)
  • Don't distract yourself (internally or externally)
  • Topping the speaker's story
  • Problem finding - creating fake problems
  • Avoid becoming defensive (using "you language")
For more details on the tips, click here.  

Anyone who has experienced being truly listened to feels cared for and appreciated. When we can listen better to our clients and colleagues, respond appropriately and hold more engaging conversations, relationships flourish and working together is much each. Listening skills not only helps in improving day to day communication, understanding conversational cues, but also in the negotiation (push back) experience. 

How to speak clearly to US clients


Jennifer Kumar, specializes in working with tech workers on global, dispersed teams to bridge the culture gap while communicating and conducting everyday business and meetings. She gives your developers and other US facing team members the confidence, skills and cultural know-how to do what needs to get done in an effective and customer service oriented way. Contact us for more information.

Photo credit: William Murphy, creative commons flickr
Original post: Sept. 2013. Updated Apr. 2019.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.