In an increasingly interconnected world, intercultural communication skills are more important than ever. Many of us are finding ourselves conducting business with people from a variety of cultures. Such contexts require the creation of new communication practices that go beyond simply the mastery of whatever language we are using. I’ve identified seven communication habits of highly effective intercultural communicators, drawn from my training and consulting work with clients operating within intercultural business environments.
By seeing with intercultural eyes I mean that despite received wisdom on this point, they also ignore body language when dealing with someone from another culture. Why? Because our cultures build into us many preconceptions about the meaning of facial expressions and other body language. While understanding those aspects of communication can be important within our own culture, effective intercultural communicators know that this is unreliable within intercultural business contexts. So they learn to listen with intercultural ears and see with intercultural eyes.
Within our native cultures there are many ways that we can promote ourselves: through titles, diplomas, testimonials from others who are considered influential, and so on. However, outside our own culture many of those symbols of our professional identity are meaningless. So effective intercultural communicators use every opportunity when writing and speaking to give others a clear and concise understanding about who they are, what they are capable of, what they care about and how that is a benefit to others.
If you are working within an intercultural or international business context, how do you rate yourself on each of these seven habits? If your score is low, I recommend you take more risks. The good news about taking communication risks, unlike actually walking on a tightrope, is that you can’t fall off and hurt yourself. So accept the challenge and begin practicing to become a better intercultural communicator today. I invite you to start here.