5 ways to become better at cross-cultural communication

We live in a world where boarders have little meaning and we have more and more relationships with people from other cultures than our own. I know that many of you work with people from other cultures as well, and it can be a challenge sometimes.

Most of the challenges come from misunderstandings, different views on life, politics, and religion, and simply different ways of interacting. This blog will provide a list of common challenges in cross-cultural interaction, explanations why the challenge exist, and give suggestions on how to deal with it in a professional manner.

Note: Everything I state in this blog can be confirmed in the following books:
Samovar, Porter & McDaniel. 2010. Communication between cultures.
Adler & Proctor. 2014. Looking out looking in.

1. Sharing personal information

Do you sometimes feel like you are hitting a wall of awkward silence when sharing about your personal life with a friend or co-worker from another culture? Maybe it could be because in their culture their idea of privacy is much different from yours. To many people from Asian background the family is a very private matter, which means details are not typically shared with outsiders. Especially muslim culture it is not good to start an interaction with asking questions about the persons family. Differently, in Western culture we believe in sharing part of yourself builds trust meaning family seems like a good place to start.

As you can probably imagine this could lead to some awkward interaction; one person considering questions about family a violation of their private domain, and another person trying to bond over questions about spouse and kids. As with all things these are merely guidelines; all people are unique and have unique responses to interaction and bonding.

However, consider your intercultural interaction and respect the privacy limits of the culture you are meeting.


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