US Business Meeting Etiquette
“It is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” (Anonymous)
Martin was next up to be promoted to be the supervisor of his group; however, the signals he was getting from his co-workers let him know that they were not ready to work for him. He walked away from every meeting with a sinking feeling – he just didn’t know what he was going wrong .
Here are some of the business meeting etiquette guidelines we worked out:
Don’t come into the meeting smelling of smoke and don’t walk out of meetings to light up a cigarette. No one wants to sit next to a human ashtray.
Use the meetings to get to know your co-workers.
Ask about personal interests, remember the answers and use them to connect again at the next meeting. This is a social protocol in the US and it’s also a way to establish real connections.
Let speakers in the meeting speak freely about their new ideas.
Don’t jump on them or imply that their message is stupid. Listen.
Americans value time, so stick to the issues on the agenda.
Avoid personal confrontations.
However, if an argument is unavoidable, use “I” messages . Not, “you made a mistake”, but, “In my opinion”, “this is how I see what happened” etc.
Group consensus building in the US is highly valued.
The process at meetings here is often slow and can take a long time – at least for Europeans. Patience is a must.
Don’t interrupt – this is really looked down on.
Don’t tell foreign jokes, they don’t work in translation.
Understand how to use US phrases, idioms and slang when communicating.
There is a definite language used in corporate meetings. People are concerned about getting a buy-in from employees.
Use sentences such as:
Let me be sure that I understood what you just said…
If I heard you correctly…
It seems to me….I think…..
Don’t win an argument.
On that topic, Lord Chesterfield said to his son:
“Be wiser than other people if you can, but do not tell them so.”
Even if you think yours is the right way, beware; or, as the Boston Transcript put it many years ago:
Here lies the body of William Jay
Who died maintaining his right of way
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.