5 tips of cross-cultural communications in the workplace


Today’s workplace environment, complete with individuals from different cultural backgrounds and transcending multiple locations is vast. Call it an enclave of cultural dissimilarities, and you’d be entirely right. With these elevated levels of diversity comes a subtle but nonetheless crucial gap in communication. All cultures come with a side serving of tendencies and presumptions that accompany one on one interactions. Understanding what these are and leveraging them as you develop your communication skills is essential to bridging this potential communication gap.

To help you do that we’ve gone round to summate five cross communication tips. Enjoy.

Accept that cultural differences exist and have a huge impact on workplace communication

Cultural differences are more prevalent than you would imagine, accepting that they exist is the first step towards stymying the barriers they create. The scope of individuals working in today’s workplace-setting cuts across several ethnicities, each with its peculiarities. In Germany, for instance, the standard way of connoting formality is Frau and Herr; for Japan it’s singularized as San. As a precaution take your time to research the different etiquettes associated with an ethnicity before engaging with individuals from that demography.

Stay clear of Slangs

Slangs, sayings and sometimes idioms by their very nature can be very misleading. How a listener interprets their meaning is more often than not hinged on context (their cultural background) and individual understanding of the language. The possibility of a listener taking your statements for its literal or contextual meaning when you mean the opposite is quite high, which is why you should avoid them and employ all manner of straightforwardness possible.
There’s no need bringing out the big guns

(Imagine saying this, ‘bringing out the big guns’ to someone who ignorant of its figurative meaning. They could imagine you were actually armed, which further illustrates the point made earlier on avoiding idioms and the rest).
In this context, however, ‘big guns’ connotes the many complex sounding words available in English (or any other language). Do your best to keep it simple. The shorter the syllables and length of words, the better. No need barking out ‘I need you in my office with immediate alacrity’ when you could just say; ‘I need you in my office fast’ it’s more understandable and for you easier to say. Win-win!

Be the active listener
If you want to be sure you’re well in tune with what the other speaker is saying then active listening is the way to go. Promptly summarize or paraphrase statement made by the other party to ensure you have a firm grasp of the information they are trying to get across. It pays to also ask questions as you get to gain clarification and build valuable rapport.

Humor can be a Double-edged Sword

For some it could be the potent icebreaker that guarantees fluid conversations, for others it could be a massive deal breaker. Overall, since most cultures appreciate professionalism and seriousness in the workplace environment, it is best if you keep the humor in your conversations at the barest minimum. If you must make a joke, keep it short, simple and make sure it well understood.


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