Things NEVER to Say to American Indian Coworkers

October 31, 2008


Greetings – in my last post, I introduced an excellent source of information regarding “things Never to say” for a variety of cultural groups (  In today’s post, I list things NEVER to say to American Indian coworkers from Daryl C. Hannah’s article:

1.  “Hey Chief”

2.  “Squaw”

3.  “How Indian are you?”

4.  “Hold down the fort”

5.  “Do you live in a teepee?”

6.  “Pow-wow”

7.  “Climbing the totem pole” or “Low man on the totem pole”

8.  “Indian-giver”

9.  “That’s a nice costume”

Visit to read Daryl Hannah’s full article and review the explanation for each of these statements.

NEXT POST – November 4, 2008

10 Things Never to Say to a Black Coworker by Eric Hinton

Things NEVER to Say

October 28, 2008


Back in September, I authored 3 posts that described 7 things you should never do if you want to avoid offending others and enhance communication in culturally diverse settings (How to Avoid Offending Others: Parts 1-3).  With that theme in mind, I have come across several articles that describe Things NEVER to Say at  In my next few posts, I will provide lists of these ‘things never to say’ to Black, American Indian, LGBT and Caucasian coworkers, as well as Asian-American, Latino and Women executives. 

For the full articles, visit  I think you will find them quite interesting.  First up, Zayda Rivera’s Things NEVER to Say to Women Executives:

1.  Any kind of sexual comment

2.  “You don’t really want that promotion.  You’ll never see your kids.”

3.  “You’ll get the job because you are a woman.” or “You must be the token woman.”

4.  “What’s the matter, is it that time of the month?”

5.  “You’re very attractive (or pretty or beautiful etc.)”

6.  “You look great for your age.” or Do you use Botox?”

7.  “You do that so well…for a girl.”

8.  “When are you due?”

Remember to visit to read her full article.

NEXT POST – October 31, 2008

Things NEVER to Say to American Indian Coworkers

by Daryl C. Hannah

Become a Better Listener: Part 3

October 23, 2008


Here are the final 4 steps you can take to overcome the barriers to effective listening:

1.  Make sure your conversations take place at a time and place where you feel comfortable talking.  If you are in a rush, defer the conversation until later.   This will minimize external noise (e.g. interruptions).

2.  Focus on the speaker by making a conscious effort to listen.  Actually say to yourself, “For the next five minutes, I am only going to listen”.

3.  Pay attention to nonverbal clues from the speaker such as body posture, facial expression and gestures (e.g., hand movements).  This is significant because much of the content from the speaker’s message may derive from unspoken communication.

4.  Have patience and be willing to let the speaker take some time to get his or her message across.  Once again, this becomes especially important during multicultural communication.  For example, if you are interacting with someone for whom English is the second language, it is important to listen patiently and give the person a chance to get his or her message across without any interruptions.  Because the person is not speaking in his or her native tongue, additional time may be needed to effectively communicate the message.  It’s during times like these that you really need to be patient.

NEXT POST – October 28, 2008

Become a Better Listener: Part 2

October 20, 2008


Here is another step you can take to improve your ability to listen:

Utilize good nonverbal behavior to demonstrate to the speaker that you are focused on his or her message.  You can effectively manage your nonverbal behavior with the S.O.L.E.R. Technique.  This stands for Square, Open, Lean, Eye Contact, and Relaxed.  Square refers to facing your communication partner directly, with your shoulders parallel to each other.  This allows you to observe nonverbal behavior more effectively.  While doing this, you should maintain an open posture (e.g., don’t fold your arms across your chest), and keep the space between you and your partner open as well (e.g., avoid talking across desks or tables).  While seated, it helps to lean slightly forward.  This demonstrates to the other person that you are genuinely interested in what he or she has to say.  It also helps you focus on the speaker’s message more effectively.  You can also maintain eye contact, although it is important to note that there is a strong cultural element in eye contact.  For example, in some cultures, direct eye contact is taboo, especially between two people of unequal status (e.g., a manager and an employee).  In this situation, direct eye contact from the person of lower status can be seen as disrespectful.  Finally, it is important to try to maintain a relaxed state during all of your interactions.  This is particularly important during cross-cultural exchanges because they often increase our anxiety level.

NEXT POST – October 23, 2008

Become a Better Listener: Part 3

Become a Better Listener: Part 1

October 15, 2008


Greetings, in my last post, I described the 4 barriers to effective listening.  These include the following:

1.  A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda.

2.  Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic.

3.  Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak.

