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8/2/12 05:05PM

New Guide of Cultural DOs and DON'Ts for Business Travelers to Latin America

Courting business relationships in Latin America is a delicate dance. Making a good first impression is the first step; maintaining a positive relationship is the ultimate goal. "The First Fifteen Minutes" is an easy-to-read guide that will help the business traveler prepare for success.



August 2, 2012, Lakeland, FL


Is Teen Behavior a Lesson for Business Behavior?


By Lori Madden, Ph.D.


Even young teenagers understand the intricacies of social behavior.  Perhaps more so than adults, they are sensitive to the shaded nuances of words, intonation and non-verbal behaviors in interpreting how their peers feel about them.


Imagine a lovesick high schooler—we’ll call him Jake.  He wants to know whether it’s safe to ask the girl he has a crush on—we’ll call her Bella—, on a date.  He likes her; he doesn’t know if his attraction is reciprocated.  He doesn’t want to be embarrassed by rejection.  So, he tells Bella’s best friend that he intends to ask Bella on a date.  He waits for his ‘secret’ to be passed on to Bella.  It doesn’t take long.  The next time he walks down the school hallway toward an approaching Bella, she sees him, then quickly turns and ducks into the bathroom.


Jake has his answer.  Now he knows that Bella doesn’t feel the same way about him.  He doesn’t ask her on a date and saves himself the heartbreak of a face-to-face rejection.


The above scenario was inspired by a story related by ex-FBI investigator and behavioral expert John L. Schafer, author of Psychological Narrative Analysis: A Professional Method to Detect Deception in Written and Oral Communications.


What does Jake’s story have to do with international business?  We adults can learn a lesson from teenage angst.  Interpreting verbal and non-verbal behavior is important in our personal and professional lives, but its importance is heightened when negotiating relationships with people whose cultural behavior is unfamiliar to us.  This is the challenge that every business traveler faces.


SLS Publications is pleased to announce the publication of The First Fifteen Minutes: Courting Business in Latin America by Lori Madden, Ph.D.  Spanish language and culture trainer, Dr. Madden is also author of Deciphering the Latino Consumer.


Developing sustainable business relationships in Latin America is like a courtship.  The U.S. business representative doesn’t want to alienate potential business partnerships by rushing a relationship before it even starts, like our fictional teenager Jake, or by making social or cultural mistakes.  It’s vital to learn about the target culture and its corporate behavior before making contact to realign expectations.  Then, prepare to be the best suitor to your target.


David J. Lieberman, in Get Anyone to Do Anything, describes the ‘primacy effect’ of first impressions as “another person caus[ing] us to interpret his or her subsequent behavior in a manner consistent with the first impression.  …everything we see and hear afterwards gets filtered through our initial opinion.”  Making a good first impression is the first step; maintaining a positive relationship is the ultimate goal. 


Travelers also need to learn to be patient; they must earn the trust of their potential partners over time and multiple visits.  They need to practice the social behaviors and adopt the cultural values to make them attractive to their new business family.  They need to be observant to subtle behavioral cues since their hosts will not tell them directly when they make mistakes.  They need to prove they are worthy to represent the interests of their new Latin American colleagues before sealing any commitment.  Madden’s succinct, easy-to-read guide of cultural Dos and Don’ts will guide business travelers to modify their behavior for success in Latin America.


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