Merge's Blog

Business global communication and the importance of “small talk”

tinav_01My professional colleague, friend and global communication expert, Tina Varughese last gave us a guest post earlier this summer offering cross-cultural communication tips for women.  So I’m thrilled that I persuaded her to make a repeat appearance on the blog today.  In her post below, Tina explores the value of “small talk” and its importance in the world of business global communication.

P.S. I am also very excited to tell you that I will be sharing the platform with Tina (and two other eloquent thought-leaders) at the Customer Service Leadership Summit next month on November 15.  I’ll give you more information about the Summit at the end of this post, but first, here is Tina’s contribution.

How important is “small talk” in business global communication?

According to Andy Molinsky, author of Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process, effectiveness can be limited if global dexterity is not adopted.  Yet, global dexterity can be a challenging skill to acquire – and can take some time and flexibility.  Engaging in ‘small talk’ can feel inauthentic if it’s not part of your cultural norm. Managers can feel frustrated and angry when needing to conform to cultural norms that conflict with their own cultural beliefs and values.

Even when interviewing for a new position, the human resources advisor will often ask if you found the building without issue. He may even talk a little about the crazy snowfall we had yesterday – or even the Calgary Flames’ loss. This part of the ‘interview’ will last about sixty seconds … or even more … depending on how necessary it is. Small talk is, essentially, benign conversation that puts both parties at ease and is essential to Canadian business and global communication. Does ‘small talk’ differ around the world? Absolutely! How important is it? Depending on where you are, it can make or break global business negotiations, assist in creating long-lasting relationships, or potentially contribute to losing millions in revenue.

Foreign-trained professionals working in Canada need to ensure that they integrate with other cultures to learn, absorb and become a part of that culture. Though it is much more demanding and takes more energy it is much more rewarding, in the long run, and can be a much more enriching experience as a global leader because of it.

The Customer Service Leadership Summit

Tina will be presenting her signature keynote – 50 Shades of Beige: Successful sales and service to all cultures – on November 15 at Customer Service Leadership Summit at the Glenmore Inn and Convention Centre in Calgary.  I will be there too, and so will two more of my professional colleagues – customer service strategist Jeff Mowatt and all-around funny guy Michael KerrEven though this event is tracking to be a sell-out, advance rate pricing is still available, so take advantage while you can. 

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