Communication and work styles differ greatly across the globe. This requires a new way of doing business in order to build trust and develop long-term relationships with clients, JV partners and multicultural team members. Miscommunication can significantly increase costs by creating unnecessary delays and obstacles in meeting business objectives.
The following are a few general tips that apply to many cultures around the world:
- Misunderstandings occur because of linguistic and cultural barriers. Loosen your time table.
Plan to spend 50-100% more time for communications.
- Avoid “yes” or “no” questions. Instead, ask open-ended questions beginning with what, how, when, where or who.
- Although relationships may take a very long time on the front end, the return on investment will be great. The relationship you develop will last a lifetime if nourished. Relationships are between people, not companies. Tell them about yourself first.
- Avoid using abbreviations, colloquialisms and slang. Although this is a short hand way of speaking, it may confuse others and increase the time it takes to communicate an idea.
- Chart the different time zones and share the burden when scheduling conference calls with your international colleagues.
- Be aware of a person’s title as well as his/her education and experience. Know who you are working and/or meeting with.
- Ask your international colleagues to follow up in writing to confirm understanding.
- Stay connected. Call just to check in from time to time with no agenda. It is important to maintain the human connection especially when you cannot always touch base face to face.
- Response time varies greatly across the globe. Send emails requesting information as far in advance as possible. Do not expect an immediate answer. People answer their emails when they are able to do so.
- Use a fairly formal tone and style. Many cultures prefer a formal business communications style.
Learn more about Cultural Awareness International.