Dealing with people of different cultures can be difficult. For some reason, some people from some cultures are more difficult to speak with than others. Today’s business climate most likely requires you to interact with a variety of people from different cultures. How can you make sure that you create the best possible relationship with them? Easy.
Most cultures love the same fundamental things: being listened to, integrity, and calmness.
Practicing these three tips can make sure you honor the 3 fundamental ideals listed above.
Stay present. When communicating with people of other cultures, it is easy to allow our side-thoughts to interrupt our concentration. A word, a behaviour, a concept expressed by someone of another culture can cause us to drift off and not concentrate on listening effectively. Someone’s skin color, smell, and the prejudices we may carry can effect our ability to stay focused and listen properly. But, making sure we concentrate past these distractions is a key to maintaining or building a good relationship between you and your cross-cultural conversation partner.
Staying present and listening intently is vital to improving all relationships, regardless of race or culture. So stay present and focus on listening.
Say what you mean gently, but say what you mean anyway. When dealing with people of other cultures, practicing the indirect method of communication or harshly direct method that may be normally practiced in your home culture can cause problems.
Therefore, consider taking the middle ground. This simply involves you saying what you mean in a way that is both direct and gentle. A soft respectful directness will do wonders for your intercultural relationships. It will develop trust. And that way there will be no doubt about the mind of the other. Such will enable you to have a deep understanding of one another, and a respect for the other.
Integrity in communication is always valued. Even if the honest, gentle directness may cause a few uncomfortable moments, generally people value the truth. The truth leaves no room for doubt. And that makes clear action and decision making possible.
What kind of actions are included in soft respectful directness? Well, instead of saying a quick NO, you might pause a moment. Reflect. Then say, "that will not work for me." Or, instead of saying YES when you mean NO. Say, "Thank you, but we have different plans." (No further explanation needed).
Each of these will require practice. But using them can vastly improve the relationship between you.
Think before Acting. It is so easy to react to someone when we interpret their actions through our own cultural filter. Someones directness we may interpret as rudeness. Yet, before we react to a personal interpretation, you should think.
So, pause. Take a moment. Breathe. Focus on your breath. Think. Then act.
Assessing before opening your mouth, or before taking action can save a lot of relationships from entering into trouble. Try to understand the other persons perspective. Allow others to be as they are. Live and let live.
Try not to mind read what their actions may mean. Simply focus on facts. Emotions can create real troubles when you deal with someone from your own culture, and can be very explosive when communicating with someone from another culture.
Remember that we all have our own interpretation machine that’s been programmed by our own culture, and that we should recognize that one way is not necessarily right and the other completely wrong. Both are unique. Perhaps you can practice the concept of AGREEMENT TO DISAGREE.
The same reflection should be considered when the interaction seems favorable too. Sometimes someone's YESes do mean NO.
Bottom line, always think. Then act. (Asking for clarification, "What do you mean?" is a great assessment tool.)
These simple considerations can help you create great intercultural relationships. Practice them and see what becomes of it. You are sure to like what you find. If you have more tips to add, feel free to add them into the comments section.
All for now.