5 Tips for International Communication

Cultural Intelligence
Knowledge Center

Best Practices
John D. Astor
Coach, United States

5 Tips for International Communication

In conducting business, cultural missteps can ruin a good opportunity. As the world shrinks and we work closer and closer together, accepting and understanding each other becomes more essential every day.
Communicating with clarity and purpose leads to success. And in our global world it becomes more perilous for business people to make costly mistakes that can ruin a relationship and can be avoided.

For organizations, large and small, having the ability to grow geographically can bring many benefits - if they can transcend cultural differences. We don't need a cultural anthropologist or even a psychiatrist. But what we do need is a universal method for interacting free of bias and prejudice and inclusive of grown differences.
By considering basic behavior, we can observe distinctions in each culture. But are there some common traits that we can use with everyone?

First consider what Ralph Tashjian, CEO of SMC Records in San Francisco says about making agreements abroad: "When I go to Europe to develop contacts and make deals, I am very restrained with my normal personality style. I react carefully and with great care to show respect. I also speak very clearly and precisely so I'm not to be misunderstood".
Examining Mr. Tashjian's articulate observations, there are 5 communication behaviors that everyone working in an international setting can benefit from:
  1. BE CAUTIOUS WITH BEHAVIOR. You have developed your behaviors in a certain region with certain people. Many mannerisms and gestures will not be understood. Watch others carefully and try to adapt for better communication. Don't speak in idioms and colloquial terms. Be sure to communicate in ways that will be understood.
  2. REACT CAREFULLY. Your spontaneous reactions are usually conditional responses that are based on your place of origin. You will be much better off pausing before reacting when you feel one of your buttons being pushed. Many times the impulse to react is misjudged when seen in retrospect.
  3. SHOW RESPECT. We respect others when we reach for understanding and listen very attentively. Try to grasp the meaning behind their words and body language. If you don't understand something, ask politely and without being patronizing.
  4. SPEAK CLEARLY. Remember your best teachers. Speak in a way that transmits the message without extensive use of tangent conversations, and above all keep your objectives in mind.
  5. BE UNDERSTOOD. Take the time to ask if you're getting your point across. If not, be prepared to phrase your words differently. Be able to break your message down to simple words, if necessary.
Whether you're having a meeting, a business lunch or a quick coffee with someone from another culture, you will benefit greatly if you follow above five simple steps. I am looking forward to your experiences.

  John Prendergast
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