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I want to talk to you a little about one of the reasons you may be losing opportunities in the American world. Surprisingly, it may not be your accent. Sometimes, people who speak English really clearly and have only a minor accent tell me they need to improve their English. When this happens, I am reminded that there may be an issue that goes beyond the spoken word. People automatically gravitate towards others who are like them. They feel comfortable with similar people and they trust them, since they share common values.

To be more readily accepted into the American workplace and social circles, you may have to adopt new behaviors that allow you to be perceived as similar to the main culture. For example, in conversation, Americans generally smile and make eye contact and are somewhat animated when they speak, speaking in a loud voice and showing some emotion. If your speech is monotone or flat and lacking emotion, you may seem unfriendly, uninterested and unapproachable.

But the good news is, you can make your speech sound friendlier by adding more pitch variation and smiling. Act professionally, but don’t appear too serious. You should include more ups and downs in the melody of your speech. You should learn to make small talk. Asking someone how they are, talking about the weather, discussing the weekend can help you build a friendly rapport. You don’t have to turn into an American, but you may need to modify things a bit so that Americans feel comfortable with you and see you as someone they can trust.

Americans are generally light-hearted and friendly. Some outsiders describe this as fake, but really, it’s our culture. Just because an American smiles and chats with you doesn’t mean they are your friend. Don’t be fooled. We just treat everyone this way.

Rule of thumb: treat everyone you meet like they’re a friend and you’re happy to see them. See if this doesn’t change things for you. It really may not be your accent getting in the way at all. The good news is that the solution is probably a lot easier than changing your accent. You just need to appear friendly and trustworthy. Don’t forget to smile!

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