Why intercultural communication in business is not as hard as it seems

Business is business, whatever language you speak - so why should I care about my client's culture?"

 

If you think that way you might be interested in learning how to build trust accross cultures and communicate efficiently.

 

When it comes to intercultural communication you can look at it from so many perspectives. For example, you could look at it from your own cultural perspective which can lead to misunderstandings. You could approach intercultural communications from a relatively neutral and non – judgemental perspective which is ideal when dealing with different cultures. Some people might even be tempted to ignore the whole aspect of culture completely. 

 

You need Intercultural competence for business, but it can also transform you as a business person if you are open to it, prepared to learn different ways of communication and let it inspire you to learn from other cultures.

 

Why you need intercultural communication to thrive in business

 

Let’s explore an example: some cultures are a little bit more reserved than others. So in business meetings you might have to deal with silence in a conversation with your business partner. That can be rather uncomfortable especially when you are suddenly confronted with it. 

 

When you negotiate a price and your business partner remains silent you might misread it as a game he is playing when it is just his “normal” cultural reaction. How would you respond in this case? Would you say something like: “It is the best price I can offer you. There is no way to haggle about it any further.” 

 

Being silent in this situation might be your client’s communication style and he was seeking to create trust. But now that you misread your client’s silence you’ve put your relationship at risk.

 

Why business leaders often don’t invest enough time on cross-cultural communication

 

Maybe you think that speaking English relatively fluent is enough for dealing with international business clients. So why make an effort and learn intercultural communication in business English? 

 

Intercultural communication helps you to avoid misunderstandings and to build trust instead. It can set you apart from your competitors who think in a similar way and win you the business relationships and results you wanted. Once you have established a trustful business relationship you can thrive in your business. 

 

 

 

How to get started – a mindset shift

 

Working on your intercultural communication means appreciating and respecting your business partner’s culture. It means to speak without judging other cultures, avoiding stereotypes (generalizing other cultures) and not to praise ones own culture. These are soft skills that require a mindset shift, intuition and a little coaching. 

 

It may seem a little daunting at first but it is actually rather easy. All you need to do is to put yourself in your business partner’s shoes and ask how you would like to be treated in this situation? Start by asking yourself these questions:

 

·       Reflect on past meetings. What did it feel like? What could have been improved?

 

·       Why might your business partner have reacted that way? What would have been the right approach in his culture? 

 

You could also approach your client with curiosity. Asking questions like: “How is xyz done in your culture?” is truly appreciated or simply openness for the other culture and asking a lot of open questions.

 

What do you enjoy when dealing with other cultures and how could you improve your intercultural communication?

 

Just hit the comment button and send me your replies.

 

 

 

Warm wishes

 

Petra

 

 

 

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