Did you know there are more than 250 languages currently spoken in the United States? Add that to the many cultural backgrounds within the country, and it's easy to understand why cross-cultural gaps exist in the workplace. As a small business owner, you can teach yourself and your employees to bridge these gaps.
Here are three ways to embrace cross-cultural communication:
- Assess your business's cross-cultural attitude from both the employees' and the customers' viewpoints.
- Teach employees to respect the verbal and non-verbal interactions of other cultures.
- Use cultural diversity to your company's advantage.
Assess your cross-cultural knowledgeNot sure whether your workplace is truly embracing cross-cultural communication? No problem – have your employees complete a short online assessment.
Learn their culture, earn their loyaltyWorld cultures are as varied as world languages - both are essential in communicating with people of other backgrounds. Encourage your employees and clients' loyalty by honoring their beliefs and traditions.
Watch what you don't say: Non-verbal communicationDid you know that in China, you should never write on a business card, or put the card in your pocket? Or that in Mexico, conversations take place at a close physical distance, and if you backed up for some personal space, you'd be considered rude?
Embrace diversity for your company's benefitCultural diversity doesn't have to mean problems – in fact, the company that learns to embrace cultural differences and fresh ideas, is the company that is always open to growth within the ever-evolving marketplace.
- Slow down: Speak slowly and annunciate clearly so that non-native English speakers have the time to absorb your words.
- Maintain a positive outlook: Don't assume a person with a heavy accent is "slow" – most non-native speakers to take more time when speaking a less-familiar language.
- Don't jump: To conclusions, that is. Listen and then summarize what you believe the speaker has said. Make sure you're clear on the intended message before continuing the conversation.
- No funny business: Avoid humor when communicating with someone of another culture (at least until you really understand each other) because humor is almost always culture-specific.
- Strike the slang: Before using a cliché or other slang expression, consider the words at face value, which usually mean something entirely different. Instead, say what you mean, and mean what you say.