What’s Cross-Cultural Commuications?

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what's cross-cultural communications

What’s Cross-Cultural Communications?

In today’s modern world, it is not unusual to be able to work with somebody from across the world. Or, to have somebody on your team who is working in another country. According to WeForum, the rise in virtual work means people will need better intercultural skills.

Having a good understanding of cross-cultural communications is vital to the modern working world. 

Cross-cultural communication is not just language, or the local dialect somebody speaks. Cross-cultural communications is understanding someone else’s beliefs, practices, how they behave, and how they carry themselves.

1. Beliefs

Understanding someone else’s beliefs is critical to improving your cross-cultural communication. Someone’s beliefs may guide their communication. When you take the time to consider someone’s beliefs, you can avoid a lot of miscommunication.

Consider the following:

  • Research – If you know you will be interacting with someone from another country, researching their commonly held beliefs is a great start. For example, let’s say you find out a commonly held belief is to always say yes to a task at work. Even if the person doesn’t believe they can fulfill the task. If this is the case, you must communicate the different belief systems with your colleague. This will help you both avoid miscommunication. what's cross-cultural communications
  • Ask – An easy way to find out someone else’s beliefs is to simply ask. For example, your research suggests a commonly held belief is that no work can be done over the weekend. Ask your colleague if this is the case. If so, you can ensure not to send an email they would receive during the weekend. Asking can help you learn more about your colleague’s beliefs. 
  • Adjust Expectations – Often, miscommunication happens because expectations are not met. To avoid this, you will want to adjust your expectations. For example, if you are working with someone on a big project. You may want to adjust the project due date if your colleague has an important holiday coming up. 

Respecting other people’s beliefs will help you avoid miscommunication and improve your cross-cultural communications.



2. Practices

The way people approach work and communication across cultures can be vastly different. If you want to improve your cross-cultural communications, you will need to learn what the different practices are.

Consider the following:

  • Frequency of Communication – You may be accustomed to instant communication with your colleagues. But this may not always be the case with someone from a different culture. For example, many people in European countries take siestas during the day. This means they are out of the office for a few hours each day. Knowing this, you can adjust your communication to ensure your colleague doesn’t miss something important. 
  • Breaks – Many cultures take breaks for long periods of time. For example, in Italy, there is a several-month pause in production. Companies will shut down to allow their employees to go on holiday. Knowing the culture and the breaks they take will help you communicate cross-culturally.

When you are aware of the different practices held by your colleague, you can better prepare to communicate with them.


3. Behavior 

When working with someone from another country, it is critical to understand the differences in behavior. This is especially true when communicating. 

Consider the following:

  • Be Respectful – Many cultures have different views on what respectful behavior is. To avoid disrespecting someone, you must know what is considered respectful behavior. For example, if it is considered respectful to bow when meeting someone for the first time, make sure you adhere to this behavior. Just because it isn’t a part of your culture, doesn’t mean you can’t show respect when interacting with someone from a different culture. cross-cultural communications
  • Take Time – Take time to learn someone else’s behavior. For example, if you are about to go to an important dinner, take the time to learn what is expected at dinner. Don’t just show up and hope for the best. Where you place your utensils can be culturally significant to the other person. Set yourself up for success by taking the time to know what respectful behaviors are.

What is acceptable and expected forms of behavior differ significantly across cultures. Be sure you are aware of what your colleague will be expecting.

When you are thinking about honing your cross-cultural communication skills, make sure you don’t just think of it as their language. Instead, you want to have a bird’s eye view of that country and culture. 

Having a broad understanding will better position you when interacting with these people, and make it, so you are a great team player.


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