These tips are based on my many years experience working with Asian language speakers on their conversation, pronunciation, and presentation skills.
- Aim for fluency before accuracy
Don’t pause looking for the perfect word or grammar structure. Slow speech seems choppy. Americans would rather hear fluid speech with some errors spoken at a normal pace than slow, monotone, carefully worded speech.
- Be specific and explicit
Americans don’t read between the lines like many high context cultures do. Be sure to be clear and direct in all your communications, both spoken and written.
- Speak with conviction
Use a full tone and proper intonation. A rising tone at the end of the sentence sounds unsure or questioning.
- Have assertive posture, volume and projection
Stand erect, open your chest, lift your chin and square your hips. Take up space.
- Maintain eye contact
Maintaining eye contact is seen as a sign of honesty and character.
- Give a firm handshake
Like eye contact, how you give a handshake is seen as a sign of your character.
- Learn to say no directly
Americans would rather hear no directly than have to guess what “maybe” or “perhaps” really means. They do not take direct speech as an insult.
- Get comfortable with small talk
Talk about the weather, sports, family, etc in short, simple, not too personal bits.
- Stop apologizing
In many Asian cultures, apologies are seen as ways to create harmony and show humility. In the US it is seen as accepting personal blame.
- Clarify and paraphrase to check comprehension
Say, “so in other words….” or “if I understand correctly, …..” to confirm you have all the key points and details.