As business becomes increasingly global it is essential for all professionals to be aware of the issues that can develop as a result of cross cultural exchanges. The chances are that, even if your business is based locally and offers services in a small geographic area, you will have international suppliers or customers from different cultural backgrounds. Therefore it is important to be aware of cross cultural communication issues and how to communicate openly with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
The first step is to simply be aware that cultural issues play a part in the way we communicate. While English is the main language of business globally it is not always the first language of business associates, customers or employees. To ensure everyone is clear about what you are communicating to them it is essential to use simple, direct language. Be aware when referencing historical events or stories which have a cultural significance to you that not everyone has grown up with the same tales, education or even expressions.
Using the internet to do business has opened up vast geographical possibilities to anyone with a computer and a modem. However as business communication becomes more remote we lose many of the visual clues that humans use for communication. No amount of emoticons or acronyms can replace the information we pick up from body language. This makes it more important that communication via email, web sites or social media is clear, open and easily understood. Subtle changes of intonation or facial expression are lost on a computer screen so the words need to be more powerful, meaningful and focused.
Need an interpreter?
When there are genuine language barriers then it is time to get help. Investing in an interpreter or translator can save time and money, especially if contracts or legal arrangements are involved. If it is likely that there will be an on-going relationship with a customer or supplier who does not speak English then it can be important to find an interpreter who can build a relationship with them on your behalf. Trust is particularly important in distant or culturally diverse business relationships so finding a go-between who you can rely on to deliver information and bridge the cultural divide is essential.
The key components of good communication still hold true
No matter what the cultural differences, the key elements of good communication remain the same. Be honest and open in your communication and it will build trust. Be clear and do not try to appear clever by using complex language or technical terms. Clarity, respect and the ability to listen are far more important than an in-depth knowledge of another person’s culture. Keep an open mind and you may be surprised by what you can learn from communicating cross culturally. There are many ways that widening your exposure to other cultures can improve the way all forms of communication take place. Increasing awareness of cultural diversity in business communications could be the key moment in opening up new business opportunities and developing better communication methods across all parts of the business.