Communicating effectively across cultures as a team member or a leader takes time and practice. Lots of practice.
In case you need a reminder, here are some helpful tips to improve your communication across cultures.
1) Decide on how formal to be. Consider the other culture’s issues of respect such as terms of address, age, manner of speech, body language, eye contact, dress, and personal space. Too much informality may be interpreted as disrespect.
2) Don’t rush to get down to business. Establish the relationship first. For example, too often US Americans are results oriented without sensitivity to the “people” ingredient.
3) Never assume anything. Observe, listen, and take your cues from others. Provide clear reasons and background information for all requests or changes. The listener may not understand why you need or what you are asking for.
4) Be aware of your verbal communication style. Slow down and use simple words. Avoid colloquialisms or slang, particularly sports analogies. Never shout.
5) Be empathetic. Realize that the other speaker may be having as much difficulty and frustration as you are.
6) Be aware of your own cultural bias. Realize that each person perceives the world through the filters of his or her own cultural glasses, and that your way of seeing things is just that - your way of seeing things.
7) Don’t be quick to judge. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have all the information you need to understand the situation. 100% certainty can be very dangerous!
8) Rephrase, confirm and repeat to ensure understanding. A “yes” may not mean real understanding or agreement as much as being polite. Conversely, don’t pretend to understand when you do not.
9) Be careful with humor. Jokes can be easily misunderstood and can do more harm than good.
10) Be patient. Communicating across cultures takes longer. Plan for more time needed.
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