Valuing Diversity: Communicating Across Cultures
Now let's add one more big chip to the melting pot! Globalization is
the sea wave for growth of all the world economies! Here comes more
change, more diversity in everyday business life.
What does all
this really mean? To provide just a small insight into the impact of
"diversity in 2001," let's focus on communications—already a
difficult art that is always singled out for improvement potential.
Misunderstanding of cultural differences can have major impacts
on effective performance in all situations. Understanding that
there are differences in communication style is a key to improving
communication across cultures. Here are some thoughtful
prescriptions to consider in coping with this increasing cultural
• SEQUENCING—Skillful exchange of information is essential to all
business situations. Some people talk in a set, logical, linear
manner, while others may appear to talk in circles.
• PHASING—Cultural differences dictate when it is appropriate to
discuss certain things. Some cultures or even regions of a country
jump right into a business discussion, while others like to spend
time developing a social rapport before discussing business.
• OBJECTIVITY—In different cultures people have different ideas
about how arguments should occur. Some are non-emotional while
others are more animated.
• CONVENTIONS FOR COURTESY—Every language has common conventions for
courtesy that we must be aware of. Many are different than ours.
• SPECIFICITY—Trust takes time to develop and comes from opening up
to others. Different cultures develop trust and relationships in
• ASSERTIVENESS—Some cultures are more verbally expressive than
others; for example more talkative versus being silent and
• SIMPLICITY—In all cultures, pre-knowledge of communication
"no/no's" will help to avoid offending your audience inadvertently.
• ACCENT—A common mistake across cultures is to judge the ability of
others based on their accents. People often make wrong judgments
about others' abilities because of their accents or
• TELEPHONE—When communicating electronically with people of other
cultures it is important to use the medium appropriately. People of
some cultures tend to prefer direct personal contact. It is always
best to use the telephone to enhance, not replace personal contact.
• WALKING "ON EGGS"—While it is difficult to communicate across
cultures, it's especially difficult to communicate about differences
(for example, certain topics are difficult to talk about: politics,
religions, family organization, disabilities, sex, and race).
Because they are so emotionally charged, the consequence is that
differences of opinion never get aired out so misunderstandings
• HOT BUTTONS—You should be thoughtful in how you express
yourself (for example, not everyone appreciates ethnic jokes). The
words we use and many of the expressions we use without thinking can
be "Hot Buttons," causing rage or suspicion or hurt feelings.
• LESSON: The key is to remember that whoever we are, our way is not
the only way!