That’s How We Are…

Today I had an interesting conversation with my American colleague about sales techniques, but mainly body language involved in the sales process. He even remembered and was describing the body language of Jaime, a Hispanic male we met Saturday at a party. Relating back to our sales techniques/body language conversation, my colleague was very presice in describing how (differently) Jaime behaved with the male and female party attendees.

The body language “movement”, if you will, Jaime enacted while being introduced to the women at the party was the following:

  • He extended his right hand to shake and placed his left hand on the women’s side of the arm just above the elbow

This according to my colleague is a “technique” that tells the person who you just met that you’re friendly and not intimidating.

On the other hand, when Jaime was being introduced to the men at the party, he did the following:

  • He extended his right arm and shaked the other men’s hand very firmly and in an assertive manner

This according to my colleague is also a “technique” that tells the person who you just met that you’re not to be fulled around with… especially since this is a man-to-man scenario, where men want to assert themselves and mark their territory right from the get go.

The conversation was really interesting, but I couldn’t agree that Jaime, an educator (not a businessman), could have used sophisticated sales techniques to lure the women at the party. So I started thinking about it… even though my colleague analyzed that expose as being a display of good sales techniques, I concluded that that was just how Jaime was. No doubt, that these are sales techniques, I just don’t believe Jaime was doing them.

As I mentioned earlier, Jaime is a Hispanic male from Guadalaraja, Mexico. Even though he has lived in the US for many years, he, deep down, like me, is still a Latin. Men in Latin America are supposed to be – and they like to be – charming and delicate with women… a real gentleman; and they’re also supposed to be manly with other men… it’s a macho thing! No matter the socio-economic status, men in Latin America are generally very gracious with women.

This whole episode just goes to show how people tend to impose their value system, thoughts and way of life on other people. My colleague analyzed the whole episode as being a good display of sales techniques, which is what he does all the time, so he assumed that other men would do the same. He, however, failed to take into consideration the cultural background behind the scenes that ultimately dictated how Jaime behaved, AND how he looked at Jaime – I bet that not even an European man would have concluded what my colleague concluded because Americans tend to make a science of just about anything, any subject, and deal with other people in a very “black or white” way with (somewhat) total disregard for cultural differences.

In Latin America, that’s just how we are… social pressure teaches us, from our first years of life, how to behave with (or impress) others in a very natural way… our efforts are not at all concious. Sales techniques are, on the other hand, very concious and one must prepare to execute them correctly.

So, was Jaime pulling off sales techniques at the party? I don’t think so for all the reasons I cited. But what makes this story interesting is that misinterpretation (and miscommunication) like that happens all the time and many go undetected… and many more happen even with people who share the same background! Case in point, marriage. Do I need to say more?

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One response to “That’s How We Are…

  1. Laurence-Hélène

    There’s a very good book called The distinctive book of Body Language by Alan and Barbara Pease – check it out, it’s absolutely fascinating! It’s really helped me for negociations, presentations etc as well

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