One evening in 1993 when I had just started working in international business, I contacted a very important customer from a well known Japanese semiconductor company. This was a big accomplishment, because many of our people had tried for weeks to find a time when he would be in the office. I was ecstatic and the conversation was going very well. Just as I began to get information on his company’s needs, my other line rang. I could see it was my boss, so I asked the customer to “please hang on”. He immediately obliged me and hung up! Three weeks later, when I reached him again, he explained that he hung up because I asked him to do so.
International communications is a delicate art. In verbal and written communications it is imperative to be sensitive to the audience’s cultural differences, be clear, concise and request feedback to make sure that the correct points are understood. Verbal communication is the easiest, because the feedback can be immediate as in my example. On the other hand, initial verbal contact usually happens on the telephone where listening carefully to the other party’s reaction is most important. A speaker should be cautious and sensitive to hesitation or pauses and out of context commentary by the other party.
I recently spoke with an Electrical Engineer in Europe and I told him that my client was sponsoring a seminar regarding gotchas in semiconductor design verification. Silence… I quickly rephrased the statement and told him that there were many unknown factors that cause problems during circuit verification and that we have a seminar to teach engineers how to avoid them. He immediately engaged by asking some questions.