How to Manage Verbal Intercultural Communication Effectively

by Contributor; Updated September 26, 2017
Good communication skills can make or break intercultural communication.

The global nature of today's business environment requires a whole new set of communication skills for effective intercultural business communication. Ineffective intercultural communication can cost companies money and cause hard feelings among staff but a few simple techniques can fine-tune communication skills for the global audience.

Assess the language knowledge of your audience, if possible, and plan accordingly. People who don't speak the language will obviously need interpreters.

Use simple words and avoid jargon as much as possible. Big words require more translation and usually involve a complex sentence structure, which can confuse nonnative speakers. Intercultural communication is about being understood so keep it simple.

Repeat key concepts using different words to allow for different levels of vocabulary knowledge and increased comprehension. The first time something is said, nonnative speakers translate it; the second time, they verify their translation is correct; the third time, they actually internalize the message. This is not to say that you should repeat things ad nauseam but you should attempt to work in multiple reviews of important information.

Create visual aids for presentations and include text emphasizing the main idea. Communication is enhanced when you use a variety of methods to reach an audience. Text and pictures give nonnative speakers another way to absorb the message beyond listening. If possible, give audience members copies of the visual aids so they can make notes and follow along.

Be clear and specific. Don't assume. Assign tasks or projects to specific individuals along with due dates. Productive intercultural business communication avoids ambiguity.

Speak slowly and enunciate. Remember, your audience has to translate everything you say, which means they will always lag a few seconds behind; thus, good intercultural business communication allows for a translation time delay.

Check with the audience frequently to be sure there are no questions and that everyone is following the message. Encourage questions or an upraised hand when clarification is needed.

Follow up all verbal communication with written confirmation. This is especially true for action items. Putting things in writing allows nonnative speakers to sit down with a language dictionary and digest information at their own pace. It also avoids confusion about who is responsible for what or what needs to be done as the next step.

Open meetings with a greeting in the participants’ native language. Showing respect for someone's culture predisposes them to be open to your message. Effective intercultural communication establishes a tone of respect and uses culture as a bridge to build positive working relationships.

Know what is considered rude and polite in other cultures. For example, presenting business cards with both hands and a shallow bow is considered polite in Asian cultures. This is obviously a great contrast to Americans, who sometimes even casually scoot business cards down the conference table to avoid getting up.

Tips

  • List key points in written communication so important information doesn't get lost in long sentences. Bullet point lists greatly facilitate intercultural communication.

Photo Credits

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