One of the biggest misconceptions in the migrant community is that just because you speak english, you can communicate effectively. Not true. Communication is not just talking. It is expressing yourself in manner, that allows the listener receive your information AND your intended meaning. The goal is to understand and be understood. Productive communication is listening effectively and talking coherently.
When I first moved to America, I did not learn how to properly communicate in my new environment. I missed out on opportunities, friendships and business deals. Learn from my mistakes:
- BE POLITE: Always, (even if you have had a bad day.) This includes your tone, mannerism and countenance. Even though you are in America, you want to be mindful of your listener’s ethnicity. Do not say anything that will intentionally offend them. No racial slurs, religious jabs, sexist jokes or jokes about body size.
I have also found that the tone of one’s voice is very important. I am not a quiet person, in fact am only quiet when hungry, angry or sleepy. My lively personality is carried out in the tone of my voice. I have learned that when I am in a passionate discussion, I need to watch the tone of my voice. This is because the more passionate I get about a topic,(e.g health, migrants, racism, bullying) the thicker my accent gets and the higher the picth of voice. This can easily make me look rude or aggressive, which is not my intention.
So in order not to intentionally offend anyone, I keep countenance pleasant, gesticulations with hands and fingers to a minimum and tone polite. Being audible while I speak and making sure I SMILE.
Always say thank you and please.
2. BE DIRECT: Ask for exactly what you need. Like my mother always told me, “no one is in your head. No one can read your mind.” Don’t imply or assume the other person knows what you are thinking.
Also, It is not just what you say but HOW you say it. There is a way to tell someone to leave you alone or ask for a raise at work or ask to date someone. How you convey your emotions is not only in your choice of words but the honesty of your body language. If it is through written communication, your words convey the sincerity of your intentions.
3. BE MINDFUL: Many times I have called people to apologize or ask them if they felt uncomfortable with something I said or did. Especially when my intentions were not to hurt them. As a Nigerian female and a strong black woman, I am full of passion. I do not apologize for that. However, I am sensitive to the fact that another female/male of a different ethnicity/race, who is not as outspoken or passionate (or shows passion in a different way) can easily feel intimidated.
I have to RESPECT how they feel. It is then my responsibility to find ways to communicate effectively with them. Ways in which they can feel comfortable and I can feel heard.