Sometimes it’s difficult to find something to talk about with foreign guests. You are responsible for dealing with them and you must create a good impression but how do you entertain them and look after them ? Most importantly how do you keep the conversation flowing ?
Many foreigners feel uncomfortable when there is an awkward silence. Often they think that silence and long pauses mean that things are going badly. Taking time and making an effort to talk to people shows politeness and attention. Think of your conversation as a way of presenting both yourself and your organisation in a good light. Even if you are not naturally a brilliant conversationalist there are plenty of ways to improve your communication skills.
1. BE FRIENDLY
Most people who are visitors in a strange place welcome people talking to them. Do not worry about a brush off. It is very unlikely and if it ever does happen remember you were the friendly one and the other person will be perceived as rude. Also if you pretend guests aren’t there and then have to meet them later you will feel awkward.
Approach people and ask “ Sorry we haven’t met. My name is X”
“ Hello, you must be from Dinex. I’m X, the X manager”
2. SUGGEST AND LET THEM CONTRADICT – USE INDIRECT QUESTIONS
This is one of the best tactics. Suggest something trivial (so it doesn’t matter if you are wrong) and let them tell you some information about themselves. It sounds politer than a direct question and usually prompts a longer response than a direct question. If you are right you look clever. Then follow up with a supplementary question.
Direct - Where are you from ? London.
Indirect - So are you from London or ..? - yes that’s right I moved there 3 years ago
- No actually I’m from a little town to the east called Canterbury
Direct - How long are you here for? - Just this morning
Indirect - So are you here all day or…? – Ah no we have a meeting and then we will be meeting a supplier
3. FIND A CONNECTION
Make it easy for the other person to talk. Find a familiar connection. Someone you have met from the organisation. A product you have heard of or that you use. Something about their hometown or country. Something they have seen. Say Ah! or Yes! And So… to emphasize that you are talking about something familiar to you. Of course this is even better if you can turn it into a question or a suggestion.
I’m from Manchester – Ah! So are you a United fan ?
I’m from Dinex – Ah, we had Mike Anders here last year from the R&D department.
I’ve just come from the airport – Ah, did you see the big wooden sculptures in the entrance?
4. ASK SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTIONS
Follow up the information they tell you with supplementary questions. It shows you are interested and paying attention to what they are saying.
Did you get held up at the airport ? – No, unfortunately we go stuck in traffic
Oh no really? How long did it take you to get here?
5. ACTIVELY RESPOND TO BAD OR GOOD INFORMATION
Use phrases like: Oh No! Really! That’s awful! Excellent ! Tough Luck! It shows you can empathise and it’s polite to show a reaction especially to bad news.
We had to spend 4 hours waiting for the plane.
Oh that’s terrible! You must be tired.
6. SHOW CURIOUSITY
Say: No! Honestly? Really? They will talk more to try to convince you. NB Say this when they tell you something unlikely, not when they tell you their name.
It was 40 degrees in England this summer.
–Really? I thought English summers were miserable
Yes they usually are but we had a heatwave
-Ah, Yes! Of course, I didn’t realize it was so hot though. That must have been awful in your offices.. they don’t have air-conditioning in England do they ?
7. TELL A STORY
Don’t be afraid to tell a little story. It can be funny or amazing or interesting. Don’t choose anything tragic or depressing. Have a couple of good, funny stories in your memory. Tell them when the subject comes up. Or guide the subject round to them.
John: I’m from Dinex.
Julia: Ah, we had Mike Anders here last year from the R&D department during the heatwave. You remember him Jonas?
Jonas: He’s a great guy. He came in June last year. It was his first visit to Finland and he arrived in a fur coat and wellington boots. Everyone loved him.
When telling a story
- keep the sentences short
- use simple vocabulary. He said, he went, NOT he exclaimed and he proceeded
- Only use a couple of emotive words for effect at they key points in the story
- Don’t give details, just get to the point of the story quickly
Also you can set up stories for your partner. Julia in the previous dialogue is setting up Jonas to tell a story about the hot summer or what a funny guy Mike is.
8. INVOLVE AND RECAP
Make sure the participants are up to date and involved in the conversation. Recap for those who have joined a group or missed part of the conversation. Refer subjects to those with knowledge. F.ex:
Julia: Ah, John, we were just discussing the new headquarters building. Not very popular with Sven.
John: You don’t like it then.
Sven: It’s not a practical design. Too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
Julia: Wasn’t it a famous architect who designed it. Ian, you’ll know..
Ian: Yes, Hadid won the competition,. She’s won several architecture prizes.
Sven: I don’t know why.
Julia: How much did it cost? Ah here’s Andrea. Andrea – lovely to see you, we were just talking about the new headquarters building. Very expensive wasn’t it? Didn’t the budget overrun?
Andrea: Absolutely, an extra 4 million euros …..
For further information on politeness in English please visit our website at www.galimatias.fi or contact our staff directly: