Our norms, rules, and culture can influence the way we communicate with each other.
According to Bartleby Research, different cultures have different moral codes that should be taken into account while communicating. Whether you are chatting with your friends at your workplace or on a social networking platform like Livebeam, where people meet to share their interests and life experiences, how you communicate affects the outcome of your social and business interactions.
Here is something worth noting — not everyone you see or meet is a people person. In addition, making people feel comfortable during a conversation doesn’t come naturally. But a great atmosphere can help make cross-cultural communication easier than you think.
10 ways that can help you make cross-cultural communication more efficient:
1. Observe Etiquette
When getting ready for a discussion, chat, or a business meeting with overseas colleagues or generally people of different culture from yours, the first step should be to learn about their traditions.
Learn about their company etiquette or cultural background so you can respect their regulations or moral codes and prevent misunderstandings and uncomfortable situations. If it is a work meeting, it is best for you to conduct an extensive study on the levels of formality utilized in business communication in their nation. For example, if you’re conducting business with Italians, try to look smart because being properly dressed is a symbol of success in their culture. Do research on what they like and things that make them feel uncomfortable. For instance, while chatting with someone from Japan, avoid mentioning the number 9 as it bears bad luck according to their beliefs. Similarly, people from Italy don’t like the number 17, because, according to their beliefs, it bears bad luck.
2. Avoid Excessive Slang
“Hey, what’s poppin y’all?!” Imagine saying this in a very official business meeting, where serious issues are about to be discussed, you will most likely annoy some people if not all of them. Even though people in the meeting understand what you are saying, they will find it very inappropriate if you use the language in an inappropriate situation. Another problem is that people of different cultures may not fully understand the slang, or perceive it too literally.
Unlike clubs and other casual places, there is no space for slang in official business communication, you will appear less mature and less serious, and no one will feel comfortable sealing a deal with you. No matter how friendly and understanding your team members are, try keeping the language official.
3. No Rush: Speak Slowly and Clearly
It doesn’t matter if your international colleagues are fluent in your native language or not, while speaking you need to utter words slow enough for them to hear. It’s not about pausing after every word, but trying to articulate your words carefully so you can be easily understood, especially if it is face to face communication. Try to avoid long sentences, as people who are not native to your language may not get what you want to say. Short sentences give people time to digest what you said before replying. Don’t be afraid to ask people from other countries and cultures to speak slowly if they are too fast and inaccurate. After all, you are trying to understand each other. In cross-cultural communication openness is key, so always feel free to inquire if something is bothering you.
4. No Closed Questions, Please!
While speaking to people who are not from your culture or country, it is advisable to avoid asking closed questions or “Yes and No” questions. This is because in some nations like Japan, saying “No” is considered offensive and rude, so your conversation partner is more likely to say “Yes” because they don’t want to be rude, and not because they mean it.
Open-ended questions allow conversation partners to be more creative and provide solutions more effectively. According to Dr. William Lane, an education consultant specialist, closed questions may stop conversation, while open-ended questions improve it.
5. Use Humor Cautiously
Donald Trump was possibly one of the US presidents that were loved and hated in equal measure. So here is the point: imagine walking into the office to close a deal, and making a bad joke about Donald Trump to the business owner who is a die-hard supporter. Do you think you will close the deal?
Humor is good in a conversation but you need to be very careful while using it. In fact, humor rarely has a place in business, especially international businesses. Some jokes just don’t translate well, you may end up offending the other person unknowingly. If you should use humor and jokes in your conversation, then do it with someone whose culture you understand very well.
Before you meet and start a conversation with people of different norms and cultures, you need to prepare yourself very well, more so if it is business-related. Learn more about them and what offends them and makes them happy. Use universal humor or don’t use humor at all, a simple mistake might cost you a lot.
6. Mind the Needs of the Other Person
Always keep in mind that the person you are speaking to comes from a different culture or lives in a different part of the world. So you need to be mindful of things like time differences and decide on the best method of communicating without interfering with their needs. You can discuss with them about how and when they want to be contacted if you are not sure of what to do.
Another special need to bear in mind is how the other person celebrates their holiday. For instance, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, so starting your conversation with “Merry Christmas” might sound offensive or sound like a bad joke. Remember that religion is a personal matter to most people, so you must be very cautious if you want to mention anything to do with religion in your conversation.
7. Offer Support
It is essential to support your partners in the conversation. Don’t let them struggle trying to understand you. Encourage them so they can be more comfortable talking to you. Treat them with respect and communicate very clearly so they can hear you, especially if you are talking remotely through a site like Livebeam. Give your best so you can create a strong bond with the person you are talking to.
8. Be Yourself
By trying to impress other people with a pretty, socially pleasant facade and denying your uniqueness, you will always find the wrong companions. Every one of us has specific needs and desires, so lying about who you are and then eventually revealing your true nature will lead you towards disappointment and rejection from your social circle. Especially if talking to someone from a different culture, let yourself and the other person be authentic, making communication truly comfortable and trusting.
9. Use Gestures Cautiously
Different cultures use gestures differently while talking. For instance, when Indians wobble their heads it means they are attentive or in agreement with what you are saying. In other cultures this may be taken as “No” or dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is important to use gestures carefully to avoid miscommunication.
10. Be on Time
What does being on time have to do with cross-cultural communication? Well, communication is not just about words, but actions. Most people in the west value their time, and if you are going to an interview or a meeting, being late without a good reason may come out as disrespectful.
Let’s Wrap It Up
With so many social media sites coming up and more people working remotely, cross cultural communication has become a norm. Sure, there are always obstacles to excellent cross-cultural communication, but the tips we’ve discussed above can help you overcome them.