With more and more companies globalizing, employees in various international locations now have day-to-day communications with each other. Given different cultural contexts, this brings new communication challenges to the workplace.
Even when these employees speak the same language (for instance, correspondences between English-speakers in the U.S. and English-speakers in the UK), there are some cultural differences that should be considered in an effort to optimize communications between the two parties.
In such cases, effective communication strategy begins with the understanding that the sender of the message and the receiver of the message are from different cultures and backgrounds. Of course, this introduces a certain amount of uncertainty, making communications even more complex.
Without getting into cultures and sub-cultures, it is perhaps most important to realize that a basic understanding of cultural diversity is the key to effective cross-cultural communications. Without intently studying the individual cultures and languages, we must all learn how to better communicate with individuals and groups whose first language, or language of choice, does not match our own.
Learning the basics about culture and at least something about the language of communication in the host country are necessary. This is necessary even for the basic level of understanding required to engage in appropriate greetings and physical contact, which can be a tricky area inter-culturally. For instance, kissing a business associate is not considered an appropriate business practice in the U.S, but in Paris, one peck on each cheek is an acceptable greeting. And, the handshake that is widely accepted in the U.S. is not recognized in all other cultures.
While many companies now offer training in the different cultures where the company conducts business, it is important that employees being thrust into communicating across cultures practice patience and work on their own to increase their knowledge and understanding of the different culture. This requires the ability to see that a person's own behaviors and reactions are oftentimes culturally driven.
Perhaps simply showing a genuine interest, paired with patience and understanding, is the best answer here.
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