Top 5 Tips for Improving Intercultural Communication in the Workplace

Mon, Aug 20, 2012

Internship Information

As our world is expanding, especially as it relates to technology, there are more and more people who are finding themselves working in a multi-cultural environment. This means that they are dealing with people who may be fluent in more than one language and have different customs when it comes to relating to other people. As a direct result, a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity is needed in order for companies with these kinds of settings to be a long-term success.

If you work in an intercultural environment and you would like some tips on how to improve the communication within your workplace, here are five that will definitely make daily interactions much more effective:

Be respectful. The Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” basically applies to any situation, but it’s especially beneficial in a multi-cultural space. All of us want to be treated with courtesy and respect and that’s something that translates across all cultures and demographics, so make sure that you make it a priority in the office.

Apply good listening skills. Sometimes, especially if someone doesn’t speak as clearly as you would like, there can be a temptation to get frustrated, to cut them off, or to simply stop listening. This definitely does more harm than good. Everyone likes to be heard and so when you’re speaking to someone of a different culture than you, purpose in your mind to keep good eye contact, to not interrupt and to ask for clarification when something does not make sense to you. There’s a greater chance that they would rather repeat themselves than have you walk off assuming that they said something totally different than what they actually meant.

Keep the casual communication to a minimum. By “casual communication” we mean be careful when it comes to telling jokes and using slang terms. This is because what may translate to mean one thing in your country, it may mean something totally different in someone else’s. Most of us have heard the phrase, “When in doubt, don’t.” It doesn’t hurt to apply that pearl of wisdom here.

Ask questions. There may be days when you’ll find yourself feeling like you wish that you had a master of mass communication in order to deal with the people around you, but don’t be so hard on yourself. When you’re not sure of what’s going on, there is nothing wrong with simply asking questions. If you aren’t successful in relaying your concerns verbally, opt for sending it in email form or using someone as a “middle man” to help in getting your point across.

Be pleasant. Body language is something that translates pretty clearly in just about every language. People don’t need to speak the same one to understand the tapping of feet, the rolling of eyes or the curling of a lip. So, make sure that when you’re speaking or listening to someone, that you present a pleasant kind of disposition. Making people feel comfortable in your presence is one of the best ways to encourage effective communication within the workplace.

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