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Customer Service and Cultural & Linguistics

Styles of Speech

People vary greatly in the length of time between comments and responses. The speed of their speech and their willingness to interrupt may vary.

  • Tolerate gaps between questions and answers; impatience can be seen as a sign of disrespect
  • Listen to the volume and speed of the member’s speech as well as the content. Modify your own speech to more closely match that of the member to make them more comfortable
  • Rapid exchanges and even interruptions are a part of some conversational styles
  • Do not be offended if a member interrupts you
  • Stay aware of your interruption patterns, especially if the member is older than you are

Eye Contact

The way people interpret various types of eye contact is tied to cultural background.

  • Look people directly in the eyes to demonstrate communication engagement
  • For other cultures, direct eye contact is considered rude or disrespectful. Never force a member to make eye contact with you.
  • If a member seems uncomfortable with direct eye contact, try sitting next to them instead of across from them

Body Language

  • Follow the member’s lead on physical distance and contact
  • Stay sensitive to those who do not feel comfortable
  • Gestures can have different meanings
  • Be conservative in your own use of gestures and body language
  • Do not interpret member’s feelings or level of pain solely from facial expressions

Gently Guide Member Conversation

English language predisposes us to a direct communication style however, other languages and cultures differ.

  • Non English-speaking members or individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds may be less likely to ask questions

Facilitate member-centered communication

Avoid questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no”

  • Steer the member back to the topic by asking a question that clearly demonstrates that you are listening
  • Some members can tell you more about their health through story telling than by answering direct questions

Always aim to speak with member in the same language possible by using translation services or staff that may speak the same language.

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