For most of us, language is transparent. In other words, we do not see what it is or how it works. That is what I call a communication blind spot. If you are blind to what is going on when you communicate in your own language, imagine how much you do not see when communicating in English as a second language with people from different cultures. Specifically, you cannot see what you need to change about how you speak, write and listen when using English within your particular intercultural business context. I call that an intercultural communication blind spot.
Many of my clients suffer from that. They cannot see why the way they communicated in their own language and culture is not producing the same results within the new intercultural context that they are working in. For example, they cannot persuade others of their professional point of view as well as before. They are less effective at smoothly and efficiently coordinating action with others. Generating the trust or respect that they are used to is more difficult. They are experiencing more miscommunication and conflict than they did before. And they find presentations, meetings or video conferences more confronting and don’t know what to do differently. These are just a few examples of what my clients say is missing for them when communicating within their particular intercultural context.
What is missing for you? What can’t you see about how you speak and listen? Below you’ll find a dozen questions about blind spots that you may not know you have. Click on the ones that you are most curious about to begin increasing your awareness.
There is an expression in English: “It’s like the blind leading the blind.” How that applies in this case is that within an intercultural team, department or company, few people are aware that they have intercultural communication blind spots. And the most dangerous of all blind spots is the belief that you have no blind spots.
I am convinced that ignoring intercultural communication blind spots is not an option. That is why my work with clients is dedicated to helping them become more aware. Awareness is always the first crucial step in navigating change, because you can’t change what you can’t see.