One of the most important things to consider when doing business internationally, is mastering the art of cross-cultural communication. Whether you are the owner of your company or an envoy for a company doing international business, it is crucial for you to be equipped with a thorough knowledge and comprehension of the cultural, business and social customs of the persons (and country) with whom you are negotiating. In diplomatic circles, the term associated with cross-cultural communication is known as protocol. But protocol as it relates to business helps you adapt your style to be effective across all cultures, ensuring you treat your colleagues and potential clients with dignity and respect.
Here are some tips to help you succeed across the global marketplace by improving your cross-cultural communication skills:
Be aware of your own cultural lens: No matter how culturally evolved or aware you think you are, you may have some subtle cultural boundaries or ideas about people from other countries that may or may not be accurate. Be mindful to let go of preconceptions and remain receptive to new customs. Most of all, try not to judge the cultures and customs of your host country until you understand a situation from the other side of the table.
Avoid being on cultural cruise control: Thinking you are culturally aware and being culturally aware often prove to be disconnected. Knowing the customs of your host are always important but be aware of unexpected curveballs or situations that may come your way.
Avoid triggering the other person’s cultural immune system: As cognizant as you may be about your host’s customs and culture, you may accidentally offend someone with other native habits and behaviors that you never knew could be deemed offensive. By being mindful of even the most seemingly innocuous of behaviors, you will show ultimate respect across the board.
Know your audience: Brief yourself on the history and culture of your host country as much as possible. When there are similarities across cultures, share that information to bring about a higher level of mutual respect.
Accept that cross-cultural situations are complex: Because communication and business customs vary from country to country, you have to go into the deal knowing that negotiations can be far more complex than in your native country. You should be prepared for higher levels of ambiguity and show respect and flexibility in all business concerns.
Learn to watch and listen: When doing business with international clients, always be sure to pay attention to the impact your behavior has on the other person. There are often subtle clues that will alert you as to how the meeting is going. By being a good listener and observer, you can become a more effective negotiator.
Trust the process: When you are mindful of building trust with your international colleague or prospect, your positive intentions help build a long-lasting relationship. For example, business deals are done on a much slower pace in other countries outside of the United States and when you state your intentions clearly and with good measure, you have a greater opportunity for success.
Speaking the same language: Perhaps the easiest and most obvious way to effectively communicate with an international client or colleague is the ability to speak their language. You may not have to become fluent, but try to at least learn words of greetings and thanks in your host’s native tongue.
Want to know more?
Master the art of cross-cultural communication in our 5-Day Certificate Program International Etiquette and Protocol Trainer course.