In last week’s post I wrote about becoming aware of intercultural communication blind spots. Once you can see aspects of communication that you couldn’t see before, you have gained what I call intercultural communication insight, which will help you when communicating across cultures. However, insight alone is not enough. That is why simply having knowledge of how other cultures are different from your own doesn’t automatically result in different action. Besides, what kind of action do you need to take?
Usually action refers to different behavior. Learning the customs and protocol of other cultures can help you to behave more appropriately. However, within intercultural business contexts, when there are many different cultures working together under the same roof, which customs are followed? The dilemma in any intercultural business situation is: who adapts to whom?
Communication is Action
Something that is not typically perceived as action is speaking and listening. That perception can be summed up in an English expression: “Stop talking and take action.” However, that expression is fundamentally incorrect. Without communication, what action is possible?
If you stop to think about it, you will realize that human beings everywhere co-ordinate all their activities in language. They do so specifically through the five speech acts: requests, offers, promises, declarations and opinions. Speech acts are the universal language.
Having that insight can open up a range of new possibilities for you to take more effective intercultural communication actions. Here are some suggestions that you can begin with immediately.
Becoming more competent at such communication actions will also improve your listening skills. You will hear when others are not making clear requests, offers or promises and you will know what questions to ask to fill in the gaps. You will be able to tell the difference between grounded and ungrounded opinions.
The benefit? By combining intercultural communication insight with increased intercultural communication speaking and listening skills you will be able to take insightful intercultural action.