Cross-Cultural Communication Tips for Effective Diversity Management
Workplace experts say that a surprising number of the problems that personnel managers juggle on a daily basis stem from miscommunication. Whether you’re dealing with a dilemma that’s as simple as a botched shift change or as complicated as an employer-employee personality clash, there’s likely a good chance that communication problems play a role.
In today’s diverse workplace, communication issues can take on an added dimension of complexity. Every culture has its own set of tacit assumptions and tendencies when it comes to face-to-face interactions, and trying to get your point across effectively can sometimes be difficult. Even when a language barrier doesn’t exist, cross-cultural communication is one of most challenging aspects of diversity management.
Overcoming Cultural Communication Barriers
The good news? Well, according to diversity management experts, as long as you’re aware of the sensitivity and importance of effective cross-cultural communication, you’ve already won half the battle. Author and communication consultant Sheida Hodge says that with this overarching principle firmly in mind, you’re well-positioned to maximize your cross-cultural communication skills.
With a repertoire of just a few basic techniques under your belt, you’ll be able to significantly improve the level of cross-cultural communication in your workplace. Use these simple concepts to dramatically boost your cross-cultural communication competency.
Take it slow.
A common objection that non-native speakers raise is the speed with which native speakers tend to communicate. Whether you’re speaking to someone who is just beginning to learn the language or a long-time English speaker who hails from a different culture, it’s helpful to modulate the pace of your speech. However, keep in mind that if you slow down too much, the effect may be insulting.
Practice active listening.
An effective strategy for improving cross-cultural communication is what experts call “active listening.” This technique involves restating the other speaker’s statements to ensure you understand their meaning and asking frequent questions. This is a great way to ensure that important information doesn’t “slip through the cracks” in a cross-cultural conversation.
Group information in ‘bite-size’ pieces.
If you stop to think about it, even a single sentence in a conversation between two fluent speakers can contain a great deal of information. That’s why cross-cultural communication experts recommend limiting the amount of information you try to convey at one time. Stick to simple, direct instructions and explanations, and try to avoid complex, multi-part sentences.
Watch out for cultural assumptions.
If you’ve ever traveled to a foreign country, you probably realize just how much of our verbal and non-verbal communication relies on a shared set of cultural beliefs and attitudes. When you’re speaking to someone from another culture, try to avoid things like jokes, slang, or references that might be confusing or misleading to a non-native speaker.
When in doubt, opt for friendly formality.
North American English speakers often adopt a casual, informal approach to conversations, even when they are addressing a stranger or a new acquaintance. This approach may be off-putting or unsettling to someone from a different cultural background. To ensure that you’re conveying an appropriate level of respect, use a more formal mode of speaking and gradually scale back the level of formality as the relationship develops.
Once you get the hang of culturally sensitive communication practices, you’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make in your workplace. Make the most of your diverse staff by ensuring that important information doesn’t slip through the cracks.