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Culturally Appropriate Communication Techniques

In Blog by Rafael Morel

In business, it’s very likely that you will encounter many different people speaking numerous languages.

Not only do you have to find a way to communicate, but you also have to ensure that you are effectively doing so across different cultures.

Before your next business meeting or conference, learn some culturally appropriate communication techniques. This will ensure your business venture runs smoothly.

What is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is absolutely key to having a clear understanding of your business partners. It will influence how you make your business, what can be achieved in cooperation with other entities, and general impressions you will have about your business partners, as well as their impressions of you.

Effective communication is when both participants of a conversation communicate in an understandable manner. It applies to all types of communication, including nonverbal cues.

In theory, it’s relatively easy, as we’re used to the concept of communicating in our personal life, with coworkers, and business partners from the same cultural background as ours. But when we bring entities from different cultures into the equation, our communication may not be as effective as we hoped.

Three Types of Communication

To better understand this matter, let’s talk about three main types of communication. These would be:

  • Verbal – spoken words
  • Nonverbal – body language
  • Written – written words

To communicate effectively, we ought to be aware of the differences and the implications of these differences between all types of communication.

This means that our verbal communications have to match our nonverbal cues. We will touch upon that more later in the article.

Culturally Appropriate Communication Techniques

Companies like Lighthouse Translations work to provide high-quality translation and interpretation services. However, even if you have translations or interpreters, it’s important to practice cross-cultural communication skills.

Communicating in a way that is culturally appropriate, i.e. making an active effort to understand and accept the culture of your peers, is incredibly important in various business settings. It’s all about understanding culture and working effectively with each other’s cultural influences.

About Culture

Before we talk about how to communicate through cultures; we must first consider what culture means to us. Often, culture is a term used. to encompass a group of people who share common characteristics like language or social practices.

Even if you don’t consider yourself to have a strong cultural background, you are still part of a culture, even if it’s only a work culture,

You may not even understand your own cultural background until you meet someone with differing values. This is why many people often don’t even realize that they have their own cultural biases that they need to combat.

Being aware of your own culture is a big part of understanding someone else’s.

Personal Awareness

The hardest part of cross-cultural communication is willingly putting aside your beliefs and pre-conceived notions. We know that individual differences are everywhere, affecting what we do and say. Most people often base their expectations of others on their own beliefs too.

This means that many of us hold some misguided stereotypes about other cultures. A big part of communication between cultures is understanding your own cultural belief system. You also need to rethink some of your previously held beliefs. This includes considering values like:

  • How the world should be.
  • How people should act in specific situations.
  • How people interact with money, family, relationships, power and gender roles.

While these beliefs and values are very personal, you don’t have to change yourself to understand your peers. These customs aren’t right or wrong but should be attempted to be understood in order to communicate more effectively.

Group of People Sitting Near Table

Inclusive Communication

When working cross-culturally, it’s not possible to anticipate every cultural belief or tradition you might encounter. This is why it’s important to equip yourself with the skills to understand your peers. Not only that, you always need to keep the lines of communication open.

Make sure that you:

  • Are respectful of the cultural practices, attitudes, and beliefs of others.
  • Show some consideration by considering their point of view.
  • Be polite and listen with genuine interest.
  • Respect your peers’ right to privacy about their culture.
  • Don’t participate in cultural appropriation practices.

When dealing with both culture and communication, consider how your peers want to be spoken to. Also, consider gender definitions, patterns of speech, or accepted codes of behavior.

And if you’re not sure what the term cultural appropriation means, you can read more about it under this link.

Active Listening

You are probably familiar with the importance of listening in a conversation. We often think about what we’re trying to say, forgetting that a considerable part of effective communication is to receive the other person’s message.

It’s not important crucial to listen but to be an active listener. What does it mean? It’s how you react to what the person is saying. Active listening means including proper body language – turning towards the speaker, looking at them, nodding, etc.

In other words, active listening is showing your engagement. And it’s important because it signals we’re active participants in the conversation, even when we’re not talking.

All Forms of Communication

Cross culture interaction happens across all methods of communication. Pay attention to nonverbal communication and how your coworkers deal with eye contact, touching, and so on.

Up to two-thirds of a message can come from facial expressions, gestures, posture, and tone of voice.

Nonverbal gestures, known as body language that you do casually, may be interpreted differently in another culture. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences, even in nonverbal communication.

Take the Initiative

Many people shy away from talking about cultural differences. However, taking the initiative doesn’t have to be rude. All you must do is talk to people to find out about their values and beliefs. Share yours at the same time.

