How to communicate effectively across cultures

Do you work in a team with colleagues from all over the world? Do you deal with international clients? Have you ever found some communication difficulties? 
Ok, so you need to make more effective your intercultural communication!

Nowadays, everything is interconnected and the world is knocking at our door. Through technology, we work and speak daily with people on the other side of the globe. From our office we can taste the incredible spiced flavour of a Thai plate, while listening to the good vibes of a Latin America hit. But is the world really becoming a global village? Is being connected enough? 

The language is one of the fundamental elements capable of connecting people. Its complexity can influence the cultural identity. Language and cultural identity evolve together and shape reality. English, in particular, being the world’s most studied language, enables people to communicate through different countries and nationalities, to share ideas, to collaborate, to communicate, to travel and to do business all over the world.

English could be your mother tongue or your second language, but even if you speak it fluently, it may happen that you feel confused and misunderstood when interacting with people from different cultures. How can you be more effective?

Here you are 3+1 tips for you to make more effective your intercultural communication and avoid sticky situations.

1 . Keep it simple

Be direct. Make your message clear and concise. Say what you mean and explain what you are doing. Some cultures are more focused on how to do things, others on the why. Rely more on written communication, in order to avoid as much as possible misunderstandings.

2 . Pay attention to non-verbal communication

Being bilingual doesn’t mean being bicultural. The meaning of the same gesture can change in a different culture. Have you ever noticed that nodding is a signal that may convey several meanings? If you collaborate with Indian partners, you may be confused by how people answer you. A head shake, indeed, doesn’t necessarily mean “no” to them. It could but you should consider how fast it was, how tilted it was or you could ask…

3 . Ask questions and be ready to make mistakes

Even if you are already a cultural expert there is always something you may learn. Have a curious and genuine learning attitude and ask questions to your interlocutor. People are always happy to teach you something new about their cultures. It makes them proud. Those who do nothing never make mistakes. If you want to grow, you have to try. Make mistakes and learn from them!

BONUS Time and space: Understand & Respect

Time and space are variable concepts in different cultures. In some countries the concept of time is more flexible, in others it is not. You always need to understand the people whom you are interacting with and respect their habits. So if a meeting is set to begin at 9 o’clock, don’t be upset if it starts at 9.30. It doesn’t mean they are being disrespectful.

Transform it in a funny moment, an intercultural experience that you could tell about. Also, the space has an important role in interpersonal relationships. You could find people that during a conversation will touch you constantly, and people who will talk to you keeping at a distance. You don’t have to be offended if a person stays away from you while you are talking with him, it’s not about you! If you want to be more effective in each situation, you have to consider the diversity of the surrounding cultures!

Are you ready to dive into new cultures?

In collaboration with our partner Amolingua, an organization that helps individuals to train foreign language, cultural and communication skills to achieve their global goals, we hosted an online webinar on “Effective Communication across Cultures and Languages” and, following that, we have created a community where we will share more contents and tips on these topics.

For updates and more information on our next training, join our Linkedin Group

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