Multicultural communication tips for today’s world
2. Have at least some knowledge of people’s cultural backgrounds.
To be fluid and cohesive with your team, it is important to have at least a general understanding of each member’s cultural background. This will give you valuable cues as to how your team members approach people, their definitions of respect, their boundaries and their overall sense of how human interactions should be conducted.
An encyclopedic knowledge is not required. Indeed, to assemble that much information on people would take time you could be devoting to other things. It is more practical to arm yourself with some basics, especially if you know you will be working in or around other cultures, such as traveling for business. For example, in Japan it is considered rude to show someone the sole of your shoe; many Jews and Muslims do not eat pork.
Again, having this knowledge is a matter of awareness. The more cognizant you are of your team members’ backgrounds, the better you will relate to them and the more effective your organization will be.
3. Practice active listening.
All human beings feel more comfortable, more valued, and more a part of a team if they are confident they are being heard. Give people in your organization this value by actively listening to them: make eye contact with them (or not, depending on the culture); nod and give verbal indications you are listening. You may also find it helpful to summarize and restate what someone has told you, particularly if this restatement echoes a great idea or a concern.
Active listening is an entire course unto itself, but practicing these points and simply keeping the issue in mind will boost team morale and improve your communication immeasurably.
4. Watch your nonverbal communication.
Often included with the skill of active listening, nonverbal communication takes on special importance when it comes to the subject of multiculturalism. For example, many Native Americans do not make eye contact the way people do in a typical business or corporate environment. In some cultures, animated gestures or “talking with your hands” is considered normal, in others it is a sign of gross mental instability. For almost everyone, it is, of course, poor communication to speak to somebody while glued to a computer screen, your cell phone or the clock on the wall. Paying attention to your nonverbal messages can show you’re listening, and that your colleagues’ opinions matter.
5. Maintain a personal touch.
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