Tag Archives: communication

Hypnotic Communication in Self-dialogue

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Hypnotic Communication in Self-dialogue’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 6 Jul 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at info@exult-solutions.com




Scared to interact with foreign clients?

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)

In many organisations today, it is not just the top brass that has to deal with foreign clients and associates. Executive level employees too have to interact with them, especially in sectors like BPO and IT.

Many of you are are apprehensive about this. Maybe because you are scared of faltering?

“For instance, we could not understand any of their jokes and vice versa. It took quite some time for us to comprehend their sense of humour and respond appropriately,” says IT professional Sandeep Ganediwalla, who has extensively dealt with American clients.

“It also takes some time to get used to the accent. That applies to them as well. Since Indians are amongst the fastest speakers in the world, we need to make a conscious effort to slow down,” he continues.

The content of discussions with foreign clients is routine, quite like the subjects raised while talking to fellow Indian professionals. Intricacies arise due to differences in cultures.

The most common modes of communication with these clients include:
  • Face to face communication
  • E-mails
  • Telephonic conversations
  • Conference calls over the telephone
  • Video conferencing
  • Chat


Besides regular business etiquette, there are certain points to bear in mind while using these media with international clients/associates.

Cross cultural sensitivity

The most important thing is to be sensitive towards differences in cultures. While we are certainly different from each other, we ought to control the tendency to be subjective and label each other as good or bad. The differences arise out of several reasons ranging from geographic to historic to psychological. Once we accept them unconditionally, communication becomes simpler.

Understand their background

If you have to communicate extensively with a foreign client, take the effort to read up about their country and know common things about their culture. This will avoid gaffes. For example, a Scottish person being referred to as English would certainly not take it well. So if you are dealing with a client in Britain, you would do well to know about all the four countries in the UK. Getting relevant information is not difficult these days, with Internet access being ubiquitous.

Business and social etiquette

Etiquette helps in making a good impression. It does not mean you need to be prim-and-proper all the time. Simple courtesies such as standing up when a lady comes to meet you, shaking hands firmly, holding the door open for ladies/elders in appropriate circumstances, dining etiquette, etc make the client feel comfortable.

Participate in communication

“We somehow tend to shy away from asking questions and seeking clarifications. This leads to confusion later. If client and you are not on the same page, it is important to stop and clarify things before proceeding further. Otherwise, the client assumes that you’ve understood and is irritated when you do not respond appropriately later,” observes Ganediwalla. Understand that communicating with a foreigner is essentially the same as communicating with any other professional. Remove the mental blocks and unwarranted fears related to talking with them, so that you can facilitate a smooth flow of conversations.

Be sensitive

Are you wondering what would a client think if you do not know an answer? Or are not sure of the cultural appropriateness of a response? Well, your client is sailing in the same boat! If understanding accents is a problem for you, it is so for your client as well. So a win-win situation would arise only if you shed inhibitions and open doors to a frank dialogue.

Ethics and values

At the end of the day, we are all human being and good values such as punctuality and ethical business practices are universally appreciated. Pradeep Mishra, SAP technology consultant and currently an executive MBA student says, “While Indian professionals are ambitious and look for fast growth, the flip side is that somewhere the lack of commitment to an organisation shows. We want to deal with foreign clients, but only to garner experience and add it to our résumé. If only we could be more committed and really want to add value to our contributions, our clients would be happier. Individual accountability is something we would do well to learn.”

Face to face communication

Be aware of your body language and dressing sense. If you are hosting your clients for a meal, ensure that you know their food preferences and take them to a relevant place. A lot of them may not like spicy Indian food. Do not assume that just because they are foreigners, they would love non-vegetarian food or want to guzzle alcohol.

Avoid talking about political, religious and personal issues. Good topics to initiate conversations could be about their countries, places to visit in India, weather, sports, etc.


Avoid short forms and jargon unless you are sure the client would understand. Do not SHOUT, ie, do not type an entire mail in capital letters. Follow the appropriate forms of salutation, greeting and closing.

Telephonic conversations

Speak slowly. Do not put on a fake accent. It is a good idea to make an agenda before beginning a call. For clarity, you could summarise the conversation in an e-mail later and confirm the points that you have agreed to work upon.

Conference calls over the telephone

If there are more than three people on a con-call, introduce yourself before speaking in the initial stages of the call, till people are familiar with your voice. Put your phone on mute if you have to talk to someone else during the call. The person leading the call should mail an agenda before the call and the minutes of the call after it.

Video conferencing

Body language, attire and alertness are important here. Avoid eating/drinking in the middle of a conference and sit upright, to show respect your colleagues/clients.


While this is a more informal mode of contact, if the conversation is related to work, avoid using SMS-language. A little formality has to be induced for a professional approach.

Improve your English

Finally, if you are not confident of communicating in English, start working on it right away, since that is the language most of the world knows.

At the same time, do not expect all your clients to speak fluent English: a lot of Asian and European professionals prefer to deal in their native tongue.

