Within intercultural business contexts it’s generally agreed that improving intercultural communication is important. Unfortunately, specific guidelines for what needs to be done and how to accomplish it are rarely identified and implemented. So if you are struggling with how to adapt your written and spoken business documents to your intercultural context, you are definitely not alone.
I encounter this problem with my clients on a regular basis; what they thought they knew how to do well suddenly becomes challenging within the new intercultural context in which they find themselves. I have written elsewhere about how I‘ve helped clients prepare what to say or write for important meetings, presentations and video conferences. In each case, what we created together was appropriate for them, their profession and for their listeners or readers. From my perspective, adapting business documents to intercultural contexts is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. So the solution isn’t rigid guidelines that everyone must apply in the same way. Instead, flexibility and innovation, both individually and collectively, is what is required from all of us.
How Producing Business Documents Has Changed
From working within the business communications field for almost three decades, I have witnessed a revolution in how documents are produced. With the personal computer becoming cheaper, easier to use and more common in businesses, using software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which came bundled with the first release of Microsoft Office in 1990, soon became part of everyone’s job description. This has evolved to the point where we are now responsible for all the content, visual aspects and final production of a wide range of business documents. The world over it’s now a significant part of our jobs to use the same set of digital tools to write, organize, design, format, produce and present documents. However, while the technology may be the same, our cultural standards are often very different.
What Standards Are You Using When You Create Business Documents?
You bring your cultural standards to every business document you create. And since you work within an intercultural context, every email, report or proposal that you receive is representative of the creator’s cultural standards of what is the “right” way to write and organize it.
My point is that given the time pressure everyone feels, having guidelines to bridge cultural differences will come as a welcome relief. Who is currently providing you with such guidelines within your intercultural context? This is something that I find is overlooked by most of the international companies that I work with. Therefore, in the absence of such guidelines you will need to take the responsibility to invent your own.
To help you with that, my book Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language, provides you with essential guidelines for creating documents within intercultural contexts. By applying these guidelines, you will be able to produce your business communications faster and with more confidence. Your documents will also be easier to understand, and more relevant for your readers and listeners from other cultures.
Many of the business communication standards that you now rely on originated decades ago, in another time and place, so there is an urgent need for new standards. That is why highly effective intercultural communicators consistently innovate new approaches to spoken and written communications, both on their own and with others. They know that what was appropriate for another time and place is no longer effective, so inventing something new is the only option.