We now operate in a global economy, and deal with people from different countries all the time. A good understanding of cross-cultural communication is needed to succeed in a world-wide business. You have to be able to clearly communicate no matter whom you’re meeting with. Here are five cross cultural communication strategies that will help you be more effective and avoid offensive errors.
1. Don’t Make Assumptions about the Culture. Take time to do some research about the culture and habits of the people you are working with. One of my favorite books on this topic is Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands, which offers the most comprehensive insights into business etiquette available.
2. Be Aware of Your Non-Verbal Communication. Gestures that seem harmless can be incredibly offensive in a different culture. For example, in the British Isles or Australia holding up two fingers in the “V” of Victory or peace symbol, while showing the back of the hand, is like swearing. A “thumbs up” in Latin America, West Africa, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan is also considered offensive by local people. Modify your gestures, be mindful about your movements, and conservative with word choice.
3. Avoid Analogies. Most analogies and colloquialisms are far from universal. For example, using sports analogies such as “Make an end run” may not be understood in a lot of countries. Give serious thought to your examples and analogies to be sure your point will be easily understood.
4. High Context Cultures. A culture with high context in their communication looks at the whole communication. For places like Japan, you need to give the complete background and the big picture first and then proceed with the details. Their culture is also more relationship oriented and so they are more likely to do business with people they know, so keep that in mind as well.
This idea of high context is especially important for PowerPoint presentations that will require a lot more detail on each slide than we would recommend here in the US. On the other hand, low context cultures start with the details first and then move to the big picture.
5. Keep it Simple. When communicating cross culturally, language can sometimes be a communication barrier. Make sure your ideas are clear and easily understood. Confirm their understanding by asking “Does that make sense?” whether you are before an audience or working one-on-one. Be sure to ask if people have questions.
“Laurie has trained the team of the BMW Group Regional Office in Panama. After a two-day workshop of presentation skills for non-native English speakers, I could see substantial improvements in the presentation skills of most team members. Some of them came out of the training with surprising improvements.”
—JOHANNES SIEBERT, BMW Latin America
If your team works with contacts overseas or travels to make presentations, improve their communication skills with Laurie’s program. She can help with presentation skills, non-verbal communication, fear of public speaking and dealing with difficult customers for any culture. Her material is effective one-on-one, ideal for in-house training or breakout sessions at your next event.
Contact Laurie Now at (248)-761-7510 for Your Next Conference or Training Session.
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