Friday, 28 October 2011

Improving communication to Improve Intercultural Proficiency in the Workplace

Having a workforce of interculturally competent people can result in the success of a company. Here are some ways in which a company can improve intercultural competence:

Seek training. This can help raise awareness, learn better intercultural communication, learn team building and conflict resolution.

Understand the value of differences. Having a diverse workforce helps with innovation.

Don't expect conformity. Differences are a positive attribute in the workforce

Learn about your cultural self. Realize that your culture is one among many. You might need to be tolerant of other cultures or they might need to be tolerant of your culture. It goes both ways.

Stop making assumptions. Don't assume that everyone thinks or acts like you.

Build on similarities. Find common ground with the people you're working with. Value your similarities but also value the differences.

These tips are found and explained in further detail in the Nelson Business Communication sixth Canadian edition text by Mary Ellen Guffey, Kathleen Rhodes, and Patricia Rogin.

By following these guidelines we can further develop our attitudes of intercultural competence and work efficiently as a team. By using these tips we can take advantage of the multiculturalism in the workplace and harness it towards improving intercultural proficiency.

Learning New Attitudes Through Training

To be successful in global business we must strive to achieve intercultural proficiency. If we are having trouble adjusting our attitudes we can seek training. There are many courses you can take to help improve your intercultural competence.

The Association of College Unions International has a course of intercultural proficiency. This course teaches the skill sets essential for intercultural proficiency. The skill sets it teaches you are cultural awareness and sensitivity, communication among cultures, cultural symbols and artifacts, and global knowledge. For more information follow this link.

Another course you could take to improve your attitude and intercultural competence is Kwintessential's intercultural competence training. This training is all about teaching people the differences of cultures and helps encourage 'personal strategies' in which individuals can use while working with other cultures. Click here for more information on intercultural competence training.

Improving Written Communication to Intercultural Audiences

Written messages can be a difficult way to communicate with people of other cultures. Do not worry though, there are ways in which you can write that can make your message interculturally competent. In written messages we cannot use oral words or pick up body language. We must create a letter or email tailored to the culture to which we are sending it. We need to use a suitable tone and style of writing depending on who we're writing to.

Here are some tips for writing successful messages to different cultures:

- Use correct grammar

- Short sentences and paragraphs

- Organize message to appeal to the reader

- Learn the local writing and formatting styles

- Careful citing numbers

- Clarify words that may be confusing

- Avoid idioms, contractions, jargon, slang, etc.

- Use titles, last names, and other signs of status

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Improving Non Verbal Communication

Improving our nonverbal communication can help further improve our intercultural proficiency. Nonverbal communication can be very difficult to understand when being used by someone who is of a different culture. Our body language can convey many different meanings. Although some gestures are helpful to convey basic messages, when dealing with other cultures we must be careful when using them. To become successful in the workplace we must be aware of our nonverbal communication techniques and be sensitive to differences in other cultures. By doing this we can improve our intercultural competence which is a large component of intercultural proficiency.

Intercultural competence is hard to attain through nonverbal communication. Three attitudes that are effective for improving our intercultural competence are descriptiveness, nonjudgmentalism, and supportiveness. Descriptiveness refers to using specific feedback. Nonjudgmentalism refers to not passing judgement on someone, and supportiveness refers to supporting a person in a positive manner whether it is eye contact, head nods, etc. A general rule for interacting with other cultures in business is to follow their lead. This means that going into a meeting with someone from another culture and giving the thumbs up as you walk in the door is most likely a bad idea.

It is never a bad idea to do some research when you know in advance that you will be dealing with a different culture. Find out what different types of non verbal communications mean to them so you dont end up offending someone by accident.

Here is an interesting video of some gestures across different cultures.

Improving Oral Communication

Communication plays a huge role in improving intercultural proficiency. We need to be able to effectively communicate with people of all cultures to achieve success in business. Oral communication is arguably the most effective form of communication with people of different cultures. Did you know that most global business deals are actually done in English? Luckily for us, we don't actually need to know other languages to be successful in global business.

Here is part of an article by titled 'English the Global Language'.

 "For many years now we have been referring to English as a global language .... as the language of communication and technology. Everybody seems to be learning English and it isn’t uncommon to see English being used as a means of communication between .... let’s see ... a German scientist .... and an Italian politician. These days ... if you don’t know English, you are in danger of being excluded from what’s going on ... in education, at work ... and especially in the world of technological advances."

You can find the whole article by clicking here.

Although we may not need to learn other languages, here are some tips to improve oral communication with different cultures:

- Avoid using slang, jargon puns, etc. Use simple English, no big words or idioms.

- Don't speak too fast, and enunciate clearly.

- Encourage feedback.

- Observe messages given by the eyes, this can help identify someone who is lost.

- Frequently check for comprehension. Make sure they understand before moving on to something else.

- Accept the blame for misunderstandings.

- Do not interrupt.

- Smile only when appropriate.

- Always follow up in writing.

Why Intercultural Communication is Important

Intercultural communication is key to the success of businesses right now and in the future. There are three main reasons for this. These reasons are :

1. Globalization of markets
Doing business within your own country is a thing of the past. Doing business with many different countries around the globe is what is happening nowadays. Companies are expanding because they see the potential profits in other parts of the world and now that there are so many trade agreements there is nothing stopping them.

2. Technological advancements
Transportation and information technologies are another reason as to why intercultural communication is so important right now. Transportation advancements have made it easy to access different parts of the world, therefore, easy to do business in different parts of the world. Communication and transportation advancements have made the business world efficient and effective. New opportunities with information technologies have made your location completely irrelevant in regards to business with instant oral and written communication.

3. Intercultural workforce
The high levels of immigration have created a need for intercultural communication skills that were irrelevant 20 years ago. The workforce in Canada is continuing to grow as a diverse workforce so the need for intercultural communication and proficiency is continuing to grow as well.

Which factor do you think has had the most influence in making intercultural communication a key to business success?


Everyone knows the saying 'patience is a virtue.' Part of being interculturally proficient is having patience. Patience is part of being tolerant, it involves being silent, and waiting your turn. Just because someone is taking a while to figure out what they want to do with a business deal doesn't mean that you should rush them along. Give them time to reflect and make a non pressured decision. If someone from another culture is having trouble expressing themselves, don't assume that you know what they're trying to say. To be interculturally competent we need to realize and understand that other cultures are not always as hasty to make decisions. Silence isn't always a bad thing. Displaying intercultural proficiency means giving people from other cultures time to gather their thoughts and will avoid misunderstandings.