Tips for Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

 In the business world, and even in our personal lives, with the advent of the Internet and a business environment that expands to include international locales and numerous cultures, it can be challenging to know how to communicate effectively with people who speak another language. And, given that it’s just as easy to work with people remotely as it is to work face-to-face these days, cross-cultural communication has increasingly become the new norm.

 The challenge from going from your Atlanta townhouse to a city in the middle of a foreign country can be quite difficult. These tips can help make that challenge infinitely easier, allowing you to effectively communicate.

Understand Proper Etiquette


Many cultures follow certain etiquette when it comes to communicating, so if you have some advance notice before you meet, do some research about the person’s culture. In a lot of cultures, they expect at least a degree of formality during early communication between individuals and a specific way of indicating that formality. For example, in the Spanish language, when speaking to someone you're very familiar with, you might use "tutear,” but if you address an elder, “usted” may be more appropriate. In China, family and given names are reversed. The names consist of a surname that comes first and is often monosyllabic, followed by a personal name that’s almost always mono- or disyllabic, as Chinese-lessons.com notes.

Avoid Slang

It can be hard enough for non-native English speakers to understand everything you’re saying without slang, even if they’re highly educated in the language, which is why it’s important to avoid it. While they may understand the individual words, they may not get the meaning or context which could be confusing or even offend them in some way.

Don’t Assume

The above tip also means you shouldn’t assume that you understand everything they’ve said correctly either, making it essential to summarize your understanding of what they say. Don’t assume they understood you either, summarizing the most important points using different words or asking them to summarize how they’ve understood what you’re trying to communicate.

Forget About the Jokes

Most jokes don’t communicate well across different cultures. In one, it may be funny, while in another it makes no sense, or could easily offend someone. It might end up conveying a rather undesirable image of yourself.

Don’t Speak too Fast

If you’re used to speaking fast, it’s essential to slow down – in fact, even speaking at a normal speed of conversation is probably not the best idea when trying to communicate in cross-cultural situations. Speak clearly and slowly, pronouncing words properly and breaking sentences up into shorter, definable sections. It helps the listener translate and digest what you’re saying as you speak. At the same time, speaking too slowly can seem patronizing. If the other person is speaking too quickly, don’t be afraid to politely ask them to slow down either to make sure you can understand them.

Write it Down

If there’s any question as to whether one of you has understood something important, try writing it down. That can help eliminate confusion, especially when a strong accent is involved. And, if necessary, an online translator can be used to pinpoint more exact meanings.
 
 
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