The LOVE of Languages!
Knowing five languages (i.e., body language, Spanish, English, Portuguese, and American Sign Language) is an important competitive advantage for Angie Martell, Attorney and Mediator at Iglesia Martell Law Firm PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Angie was born to deaf parents so American Sign Language was her first language, which taught her the importance of facial expressions and meaningful gestures in human communication.
During her childhood, she was raised in a Spanish-speaking home with her grandparents and became fluent in Spanish while learning English in school. Later on in college, she learned Portuguese.
In addition to being multi-lingual, Angie embraces a ‘Holistic’ approach to understanding people. She goes beyond the spoken words to also include the richness of cultural nuances, diversity factors, and non-verbal body language cues in order to connect with others at deeper levels of understanding and provide optimal professional and legal services for clients.
Angie has worked with governmental entities and corporations on the issues of diversity sensitivity training, “You really need to be cognizant in order to pick up on subtle nonverbal, cultural, and social cues.”
For example, the small gesture of presenting her business card, or receiving business cards, with two hands and making a verbal acknowledgment of the person, company, or title demonstrates to her clients (especially those of Asian heritage) that she respects and honors them.
Cultural gestures and sensitivities have big impact on building trust, rapport, and ease. Oversight or ignorance of cultural norms can leave a slight, or lasting, negative impression. Cultural competency is truly essential to increasing the quality of one’s services and effective representation of one’s clients.
Accurate Body Language invites you to listen to Angie’s in-depth interview on her perspective regarding Hispanic culture and the importance of non-verbal body language:
For the initial business meeting with people of Hispanic heritage, Angie and Janette offer 10 Accurate Body Language and Rapport Building Tips:
Hispanic women generally may have less direct eye contact when interacting with Hispanic men. During conversations, eye gaze from females to males is less direct in the Hispanic culture compared to eye gaze between genders in the American culture.
Tip # 2:
Hispanic women generally do not touch or shake hands with Hispanic men. Generally speaking, Hispanic men project more “Machismo” gender and patriarchal societal dominance.
Accurate Body Language suggests the SOFTEN approach for both genders:
S = Smile warmly
O = Open body language
F = Forward Lean
T = Appropriate touch or no touch norm
E = Respective eye gaze
N = Nodding of the head
Offer coffee. If the client’s requested beverage is warm (e.g., coffee or tea), after pouring the warm beverage in a cup, hand the cup to the client with a slight touch. The warmth of the beverage transfers from you the giver to the receiver of the drink.
Share comfort food. In the Hispanic culture, sharing food promotes connection and communication.
Show interest by asking about families before discussing the business issues on the agenda. Hispanic cultures place great emphasis on family, interpersonal trust, relationships, and status. Therefore, be polite and inquire about the other person’s family.
Be mindful of gender voice qualities (e.g., volume, pitch, speed, etc.), and cultural vocal expressions:
- Men and women differ regarding the sizes and characteristics of the larynx and vocal folds that control pitch, airflow, volume and vibration.
- Males have longer and thicker vocal cords which produce lower, deeper sounding baritone pitch. This gives males vocal advantages with greater perceived personal confidence and leadership qualities.
- Women, most often, have thinner and longer vocal folds than men, which contributes to a more high-pitched sound.
Fun Fact: Britain Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher enhanced her personal power with professional voice coaching lessons in order to lower her voice pitch and octave range and project a calmer, more authoritative tone.
Use open and welcoming hand gestures. In both Spanish and English speaking cultures, avoid index-finger pointing which can be perceived as aggressive. Be aware that common hand gestures in one culture may translate differently (and possibly offensively) in another culture!
Sit down and enjoy meals and companionship. Don’t simultaneously walk, talk, and eat with others, if you want to make a good impression.
Not surprisingly, the ‘Drive-Through’ restaurant is an American concept created in 1947 by Sheldon “Red” Chaney, operator of Red’s Giant Hamburg in Springfield, Missouri.
Spanish speaking countries have closer proxemic distances. Spanish speaking cultures are comfortable communicating with one another at a closer distance, range, and spatial proximity than typical distance between Americans.
Pay attention, build rapport, and use natural, expressive body language facial and hand gestures when interacting with others. Match, mirror, and synchronize body language and vocal qualities of those with whom you are interacting.
For more information regarding cultural diversity training and questions regarding legal matters, Angie Martell may be reached at:
Iglesia Martell Law Firm, PLLC
117 North First Street Suite 111 Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104
Phone: (734) 369-2331
Angie Martell is an experienced attorney and mediator with over 23 years of legal experience. As founder and managing partner of her firm, she started her legal career as a civil rights lawyer and has worked extensively in the areas of in-house general counsel matters, civil rights, family law, LGBT issues, employee rights, criminal defense, mediation, and arbitration.
She is licensed to practice law in Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts, and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the American Bar Association, the Washtenaw County Bar Association, and the Stonewall Bar Association.
In addition, Ms. Martell is a member of the board of directors of the SafeHouse Center, Hispanic Bar Association, and the Washtenaw Region of the Women’s Law Association of Michigan. She is a member of the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan.
Ms. Martell is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. District Courts of Eastern and Western of Michigan, the U.S. District Courts of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.
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