Learn the Language


If you are going to spend a year or more in a country—definitely, absolutely, do your utmost to learn the language. It will make a tremendous difference to your state of mind. Ability to understand the local language seems to play a major role in adjustment to culture shock and personal success in a foreign world.

It is not clear why speaking the language makes such a big difference, but it does. Obviously it makes getting around a lot easier. In hundreds of moments of struggling to get something done, from shopping to household repairs to getting directions, just knowing some of the language removes huge portions of aggravation and helps you gain a sense of safety and self-assurance. When people around you are babbling away in a foreign language, you become vaguely insecure and feel isolated. Knowing the language gives you a sense of mastery in situations where you may feel vulnerable.

The more process of learning the language gets you more in tune with the culture, and breaks the ice, putting you in the right frame of mind to adjust. In some places, speaking a second language is important to enhance your image as a well-bred, educated person—you may be somewhat better off if the language you learn is not the language spoken in the country.

The frequent traveler should think about learning languages too, of course, depending on the amount of travel and bilingualism of the business community. Speaking a language fluently can permit you to attain levels of relationship and business advantage unattainably by someone who doesn’t.

Fluency in the language will allow the traveler into otherwise exclusive realms of local business. The process of negotiation often depends on behind-the-scenes information flow.

Learning the language is no substitute for learning the culture and appropriate behavior. People who are fluent in a language but not sensitive to the culture can make worse mistakes, perhaps because the local experts more of them. And there are dangers in speaking a language if you are not competent in it. Not knowing the nuances of words or being careless with intonations, you might say things you don’t mean. In most languages, some common words have extremely vulgar meanings if pronounced incorrectly. Or you may hear unintended meanings.

If you don’t speak the language well, it is best to reveal that you have made the effort to learn—but then rely on English or an interpreter. Experts advise that is generally best to speak the language for socializing and daily activities, but not when transacting business. As a rule of thumb, if you are not fluent and your foreign counterpart does not speak fluent English, always transact business with an interpreter. Traders who meet frequently with foreigners say that while English is the business language around the world, buyers are far more comfortable talking in their native language, and even if they can speak English, it is often better to have an interpreter. They don’t have to struggle so hard, and it puts them at ease.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Call People by Name


President Reagan often is referred to as the greatest communicator ever to serve as President. And for good reasons. He used to speak slowly in a well-modulated voice, looks directly in the person or people he is speaking to, remains calm under pressure and uses simple, easy-to-understand words. Mr Reagan employs many subtle but persuasive techniques in dealing with public. Very importantly, at news conferences which are typically a very difficult presidential task, Mr. Reagan would address reporters by name when accepting a question rather than just indicating with a hand motion which reporter might speak nest. It may seem like a small point, but his method was conducive to help create good relations with the press. Why? Because people cooperate better when they are recognized by name. being addressed by name I a sincere and deeply appreciated compliment. It tells a person, “You are important to me.”

 Lyndon Johnson, the Great “Persuader,” practiced remembering names, and Lyndon Johnson was number one “persuader president” of modern times. He was enormously effective in bringing opposing factions together to get legislation passed.

 Why was President Johnson so effective as a human relations engineer? He worked at it! Long before he succeeded Mr. Kennedy as President, he developed and practiced his own ten rules to make himself more effective in working with people.

 President Johnson’s system for how-to-win-influence-over-people appears below:

  1. Learn to remember names. Inefficiency at this point may include that your interest is not sufficiently outgoing.
  2. Be a comfortable person so there is no strain in being with you. Be an old shoe, old hat kind of individual.
  3. Acquire the quality of relaxed easy-going so that things do not ruffle you.
  4. Don’t be egoistical. Guard against the impression that you know it all.
  5. Cultivate the quality of being interesting so people will get something of value from their association with you.
  6. Study to get the “scratchy” elements out of your personality.
  7. Sincerely attempt to heal every misunderstanding you have had or now have. Drain off your grievances.
  8. Practice liking people until you learn to do so genuinely.
  9. Never miss an opportunity to say a word of congratulation upon anyone’s achievement, or express synpathy in sorrow or disappointment.
  10. Give spiritual strength to people, and they will give genuine affection to you.

 Every person has a name and as Dale Carnegie observed, a person’s name is the sweetest word in our language. People feel bigger and better when called by name because it is their most valuable possession. It gives them a sense of individuality – a feeling of being unique.

Hereare five guidelines for calling people by their names to win their cooperation:

  1. Pronounce the other person’s name correctly.
  2. In conversation, use the other person’s name often.
  3. Use nicknames only when you know they are preferred by the person.
  4. Use a person’s last name until familiarity is established.
  5. Spell the other person’s name correctly.

 “Do you know who I am?” The law of self-interest—the tremendous craving for self-identity—comes through in many little ways.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight