Strategies for Effective Intercultural Communication

In today’s society, diversity in the workplace is a fact of life. The probability of organization members coming from diverse cultural backgrounds, as well as customers and clients coming from diverse cultural backgrounds is very high. That said, the way in which organizations communicate, both internally and externally, must reflect this changing demographic, because communication is greatly affected by culture.

Becoming an effective intercultural communicator does not just happen by chance. To the contrary, in order to become an effective intercultural communicator, one must be motivated, and take the necessary steps to do so. These steps include becoming transcultured, asking oneself what preconceived notions about the other person’s culture may hinder the communication process, letting go of any ethnocentrism, and simplifying the meaning of culture to understand the communicator for who they are as a person. While following these steps can help one increase their effectiveness as an intercultural communicator, it is imperative to remember that just as communication is an ongoing process, becoming an effective intercultural communicator is also an ongoing process that takes work.

In order for effective intercultural communication to be achieved, there has to be a shift in consciousness and the identity of the self on the part of the communicator-a hybridization of consciousness and identity, meaning that the communicator must make a conscious effort to open one’s self up to understanding, which may actually alter the communicator’s identity.

Becoming an effective intercultural communicator also involves making a conscious effort to avoid communication dissonance. Prior to interacting with a person from another culture, or during the communication exchange, one should ask oneself the following questions to ensure that no preconceived notions or biases exists that may hinder the communication process:

* What preconceived notions do I have about this person based on social identity characteristics (whether we seem different or similar)?

* Are those notions positive, negative, or neutral?

* What’s the source of those preconceptions?

* Will my preconceptions facilitate or impede communication?

* Am I open to learning about this person and myself during this interaction? Why or why not?

* Am I willing to be changed as a result of this interaction or experience?

* What communication tools can I use to try to create genuine communication

The next step to increased effective intercultural communication is to attempt to let go of any ethnocentric feelings you may have. While many of us may feel as though we do not have any ethnocentric feelings or ideas, that is, esteeming one’s nationality, culture, or ethnicity above another’s, taking a moment to truly examine one’s way of thinking could reveal otherwise. In a multicultural setting, simply assuming that one’s own culturally-accepted gestures or style of communication is appropriate to use amongst others is a form of ethnocentrism. Therefore, one must strive to be aware of the accepted verbal and nonverbal communication for various cultures, and not esteem verbal and nonverbal communication in one’s owns culture over others. This is similar to cultural relativism, in which all social practices are equally good. However, unlike cultural relativism, the goal of effective intercultural communication is not to state that all cultural practices are good, but to strive to develop an intercultural consciousness and understand others in order to enhance communication to increase understanding amongst all communicators.

Another way to improve intercultural communication, both internally and externally, is to simplify the situation. Culture is a very complex topic, but viewing culture as simply a community of practice, histories of community of practice, a way of doing things, and as a community in general can help organization members find ways to communicate in a more effective manner with diverse organization members and customers and clients. The key is to understand the individuals’ communities and to communicate with them in a way that would be acceptable or appreciated in their community. To understand what is culturally acceptable in another’s community, one must make it his or her responsibility to become aware of what the social norms are in the other person’s culture. This could include minor research or casual observation. However, jumping to conclusions could be detrimental and result in communication dissonance. To avoid jumping to conclusions, one should take cues from the other people he or she is communicating with, or if the relationship is close enough as in a co-worker-to-co-worker relationship, sometimes it is OK to simply ask what styles or methods of communication are preferred or appropriate in various situations.

Effective Communication Skills for Conducting Meetings

Meetings cover three main areas of responsibility: (1) to provide the policy and procedures; (2) to organize and run the meeting within its standing orders and formalities; (3) to expect the members participating in the decision making and initiating and implementing actions within the meeting’s areas of expertise and interest. When these three areas of responsibility are implemented consistently, meetings will become effective because the executive and members will get the opportunity to create new ideas, solve problems and make democratic decisions.

Most managers spend large amounts of time in meetings with their subordinates and company officials. They work as members of cross-functional work teams or as participants in special task forces. Conducting productive meetings is a recurring major challenge to many managers. Many meetings are simple information sharing sessions. The information can then better be disseminated by a short memo or a quick telephone call. Many other meetings are conducted to solve complicated problems while basic fact-finding and research has not been finalized.

The first step in conducting quality meetings is to ensure that the information provided is the appropriate vehicle for the type of communication required.

Effective Communication Skills for Conducting Meetings

1. Distribute the agenda of the meeting before the session starts. A memo is usually distributed among the participants containing the topics which will be discussed in the meeting session. Give all the participants a chance to share ideas about the topics which will be discussed during the meeting. Avoid determining too many topics for discussion. Be consistent with what you want to discuss in a particular meeting.

2. Invite all the relevant participants and decision makers. They will play an important role in the end decisions of the meeting in question.

3. Choose a suitable place for the meeting. Try to find a large place with the proper atmosphere and comfort. The right place will facilitate the exchange of messages and provide you the opportunity to say what is necessary.

4. Choose chairs with soft cushions with sufficient lighting.

5. Make minutes of the meeting and distribute it to the participants after the meeting. Important aspects before a meeting

Determine whether the issues at stake deserve to be solved.

• Are those issues important enough?

• Do we have enough resources and time to solve those issues?

• Are willing to allocate our resources and time to solve those issues?

Explain the purpose of the meeting.

• Why do we have to discuss these issues?

• What do we expect from this meeting?

• What are our roles in the attempts to achieve the targets expected?

• What do we expect from this meeting in connection with the relationships we have with outsiders?

Prepare yourself.

• What kind of problem do I have in mind and why?

• How can I express the problem in question?

• Is the problem caused by others?

• Do I have the willingness to listen to the other participants in the meeting?

• How do I feel about the problem? How do the others feel about the problem? Can we control our emotions when talking about it?

Approach the others.

• Contact the others and determine a neutral place to have a meeting.

• Ask whether all concerned can attend the meeting at a certain time and place.

Important aspects during a meeting

• Treat everybody with respect.

• Be honest.

• Listen to other views and understand why their views are important to them

• Explain your views and wants.

• Control your emotions. Take a break if necessary.

• Be patient. The discussion might be going in circles at times. Try to listen more carefully.

• Brainstorm. Share your ideas to fulfill the needs of all.

• Make a decision supported by everyone and make a plan of implementation.

Important aspects after a meeting

• Make minutes to record the joint decisions made during the meeting.

• In case the meeting did not produce a joint decision, plan the next meeting. Note down what has been discussed and what still needs to be discussed in a next meeting. This is important to avoid repetition of the same discussions in a next meeting.

• Make an agenda for the next meeting.

• In case crucial joint decisions have been made, evaluate those decisions. Monitor the implementation of the decisions. In case of deviations make necessary corrections or conduct an emergency meeting.

Communicating in the Workplace – The 5 C’s of Becoming an Effective Communicator

Truly successful professionals are leaders who have mastered the art of effective communication. They are well-liked by colleagues (including subordinates and superiors), your company’s clients seem to love them too and they always seem to close the major deals.

It may seem like these individuals were blessed with a natural talent for speaking well – and maybe they were. But everything can be learned, including how to speak like a star.

Apply these 5 C’s of effective communication to enhance your relationships and get on the road to greater professional success:

1. Articulate Clearly

If your listeners can not understand what you are saying, your message will never be effective. The easiest way to instantly improve the clarity of your speech is to slow down. When we get nervous or stressed our rate of speaking often increases. And these are the times when calm eloquence and tact are most needed. Take a deep breath, slow down and speak clearly.

It is also important to formulate your thoughts in a clear manner so that other people can understand your message. Stick to your main point, be as concise as possible and back up your arguments with examples and stories that make sense to your listener.

2. Speak Correctly

Whether you like it or not, you will be judged based on how you speak. Individuals with poor grammar and sloppy speech patterns are often viewed as being lazy, uneducated and even disrespectful.

Make proper speech a priority. Polish up your grammatical skills and build a healthy vocabulary. Read as much as you can, ask your friends, family or colleagues for help or join a grammar refresher course.

You may not see this as a very important point, but as our world becomes more global, just speaking English isn’t enough. You need to speak it really well.

3. Be Considerate

Before you even open your mouth, focus on being considerate towards everyone you meet. Make eye contact with people when they approach you. Have a good attitude and show your winning smile.

Show that you care for others by asking questions and showing interest. Remember personal details that are important to them, and build a relationship that consists of more than just the work at hand. Limited small talk is imperative to building rapport and stronger relationships in the workplace.

If you are considerate towards others, they will also treat you with care and respect. We all like working with people we like, so your goal should be to be well-liked by others. The way you achieve this is by being friendly, considerate and showing you care.

4. Give Compliments

In addition to being considerate, another way to build instant rapport is to give sincere compliments. Recognize those around you for a job well done. Show interest by congratulating others on their accomplishments.

If your colleague mentions that he finally finished that big project that you know he was slaving over for months, respond with a sincere “Great job!” or “Good for you!” These types of remarks are always appreciated.

Keep in mind that compliments should be subtle and appropriate and the closeness of your relationship also determines how a compliment will be received. Commenting on a colleague’s physical appearance for example, may not be acceptable in the modern workplace, unless you are also very close friends outside of the office.

5. Have Confidence

In the end, a successful communicator is a confident communicator. It is hard to take someone seriously who doesn’t seem to believe in his own words.

Confidence does not just come from what you are verbalizing (saying), but also what you are vocalizing – in other words, the pace, pitch and volume of your voice. A calm, steady voice we can hear always sounds stronger and more confident than a quiet, mousy squeak.

Your visual appearance can also exude confidence or draw from it. Make sure you stand straight and make firm eye contact when you address other people. Even the least confident individuals can “fake” a confident image simply by forcing themselves to do these two simple things.