Remember that communication is a two-way street. Starting a dialogue is the first step to handling any cultural differences in the workplace. By taking the initiative, you will lay down the foundation for more effective communication in the future.

This includes methods like checking for understanding and speaking in a way that others can understand as well. If you’re having some problems understanding a message, ask your peer to repeat or clarify it.

Clarify your own speech, too, while making sure that all information is manageable. Be clear, but don’t change the speed of your speech, which can seem patronizing to some people.

Give Feedback

One of the most effective communication techniques is giving and asking for feedback. In a business meeting, it can involve talking about the points covered by the speaker and offering your perspective on them.

Your response should demonstrate that you are fully engaged in the conversation, treating your business partners respectfully, and starving to build on their ideas.

Of course, it is as important to ask for feedback. This also proves you’re respectful towards your business partners and open to constructive criticism.

Keep Your Cool

It’s also essential to control your emotional state during meetings. In most cases, showing too much excitement or nervousness is simply unprofessional. Additionally, you can’t be sure how your emotions will be received by business partners from other cultures.

In some countries, it is absolutely unacceptable to show dissatisfaction, joy, or anger during a business meeting; in others, it is only frowned upon, and in some cultures, it might be totally fine.

To maintain a high level of professionalism, it is better to avoid such situations altogether and ask for a break, if necessary.

Man in Beige Blazer Holding Tablet Computer

Show Your Personality

Although being professional is your priority during business-related encounters, a healthy dose of humor and showing off your personality is also good. Humor, in particular, is a valuable tool to defuse tension and communicate that there’s no need to be stressed.

The same is with a lighthearted conversation about common interests or observations. It can be a great topic for small talk and help build mutual trust.

But you should always mind the context of a situation and be aware of how your joke might be received. This in cross-cultural communication can be tricky, so if you’re not sure if a topic is appropriate to use in jokes, don’t attempt it. It’s better to come across as polite and a little tense than offensive.

Be Concise and Clear in Communication

Clear communication is all about conveying ideas into comprehensible thoughts and words. When being in situations when you have to do that across different cultures, this clearness becomes even more critical.

Being concise usually means avoiding using a lot of metaphors and making digressions that could be misunderstood or not understood at all by your interlocutors.

If you’re not speaking in the same language, and the conversation is being translated, it helps not to ramble or make unnecessary detours. Thanks to that, you can leave a more positive impression too. No one likes a person who talks too much.

Use the Filler Words Carefully

It’s similar to the last paragraph, but let’s take a closer look at the filler words and why it might not be the best idea to overuse them.

Filler words are those words that help us fill up the gaps between words and sentences with meaning. They can be used to improve the flow of the presentation, but using them too much does the exact opposite.

It’s distracting and sounds unprofessional. In business settings, when you want to look and sound your best, it’s advisable to avoid them.

If you want to check how many filler words you use, try recording yourself when you talk on some subject. Then listen and catch all the unnecessary words. This simple exercise might help you realize how you come across to others.

Work with Interpreters

Interpreters at Lighthouse Translations and Interpretations are trained to handle both linguistic and cultural differences. During our simultaneous interpretations, we’re committed to handling the inevitable cultural diversity.

It’s essential for an interpreter to have these skills to provide you with an accurate interpretation.  If an interpreter doesn’t understand the culture behind the language, it’s likely that they won’t be able to provide you with an accurate interpretation.

That’s why it’s important to have a trained interpreter to help you when you don’t share the same language.

Learn From Good Communicators

Good communication is a skill, and you can learn it. Our tips are one thing, but taking an example from other great interlocutors on how to behave and communicate in cross-cultural settings can be really valuable.

Success is a matter of practice and time spent learning about other cultures. If you show some dedication, you will see the results.

We’re All Equal

Lacking an understanding of a culture does not mean that it is less. Having trouble understanding a peer doesn’t mean they should be treated differently either.

Cultural diversity examples have found the best possible approach. It is to attempt a sincere understanding of other cultures and other individuals. Even something as simple as having a candid conversation can do wonders for communication in the workplace.

Keep in Mind:

A business can feel like a battlefield, even when everyone speaks the same language. This is more so when there are people communicating in languages that you don’t understand.

Whether you speak the same language or not, it’s necessary to be able to understand and navigate around cultural differences. If you don’t, it may lead to unfortunate misunderstandings.

These communication tips and techniques will make it easier to communicate with your coworkers and run your business.