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Free tips on communication. Tip 3: Intercultural Communication

In an increasingly globalized world, and since remote work has made a huge impact on companies everywhere the past years, focusing on your communication from the cultural and intercultural perspective is crucial.

My third tip gives you the tools to adapt your communication strategy, to fit the needs of an international and intercultural workforce, avoiding conflict as much as possible.

People from different cultures have different basic understandings of what is normal and accepted. You will need to be culturally conscious, when communicating in international and intercultural teams.

Working in an increasingly globalised world, having an understanding of different cultures can give you a clear advantage in many work related situations. 

Doing team work with a multicultural workforce can easily create conflicts, that are difficult to work through, if you do not know anything about the cultures you are working with.

The most basic differences in cultures around the world, come down to mindset and basic understanding of: 

  • Having an individualistic vs. collective mindset
  • Power and Authority
  • Direct vs. Indirect communication

FOCUS of today: Direct vs. Indirect communication

In general, you can divide culture into categories based on where in the world they originate from.

Cultures from the northern hemisphere normally have a tendency to have a mindset based on: 

  • Individualism 
  • Low Power and Authority distance
  • Direct communication (Let’s call this group of people “Individualitsts”)

where cultures from the southern hemisphere generally tend to lean towards: 

  • Collectivism
  • High Power and Authority distance
  • Indirect communication (this group is usually called “Collectivists”)

These differences communication style, can make relations between co-workers a bit complicated at times, due to the expectations of the different cultures.

Individualists tend to have a “straight to the point” kind of attitude, where Collectivists tend to focus more on creating interpersonal relations, before ending up at the main point.

In business situations this needs to be understood and respected by all parties, especially for the individualists, with a very direct communication style, when doing cross-cultural business interactions and teamwork. In business relations, Individualists tend to want a short, straight forward answer to any query they might have. For them, spending time on building a relation between sender and receiver, most of the time, seems unnecessary, depending on the nature of the request of course.

When interacting with others for Collectivists, one of the most important things in communication is to establish a relation between the communicating parties. 

In written communication to Collectivists, this can be expressed by adding a level of empathy and a sense of caring towards the receiver, such as:

– “I hope this email reaches you well”, 

– “I am highly aware of your concern”, 

– “your best is in my highest interest”, etc.

When communicating with Individualists, a more direct approach is recommendable. Remember to include:

– a short recap of the goal of the message

– what/if you have researched 

– the answer to the query, shortly summed up in a clear and precise manner

– any possible solutions or suggestions you want to present (be solution oriented and present solution options, instead of asking “what to do”)

People working with businesses in highly international settings, no matter which of the “extremities” you originate from, can highly benefit in their everyday work if using this Tip. This simple advice can help avoid conflicts with employees, colleagues, business partners, as well as clients and associates.

PRACTICE: 

Create 2 different answers to the question below: 1 written for a person with a direct communication style and 1 written for a person with an indirect communication style.

Question: 

I am looking for a new sofa, and I need something simple and inexpensive. Where can I find that close by?

Write your 2 answers and, if you feel like it, send them to me so I can give you a few words of feedback.

Thanks for tuning in!

If you find this topic interesting and want to know more about intercultural communication, feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to have a virtual coffee with you!

Intercultural communication and business culture are within my core expertise, so don’t hesitate in reaching out to me to have a talk and schedule your FREE CONSULTING SESSION. – Cheers, Sarah

intercultural communication

I support companies in their journey towards creating a more inclusive, engaging and attractive workplace.

If you are interested in hearing more about how I can help you tailor and improve your business culture, send me a message today to book your FREE Consulting session.

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