Over the past 2 months, I have described specific actions you can take to improve your ability to communicate across cultural differences and build powerful relationships. They are listed here along with links to each post:
Next Post: February 24, 2016 - How to Communicate the Importance of Diversity
Inclusive language acknowledges different people and creates positive environments where people feel involved. Exclusive language limits involvement and creates barriers between people. Inclusive language uses positive words to support and encourage others, whereas exclusive language demeans, insults and demotivates others. To communicate inclusively, use terms that will be understood and respected by people of different backgrounds, refer to people by the names they wish to be called and eliminate language that suggests men are the standard for all human beings (e.g., use both masculine and feminine pronouns). Avoid stereotypical statements (e.g., “you people”) and actively attempt to get other people involved (e.g., invite a new person to lunch or ask the opinion of someone who doesn’t speak very often). Simply stated, anything you can say to promote the involvement of a diverse array of individuals on a consistent basis is inclusive language.
Next Post: January 27, 2016 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication – A Summary
Stereotyping is the human tendency to categorize and make assumptions about others based on identified characteristics such as gender, race, age, ethnicity, religion, nationality and socioeconomic status (visit my earlier post, The Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication #1: Stereotyping, for a more detailed description). Therefore, one of the most important steps we can take to improve our ability to communicate across cultural differences is to be aware of our stereotypes and actively work to reduce their impact. I have discussed steps we can take to reduce stereotyping in previous posts (e.g., How to Reduce Stereotyping); however, there are 3 relatively simple actions you can take to begin this process. First, enhance your self-awareness by consciously working to understand how you impact those around you. Second, increase your empathy by trying to understand the world from the perspective of those around you (i.e., take a figurative walk in their shoes to see what their world is like). Third, actively work to suspend your judgment. It’s not easy but try to listen before you evaluate and assess others.
Next Post: January 20, 2016 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #7
I start many of my multicultural communication training programs with a brief activity called 60 Second Introductions. It’s very easy to do. I have all the participants pair up with someone they do not know or don’t know very well. I then give them 60 seconds to discuss their similarities (i.e., the things they have in common). After that, I give them another 60 seconds to identify their differences. After everyone returns to their seats, I pose a single question to the group: what did you learn? Almost universally, the response is “we had many more similarities than differences.” That’s true for most cross-cultural interactions. We tend to have far more similarities with culturally different persons than differences; however, we often focus on the differences and allow those differences to interfere with the relationship-building process. You can overcome this tendency by consciously seeking common ground between yourself and others. Always remember, no matter what the differences are, you will always have more similarities with your colleagues and co-workers. Focus on identifying these similarities and using them as a means to better understand your differences. Keep this in mind as you enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!
Next Post: January 13, 2016 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #6
The comfort zone. It’s the place we inhabit where we feel secure, relaxed and at ease. It’s a low-stress area where we find contentment because it consists of family, friends and other familiar faces. In cultural terms, the comfort zone is the place we find people we perceive to be most like us in terms of values, beliefs, customs and worldview. While the comfort zone is a nice place to be, it does not boost cultural competence. That’s because the comfort zone doesn’t offer differing viewpoints and perspectives. It doesn’t offer different ideas or solutions to problems. It doesn’t make us think outside the box. It doesn’t challenge us to consider the impact of our values, perspectives and behaviors or the notion that different people may see the world in diverse ways. If you want to increase your cultural competence and improve your ability to communicate across cultural differences, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. This is what allows us to better understand the values, beliefs and behaviors of people who are culturally different.
The simplest way to step outside of your comfort zone is to experience things culturally different people experience on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, I gave you some examples of how to do this, which include going to diverse places of worship, visiting different cultural events, going to various social activities, visiting different ethnic restaurants, talking to different people at work or doing anything else that puts you in direct proximity with people you don’t normally interact with. Actions like these will help take you out of your comfort zone and give you a better understanding of why culturally different people might think or act in certain ways.
Next Post: December 16, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #4
This might be the most difficult tip for human beings to follow when it comes to improving cross-cultural communication. That’s because it is natural to evaluate others. We do it all the time. For many of us, it’s our job to assess, evaluate and stand in judgment of others. For example, managers, supervisors, team leaders, teachers, doctors and coaches are constantly assessing the behavior and performance of others. However, while judging work, school or health-specific behavior may be useful, judging people based on differences is not and it can create many communication problems. Therefore, you should consciously strive to be non-judgmental, even when you disagree with the person or in situations where your values are different. One way to do this is to say to yourself, “There is always value in difference, even when I have to look hard to find it!”
Next Post: December 9, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #4
It is very difficult to build effective cross-cultural relationships if you cannot accept the fact that differences exist in values, beliefs, communication styles, personal experiences, ideas, goals, opinions and work style preferences. Remember, acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean agreement. You can be totally accepting of a person while still disagreeing with his or her ideas or beliefs. Acceptance refers to a willingness to support and validate your colleagues, to have positive regard for them, and to remain non-judgmental even in circumstances where you do not agree. In addition, be mindful that no matter what the differences may be, you will always have a great deal in common, which you can use to build a bridge across those differences. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!
Next Post: December 2, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #3
The best description of empathy I have ever heard is that it’s the ability to put on another person’s shoes, walk around in them and experience the world from their perspective. Of course, you don’t have to wear someone else’s shoes but if you want to improve your ability to communicate across cultural differences, you must be able to understand other’s feelings, situation, ideas, values and goals. Empathy is a powerful communication tool for at least two reasons. First, it helps you better understand those around you. Second, by becoming more empathetic, you invite others to better understand your circumstances, needs and objectives.
One of the best ways to increase your empathy (as well as your cultural knowledge) is to experience the things that culturally different people experience on a regular basis. This can help you better understand the values, beliefs and behaviors of people who are culturally different. Go to diverse places of worship, visit different cultural events, go to various social activities, visit different ethnic restaurants, talk to different people at work or do anything else that puts you in direct proximity with people you don’t normally interact with. In one-on-one conversations, you can demonstrate empathy by listening first, by trying to understand where your colleagues and co-workers are coming from, and by articulating your understanding on a consistent basis (i.e., active listening, summarizing your conversations).
Next Post: November 18, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #2
Over the past 2 months, I have described the behaviors you should avoid if you want to improve cross-cultural interaction. These 7 Don’ts of multicultural communication include:
Next Post: November 10, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #1
The 7 Don’ts of Multicultural Communication #7 – DON’T Try to Speak or Act Like a Culturally Different Person
Never try to speak or behave like a culturally different person if it is not who you are as a human being. Don’t try to behave the way you think someone else expects you to behave. Never act in an unnatural way because you think it is what another person wants from you. For example, don’t pretend you like certain foods, music or activities just to build a relationship with a culturally different individual. Always be yourself. This is known as genuineness and it is one of the bedrock conditions for effective cross-cultural interaction and relationship building. A lack of genuineness creates noise in a relationship (noise is anything that interferes with the accurate transmission of messages between two or more people). It also reduces trust. So be open, honest and YOU at all times!
Next Post: November 3, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication
Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.