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How Intercultural Awareness Training Helps You Succeed at Work


In the age of information technology, cultural and national boundaries between people are becoming more exposed.

It’s these boundaries that highlight differences in language, culture and approaches to work which, if left unmanaged, can sometimes lead to difficulties.

The ability to adapt to and navigate linguistic and cultural diversity and to communicate successfully within the workplace not only benefits teams and organizations but also the individual by opening new mental doors.

Working in a multicultural environment means you are exposed to new perspectives, however, there are also plenty of new challenges as well.

Challenges such as how decisions are made, how problems are solved, how feedback is given and how conflicts are managed.

Let’s explore some examples and how training can help.

Cultural Intelligence (CI)

Having ‘cultural intelligence’ means you recognise how culture shapes people’s perceptions and behavioural preferences as well as have the insights and know-how to navigate cultural differences.

You could say this is the first barrier people have to overcome to appreciate the dynamics of intercultural communication. Without grasping the basics of why people communicate differently across cultures, you won’t be able to respond in the best possible manner.

If you want to learn more about the connection between culture and communication, then this cross cultural awareness course will help you a lot.

By better understanding the role of language and culture at work, you also come to value diversity in terms of age, gender, identity, etc and begin to think more inclusively.

Non-verbal Communication Skills

A lot of people mistakenly assume that non-verbal communication, such as body language, is the same all over the world. This is far from true.

Eye contact, hand gestures, facial expressions, posture, personal distance and social cues can look very different depending on your culture. These are good examples of the visible aspects of culture – the tip of the iceberg.

If we lack awareness, sometimes we can completely misread what someone is trying to communicate to us. That’s why cultural differences training involves learning non-verbal communication skills that focus on areas such as giving feedback or managing conflict.

By better understanding the role of non-verbal communication at work, you also come to build stronger working relationships and learn to handle different situations.

Trainer points at whiteboard in intercultural course

Navigating Hierarchy

Hierarchies exist all over the world and can be seen at home, at work or on the sports field. However, different cultures can express hierarchy in very different ways.

For example, in Japan, this hierarchy is expressed in their business etiquette and how people interact in the workplace. Seniors are shown great respect and junior staff are very careful how they address them, speak to them and what they say about them in front of others.

In the USA however, business etiquette is much less formal as hierarchy doesn’t quite work in the same way. Seniors are shown respect, of course, however, junior staff would be a lot more comfortable addressing a senior by their first name or even disagreeing with them in front of others.

By better understanding the role of hierarchy at work, you also come to appreciate how to interact with colleagues in the most appropriate way so that you’re not too casual or formal.

Culture and Context

A key topic covered in cultural awareness classes is the role of context in understanding communication styles.

Some cultures rely little on context and focus mainly on the words that are being spoken. They are known as ‘low-context’ cultures. ‘High-context’ cultures rely less on words and more on context, i.e. who is speaking, where, why and when.

For example, if your colleague says, “I didn’t have lunch today”, in a low-context culture it will be understood simply as a statement of fact, while in high-context cultures it could be taken as a signal to invite you to have lunch together or a similar hint.

By better understanding the role of context at work, you also develop your ability to communicate effectively with people from different countries and cultures.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Disputes and disagreements are normal in any healthy work environment. However, when cultures approach conflict in different ways, it can lead to problems.

Imagine how someone would feel if their way of dealing with conflict was to use an intermediary to bring about resolution, but the person they have a grievance with wants to ‘have it out’ in a face-to-face meeting? They would be very uncomfortable.

Some cultures tend to take conflict personally, others less so and others not very much at all. Therefore, when you’re working in a multicultural or multinational environment it’s critical to be aware of how different cultures approach conflict and how they tend to resolve it. These are skills learned and practised in intercultural awareness training.

By better understanding cultural differences around conflict resolution at work, you also enhance your contribution to a successful team culture.

Online Intercultural Training Courses


Looking for ready-to-go courses on working across cultures?

Then check out our various intercultural eLearning courses




 Main image by Parabol

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