4.  Emotional, external, internal and cultural noise.

Fortunately listening is not as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two aspects of effective listening.  The first, and most obvious, is that listening involves understanding the message being sent by your communication partner in the way that they intend.  The second, and frequently neglected aspect, is that effective listening involves the articulation of your understanding to your communication partner.  In other words, you demonstrate to that person that you clearly understand his or her message.  There are six steps that you can take to improve your listening in both areas.  Here is the first, and arguably most important step:

Use active listening on a regular basis.  Active listening consists of the listener’s attempt to give back (or reflect) what has been stated by the speaker.  If you are going to effectively reflect the feelings and content of the speaker’s message, then you really have to pay attention.  You can apply active listening by using a one sentence reflective statement that paraphrases what the speaker has said.  A good reflective statement includes two parts: an affective element and a content element.  The affective element identifies the feelings of your communication partner.  The content element describes why the person feels this way.  For example, if you are talking with a colleague who is upset because of a significant policy change at work you might say, “It sounds like you are really frustrated because the new policy is going to make it harder to do your job.”  Make it easier to use a reflective statement by applying a sentence prefix such as, “What I hear you saying is…” or “Sounds like you…”

NEXT POST – October 20, 2008

Become a Better Listener: Part 2

The 4 Barriers to Effective Listening

October 10, 2008


Listening is one of the most prominent activities in our daily lives.  In fact, with the exception of breathing, there is nothing we do more frequently than listen.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t listen as well as we could.  Research indicates that the average person forgets 50% of what they hear within seconds of a conversation.  Within two days, we lose 75% and a week after a conversation, we have lost over 90% of what was discussed.  This occurs because of the four barriers to effective listening that we encounter on a regular basis:

1.  A natural tendency to want to speak first and focus on our own agenda.  This gets in the way of our ability to really hear and understand the other person.  

2.  Negative perceptions regarding the speaker and/or topic.  If you lack enthusiasm for either your communication partner or the subject matter, your ability to listen can be severely limited.

3.  Our ability to think much faster than someone can speak.  Each of us has the ability to process words 4-5 times faster than a person can speak them.  This can lead to impatience on part of the listener if their communication partner is not making his or her points quickly enough.

4.  Emotional, external, internal and cultural noise.  Noise is anything that interferes with the accurate transmission of information between a speaker and listener.  Emotional noise consists of words that arouse strong emotions in us and thereby limit our communication effectiveness.  External noise involves distractions that take place around us and take our attention away from the speaker.  Internal noise consists of distractions taking place within us, such as having our mind on something else or being in a rush, which take our attention away from the speaker.  Finally, cultural noise involves distractions caused by the cultural differences between two people.  For example, communication between two individuals whose primary languages are different creates problems and makes it more difficult to accurately transmit messages between the communication partners.

NEXT POST – October 15, 2008:

Become a Better Listener: Part 1

Culturally Competent Communication: Part 3

October 6, 2008


Greetings, in my last two posts, I described 5 things you should do if you want to communicate more effectively with people who are culturally different.   Here are my last 2 DO’S:

1.  DO step outside of your comfort zone.  The best way to increase your cultural knowledge and skills is to experience the things that culturally different people experience on a regular basis.  This can help you to better understand the values, beliefs and behaviors of people who are culturally different.  Go to diverse places of worship, visit different cultural events, go to various social activities, visit different ethnic restaurants, talk to different people at work, or do anything else that puts you in direct proximity with people you don’t normally interact with.  The most important aspect of this process is to step outside of your comfort zone.  For example, if you are a member of a “majority” group, put yourself in the position of being a “minority”.  This will give you a better understanding of why culturally different people might think or act in certain ways.

2.  DO speak inclusively.  Inclusive language acknowledges different people and creates more positive environments where people feel included.  To communicate inclusively, use terms that will be understood and respected by people of different backgrounds, refer to people by the names they wish to be called (e.g., physically challenged instead of handicapped), and eliminate language that suggests men are the standard for all human beings (e.g., use both masculine and feminine pronouns).

NEXT POST – October 10, 2008

Culturally Competent Communication: Part 2

October 1, 2008


In my last post, I described 2 things you should do if you want to enhance communication in diverse settings.   Here are 3 more DO’S:

DO suspend your judgment.  It is very natural to evaluate others.  We do it all the time.  However, judging others can create many communication problems so always try to be non-judgmental, even when you disagree with the person, or in situations where your values are different.  One way to do this is to say to yourself, “There is always value in difference, even when I have to look hard to find it!”

DO seek common ground between yourself and others.  This is especially important during multicultural interactions.  Always remember that no matter what the cultural differences are, you will always have more similarities with your colleagues than differences.  Focus on identifying these similarities and using them as a means to better understand your differences.

DO acknowledge the impact of stereotyping.  Stereotypes (the generalizations we make about members of a particular group) negatively impact our interactions and cause us to act in unintentionally biased ways.  Therefore, be aware of your stereotypes, and actively work to reduce their impact.

NEXT POST – October 6, 2008:

Culturally Competent Communication: Part 3