In the last couple of months, I received feedback from friends and/or colleagues regarding intercultural communication. There were like: „Fine Moni, that is nice to read and really important - but how can I „do“ intercultural communication right??“
That’s a nice one & you are right - in this article I will give you the best tips & tricks which helped me in the past a lot.
I set up a few questions which might help you in rocking intercultural communication:
1) Did you do your homework?
In my last articles, I emphasized the importance of gathering the necessary knowledge of specific cultures - doing your research on cultural norms, standards, and communication methods will prepare you on a basic level; which is good for your start. One example can be: How do people in China share their feedback?
2) Are you confident enough to ask questions and accept that you’ll do mistakes?
Showing willingness to ask in order to avoid cultural faux pas is more appreciated than rushing through mistakes. Never forget - the first impression is the most important one. Even if you are doing mistakes later in further conversations it is okay! With all the research on Google, you will never have all the information/knowledge ready. So you will make mistakes and that’s okay.
Take your apology as an opportunity to do better next time.
3) Can you control your humor?
We all know that humor is culture oriented - isn’t it? People feel offended & belittled fast. In a working/professional environment, it can be a mood or even a deal killer.
Beware of making jokes and/or using idioms that might destroy your sympathy.
4) Are you actively listening?
The biggest communication problem in nowadays society is, that we do not listen to understand - we listen to reply.
A major problem if you ask me, and even worse if we do that in an intercultural environment. If you compare a German with a Japanese - and how they share their feedback - you will see major differences. That’s why it is important to actively listen to what people are telling you.
If you think about your answer while the other is speaking; how can you assure that you get what he/she says?
5) Did you repeat and confirm what was being said?
Sometimes there might be misunderstandings, even if you are actively listening to your conversation partner. So what to do now?
What I love to do is repeat what I heard and confirm the meaning of what was said.
This is how you avoid misunderstandings and align everyone’s understanding before moving forward.
6) Did you check the nonverbal communication?
Posture, eye contact, and intonation play a big role in most cultures. Chinese people avoid eye contact, be aware that you would make enemies if you force eye contact with people with a Chinese background.
In this country, they just make eye contact when they are angry. It is meant to challenge the other person and is a sign of disrespect.
7) Are you speaking slowly and clearly?
You are seen as more confident if you speak slowly and clearly.
Take time before your speak - it can help you to avoid misunderstandings and words that you might regret later.
Intercultural communication is a lifelong lesson - so don’t be too harsh on yourself. Even if I share my experiences, research, and knowledge I gathered in the last years, I’m still on that journey of learning & exploring.
So are you ready for continuing our journey? Let me know your thoughts on this!
All the best,