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Intercultural tips for communicating at work

Written by on July 12th, 2013.      0 comments

In today’s work environment many of us are finding ourselves working with different people from different cultures.   While this can enrich the working environment, intercultural communication can sometimes create a challenge for those who are unable to interpret and understand other people correctly.

Understanding how cultures vary can help us to make meaningful comparisons, however, there are numerous other factors that can influence our ability to understand each other.   Different cultures have different ‘rules’ that influence the way we behave, how we speak, what we value, our concept of time, interpersonal space, and even our interpretation of humour. 

Each of us interprets each situation through our own cultural ‘lens’.  Intercultural training can help to develop more successful relationships at work.

Effective intercultural communication at work, involves understanding others and making yourself understood by others as well. 

To improve your ability to communicate more effectively with people from different cultures at work, try applying some or all of the following tips:-

1.            Speak clearly, normal pace, normal volume.
2.            Avoid Australian colloquialisms or slang language, (i.e. ‘hang on a tick’, ‘she’ll be right’)
3.            Use short sentences.
4.            Provide instructions in a clear sequence.
5.            Summarise .
6.            Check understanding – ask questions which require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
7.            Be careful with using humour, as it may be misunderstood.
8.            Demonstrate if possible.
9.            Confirm understanding by seeking verbal acknowledgement.
10.          Write information down.  Sometimes people can read in a second language more proficiently than they can speak it.
11.          Use non-verbal signals, such as smiling or leaning towards someone when they are speaking.
12.          Check the environment for noise that may interfere with communication.
13.          Try to be patient.  Speakers of a second or third language may have to translate what you’ve said into their first language then try to convert their response back into English.
14.          Demonstrate respect.  This way you also earn respect which helps to create more effective workplace relationships.

Intercultural communication skills training programs can help management and staff to increase cross cultural awareness and promote an environment that enhances harmony, respect and productivity in the workplace.