Hispanic people are the largest minority in the United States. In turn, Spanish is the second language most used within the country (as of 2015). Of the estimated 57 million Latinos who live in the U.S., three quarters of them speak Spanish at home, according to the Pew Research Center. In a business perspective, this reveals the need to adopt multicultural practices to capture the Hispanic client-base. Being culturally competent not only increases the quality of one’s services and effective representation of one’s clients but also has a big impact on building trust, rapport, and ease. When it comes to the Hispanic and Latino community, there are several non-verbal
norms to keep in mind, especially when having an initial business meeting with them.
1.Expect Less Eye Contact from Women
This is true in many Asian, African and Latin American cultures. Although in the U.S it may seem as a sign of being dishonest or suspicious, for many Latinos (especially women), making extended eye contact with a person of authority is often considered as disrespectful or overly bold. Therefore, don’t be alarmed if you see them make only sporadic or brief eye contact with you. This is merely a sign of respect.
2.Nodding of the Head Doesn’t Necessarily Signify Agreement or Understanding
This non-verbal cue often means more of a “Yes, I am listening to your intently” rather than “Yes, I understand what you are saying and I agree”. The usual response of disagreement within Latinos is silence and noncompliance. This is why it’s important to clarify and ask more than once (albeit in a respectful manner) if they understand or have any concerns.
3.Share Comfort Food
Everyone loves food, but within the Hispanic culture, sharing food promotes connection and communication. Feel free to offer them a warm beverage to promote trust between you and your client.
excitability or distress in a Hispanic person, as this is relatively normal within the culture. Also, avoid index-finger pointing which can be perceived as aggressive.
5.Show Interest by Asking about Their Families Before Discussing Business Issues on the Agenda
Latinos Value Relationships and they place a great emphasis on family, interpersonal trust, relationships, and status. They prefer a polite and friendly encounter before a relation. It is polite to inquire about the client’s family when greeting them to further develop your relationship.
6.Make use of the Proper Titles for Older Individuals
Respect for the elders is highly valued within the Latino culture. A well-mannered way to address an older individual of Hispanic descent is señor (Mr.) or señora (Mrs.). They can also be followed by the person’s professional title, without the name, such as señora doctora or señor maestro.
7.Be aware of personal space
While most Americans communicate with each other on a distance of 36 to 48 inches, Hispanics tend to stand closer to each other at 18 inches. This is a significant difference in the way they perceive personal space. Still, this doesn’t mean you must get close with every Hispanic client you meet with. As with any of the tips above, if the client follows through, you may do the same.
Always keep in mind that these guidelines should be applied as informed generalizations. As new generations of Hispanics are being culturally integrated into more Western norms, these may be subject to change within different individuals. When in doubt, it’s best to be more observant of the nonverbal cues of those you’re interacting with and try to remember these guidelines to avoid misinterpretation.