Recently, I received an e-mail from a client and her Rwandan scholars, who shared their experience about making first impressions and powerful introductions. Read more below.
Last month, I met five scholars from Rwanda. They were bright, ambitious, courageous millennials open to learning communication skills through the Confidence Project.
The Rwandan scholars are part of the Portland-based non- profit, These Numbers Have Faces. They are undergraduates who are at the top of their classes in Engineering and Business and are in the U.S. for summer internships at companies in Portland and Austin, TX.
These Numbers Have Faces invests in university students and young entrepreneurs across six African countries, impacting over 4,000 people a year. The goal is to ensure that ethical, educated, and empowered young people lead Africa toward a hopeful future.
At the Confidence Project workshop, we practiced making powerful introductions. In North America, that means a firm handshake, direct eye contact and offering our full names. In Rwanda, it’s common to greet someone with a hug, followed by a handshake. After shaking right hands, it’s normal to hold opposite hands for the entire length of a conversation. (Imagine that practice in 2016 America. It seems impossible for most people to break away from their cell phones, even while having a face-to-face “conversation.”)
Names are not as straight forward in East Africa as they can be in the U.S. Typically, they refer to the person by their second name, like Samantha or Benson. The first names are challenging and the students belly laughed at my pitiful attempt to pronounce them correctly (e.g. Nijyembere, Mukashyaka, & Nsanzabandi).
During the Confidence Project workshops, I encourage people to introduce themselves with confidence and impact. “It’s your brand.” If your name is complicated, be indulgent of others who are trying to pronounce it. Help us out with mnemonic devices.
My good friend, Stanley Fertig, who was an executive at Time Warner for 25 years, including 11 at HBO, recently told me about his colleague, Paul Ewing. Stanley and Paul often worked together in China. Some of their Chinese clients had a hard time with Paul’s last name. To help out, Paul would point at them, and say, “You,” and then stick his hands under his arm pits and flap his elbows like chicken wings, while saying, “You-Wing…You-Wing!” After Paul’s introduction, Stanley said the clients always remembered Paul’s name and pronounced it correctly, too!
The Rwandan scholars and I will circle back before they return home. I’m eager to hear how they used their Confidence Project skills including owning their names and helping others pronounce them. Equally important, however, is how they feel about stepping out of their comfort zone to introduce themselves and engage in meaningful conversations in business and social settings in the U.S.
Message from Tracy Hooper
For the next 30-days, listen carefully to people’s names and practice pronouncing the difficult ones.
People will be grateful that you tried. Remember: unless you’re being called into the principal’s office or called up for jury duty, most people love hearing their names spoken out loud. Plus, they’ll remember you for taking the time and making the effort to know them.
About the Confidence Project
The Confidence Project offers various workshops for individuals, groups, and businesses that seek to build self-confidence and pratical communication skills. Our core belief is to encourage people of any age to be comfortable, open, and professional in any given setting.
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