Read as much as possible and listen to English television/radio to improve upon your language. Request your colleagues to talk to you in English and to bstop you when you commit errors, so that you can improve.

A little sensitivity and a humane approach is all it takes to build a great rapport with your foreign client.

Annoying colleagues at your workplace?

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)

With most of us spending 10-14 hours at work everyday, our workplaces have become our second homes. As a result, even the slightest of hindrances here tend to blow up into vexing issues, particularly if they are not tackled in time. Very often, these issues relate to our colleagues’ behaviour. It can get a little awkward when it come to addressing some of these directly, as a lot of them concern subtle aspects of behaviour that are difficult to articulate.

Let’s take a look at some of the most annoying aspects of workplace behaviour and what we can do about them.


This is by far the most annoying aspect of a workplace.

“It can absolutely turn you off,” says Revathi M, assistant manager – sales, with an IT security company. “It takes a heavy toll on productivity because, if you don’t belong in a certain group, you tend to feel left out. Then, you don’t enjoy going to work anymore.”

The snide remarks and covert glances that result from groupism are not only thoroughly unprofessional, they can also result in emotional hurt which is often difficult to express. It eventually leads to frustration and may result in people leaving their jobs.

Casual chatter

“The most irritating thing at the workplace is groups of women chatting endlessly about clothes, cosmetics and jewellery. Some of them even trade in these items at work. I think it’s really unprofessional,” says Purnima Gupta, a teacher at a reputed Mumbai school.

While casual conversations are fine when one wants to make small talk, one needs to realise extended chatter at the workplace disturbs other people. It also looks unprofessional.


This is widely touted as being omnipresent and is universally detested.

Sugary sweet behaviour in front of a person and backstabbing comments behind their back are known to prevail in virtually every kind of human interaction. The natural fallout of hypocrisy at the workplace is lack of trust, which greatly affects work relationships and productivity.


“When we are angry with something our boss does, we try hard to control our emotions and behave in a subdued manner. However, if a peon goofs up even slightly, a lot of us don’t think twice before yelling at him. Is this justified?” wonders Revathi.

Dignity of labour and respect for all kinds of work is a prerequisite for a healthy work environment. We must appreciate that people at all levels provide value with whatever work they do. It can be discouraging if they are not treated with dignity, considering they work to the best of their ability, given individual constraints.

Messy cubicle partners

Another trait that can really upset people is messy surroundings. Eating at the workstation and dropping tidbits of food, or having heaps of papers and files that spill over to your neighbours’ desks can be very bothersome.

A lot of people are fussy about cleanliness and are used to a certain standard of hygiene around them. If those standards are not met at the workplace, it can be very demotivating.

Undue inquisitiveness

While it is common for colleagues to turn into good friends over time, a certain level of formality is expected while one is at work. When this formality is breached, not everyone may take it well.

“When colleagues are unduly concerned about where I went the previous evening, with whom, why, etc, I really feel like telling them it is none of their business. If I wish to share personal thoughts with someone at the workplace, I need to be comfortable with that person. It has to be voluntary. The concept of personal space and privacy is rather alien to our culture,” observes Purnima.

Taking credit

It is but natural that we want to be appreciated for the work we do. However, since most of the work we do in an organisation is team effort, it is important credit is accordingly shared.

“When it comes to getting work done, the higher-ups often give pep talks on how team work is important. However, when the results come in, each individual and department wants the credit. Typically, in any organisation, the frontline sales people take away the appreciation. The back-end operations group is conveniently forgotten, even though they contribute significantly to the success. This can be extremely frustrating for the people who have worked behind the scenes,” says Revathi.

Talking loudly

“I wish some people had silencers fitted into their throats!” says Purnima exasperatedly. “At work, one must realise formal, subdued behaviour is called for. Etiquette demands we keep our voice low so others are not disturbed. The most annoying bit is when people excitedly almost yell over their phones for no reason. I’m sure it’s equally annoying for the person at the other end of the line.”

Talking loudly is often associated with rustic behaviour that lacks sophistication. It is advisable we keep our tone and pitch low when we are around colleagues.

Tackling annoying behaviour

It is indeed difficult to keep your cool and focus on productivity when behavioural factors affect performance at work. But it is necessary to be assertive if one has to solve the problem.

Of course, assertiveness is different from being accusatory. Assertiveness is all about talking in a factual manner without being judgmental. It involves conveying facts and their possible repercussions without getting emotional, or rude, in the process. Though it is easier said than done, professionalism demands one remain objective while dealing with such situations.

At the organisational level, the HR department – and managers and supervisors as welll – need to have a keen eye for observing team dynamics. Active intervention and counselling go a long way in smoothing ruffled feathers.

Avoiding annoying behaviour

As individuals, there are a few things that may help us avoid being in the bad books of our colleagues:

Avoid backbiting

At the workplace, never discuss a person in his/ her absence. This simple rule goes a long way in maintaining a healthy environment.

