We live in an increasingly complex world. One element of this complexity is the mixing of different cultures, languages and faiths. Within the business world intercultural communication is vital for success. Effective communication between colleagues from different cultural backgrounds ensures a team is working harmoniously.
The six steps to intercultural communication are basic pointers that all working in intercultural teams should be aware of to ensure culture becomes a vehicle for positive advancement rather than a barrier.
1. Break Assumptions
Everyone makes or has assumptions about others. Assumptions are beliefs rather than objective truth and are usually influenced by a number of subjective factors.
For intercultural communication to truly work, people need to assess their assumptions and ask themselves why they hold those ideas or beliefs. By doing so and even openly examining them with others, the initial barrier to intercultural communication is overcome.
In order to come to appreciate and understand people from different cultures, empathy is vital. Through putting yourself in someone else's shoes you come to see or appreciate their point of view.
Involving others in tasks or decision making empowers and builds strong relationships. Using intercultural diversity is in essence a more creative approach to problem solving as it incorporates different points of view.
4. Discourage Herd Mentality
Herd mentality refers to a closed and one dimensional approach. Such a way of thinking curbs creativity, innovation and advancement as people are restricted in how to think, approach and engage with people or challenges.
Intercultural communication can only flourish and therefore contribute if people are encouraged to think as individuals, bring their cultural influences to the table and share ideas that may be outside the box.
5. Shun Insensitive Behaviour
People can and do behave in culturally insensitive ways. By attacking someone's person, you attack their culture and therefore their dignity. This can only be divisive.
Intercultural communication is based upon people thinking through words and actions to ensure they do not act inappropriately. When insensitive behaviour is witnessed it is the responsibility of all to shun it and ensure it remains unacceptable.
6. Be Wise
Wisdom is not called wisdom for nothing. People need to be aware how to interact with people with respect and knowledge. Intercultural communication is essentially founded upon wisdom, i.e. showing maturity of thought and action in dealing with people. Through thinking things out and have background knowledge to intercultural differences much of the communication problems witnessed within business could be avoided.