Posts

Showing posts from September, 2012

What Romney's Jet Window Story Teaches About Jokes in Public Speaking

Image
One of the most common mistakes people make in public speaking is to try too hard to be funny. You don't need to be funny to be a great speaker and unless you are a professional comic it is surprisingly difficult to get a laugh, even when you have good material. Writing comedy material is also far from trivial and best left to experienced writers.

What reminded me of this key lesson in public speaking was the media coverage of an episode where US presidential candidate Mitt Romney was ridiculed for apparently not knowing why airplane windows can't be opened. You can read the whole story in this LA Times article of 24 September 2012 Romney Mocked for Comment About Jet Windows

One of the reader comments points out that every child knows why airplane windows don't open and since Mr Romney was once a child we can probably assume quite safely that he does know. The most likely explanation for this bizarre statement is that he was trying to be funny -- a very dangerous game for…

Dear Best Regards: How to Start and End Your Emails

Image
Last year I wrote that to make your email more effective you should put meaningful content into the subject line, keep your messages short and consider other channels (see Three Timesaving Tips for Email). I also wrote some guidelines about common culture problems when email crosses borders (see Three Non-Obvious Ways Culture Affects Email).

But there is one other question about international email that comes up regularly in workshops: how should you start and finish? Do I use "Dear", "Hi",or "Hello" to start with? What do I do if I don't know if the person I am writing to is a man or a woman? "What is the difference between "Best regards  and "Warm regards"? This is a question that puzzles many people and a while ago it stressed me, too. But the answers to these questions are perhaps easier than you imagine.

DEAR MR/MRS WHATEVER. First of all, at the start of a mail you probably have some sort of salutation. How do you know which …

Working with The English: Three Things You Need to Know

Image
Most people underestimate the difficulty of working with English people. Americans are often misled by the similarities to assume that it is going to be easy. Neighbo(u)rs in mainland Europe are likewise fooled by the proximity; if someone is so close how can they be so different, they ask.  But in fact there are some significant yet non-obvious differences in English culture that can easily derail your attempts to do business with English people.

You are not going to master the entire culture of a nation after reading a single article, but there are three key concepts that tend to cause the most problems. In workshops and coaching on this subject they are the most frequent sources of misunderstanding I have encountered over the years.
INDIRECT COMMUNICATION. One of the most difficult facets of English culture for outsiders to understand is the reliance on indirect communication. Some people take pride in their plain and direct speech, saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Th…