Seek feedback

If you think a colleague has been shying away from you for a while, casually enquire to find out if your behaviour has upset him/ her. If that is the case, patiently listen to your colleague’s feelings without getting defensive. Once the person has opened up, it can be easier to resolve the issue.

Respect everyone

Imagine the situation if the entire housekeeping staff goes on strike. We often take a lot of people for granted simply because they may not demand attention. But that does not mean their work is any less important.

Observe formality

A lot of your colleagues may become good friends over time. However, work ethics dictate you remain sensitive to the feelings of everyone at the workplace. Hence, over-friendly behaviour ought to be avoided.

Self Awareness in Interpersonal Behaviour

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Self Awareness in Interpersonal Behaviour’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 3 May 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at info@exult-solutions.com






Assertive Communication

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Assertive Communication’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 30 Mar 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at info@exult-solutions.com







Body Language in Communication

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Body Language in Communication’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 15 Jan 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at info@exult-solutions.com






Want to speak good English?

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at Rediff.com)

We generally associate language with communication. However, the repercussions of having language skills, or lacking them, go way beyond communication. Our command over the language we communicate in everyday determines how confident we are about presenting ourselves. It even reflects in our body language and self esteem.

Being fluent in English is important, considering it is the universal language of business communication. For those looking to improve their skills, here are a few tips.


As a baby, you began learning your mother tongue simply by listening and observing. This is the most natural method of learning a language. If you think grammar and rules of syntax bog you down, go back to the primal mode of learning — listen and observe.

Be alert when you listen to someone speaking English, be it at your workplace, at a party or on television. Watch out for common expressions and usages. If you are able to grasp regularly used ways of greeting and small talk, you will be able to initiate speaking more confidently. Start noting simple things: If you meet someone at a party, do you always end up saying, ‘Hi! Nice meeting you…’?

How about introducing variations here? Observe how others talk and try varying your greeting. Why not try saying ‘How do you do?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ Greetings and introduction lines may seem trivial, but if you are not fluent in a language, you often tend to avoid even these, thus ending all prospects of communication. If you can break this barrier, you can take your first step into the realm of English speaking.


While listening to English speakers definitely helps, it is important to read if you wish to expedite the process of improving. Most people are put off by this because they associate reading with big, literary books. However, what we are talking about is reading anything and everything written in correct English. Therefore, your range of choices could extend from comic strips to newspaper articles, gadget manuals to movie reviews.

While reading, try and get a feel of the language and usage of words. More importantly, note the use of articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (in, on, at, from, into, over, under, etc) as these are areas where the most common errors are committed.

Improve your vocabulary

We are not asking you to learn the dictionary by rote! Can you commit yourself to learning two new words a day? You could come across these anywhere — while reading, on a news channel, on a sign at the shopping mall, on a billboard, etc. Make the effort to look up the exact meaning of the word in the dictionary, instead of adopting the easier route of understanding the meaning from the context.

If possible, maintain a book where you can note down the new words everyday, along with the context, so you remember them better. Write down the dictionary meaning and also frame a sentence using the word, so it is now registered in your memory. Go through this book periodically to refresh your memory and use the words in your conversations, emails and letters. A few minutes each way, coupled with an eye for observation and an ear for new words is all it takes to improve your vocabulary.

You could also subscribe to services like dictionary.com that will e-mail a new word every day; this mail will include both the dictionary meanings and usage in sentences.

Prepare for small talk

Speaking English fluently is not just about making corporate presentations and giving long speeches. It is about expressing your views on the most mundane of things. How often do you meet a new person and face an awkward silence after the initial greeting because you don’t know what to talk about? Worse, you may wish to initiate a conversation but may not be confident of putting something across correctly.

The ability to make small talk is very important in business and social conversations. Topics for casual conversation could include the weather, sports, current affairs, arts, hobbies, travel, etc. Read up on your area of interest and try framing sentences expressing your opinions. Talk about it with someone close to you so you can check for grammatical accuracy.

Then, gradually build up on your repertoire of conversational topics and start using them whenever you get a chance. Of course, when you talk, do not make it sound like a speech you have learnt by heart. Induce a casual tone and adapt to the occasion.

Make mistakes

Can you learn swimming by standing at the edge of the pool? You have to take the plunge, right? It is the same with language. Unless you use the language, you will never know how good you are at it.

Ask a few people close to you who are good at English to help. Make them interrupt you whenever you make a mistake and ask them to correct you. Be open to feedback. Do not be embarrassed to make mistakes, for that is the only way you will learn. That is how the process of acquiring fluency a language occurs. As a child, you may have made a lot of mistakes before getting a good grasp of your mother tongue. The only difference now is that you are conscious of the mistakes.

Books on grammar are a good supplement to strengthen your command over the language. The good old Wren and Martin for grammar and Word Power by Norman Louis for vocabulary should also help. A lot of web sites including EnglishPage,Grammar Book, Better-English, etc will help you augment your skills.

Finally, all you need is a will to learn and the initiative to begin. That done, it is simply a matter of time and effort!