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5 Things to Watch in Cross-Cultural Communication

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5 Things to Watch in Cross-Cultural Communication

Social Distance

In the course of communicating with people of different cultures, observe their social distance (body space or comfort zone). It is important to realize that in some cultures, it is acceptable to get very up and close, however in other cultures, this kind of encroachment is not welcome. To communicate comfortably, always watch for the social distance so you do not disrupt the process of communicating effectively.

Use of Stories

It is OK to use stories, however, you have to ensure the story you use do not have any negative connotations or undertones that demean one culture against the other. If you choose stories that humanize and humorize common experiences, you will be in the good books of the audience. Select stories that are relatable beyond one culture. Such stories are more desirable because they will ease the conversation rather than nerves.

High/low Context

When you communicate with an audience that comes from a predominantly low-context background, be sure to very specific, give concrete examples, and know that scripting is a big part of where they are coming from. On the other hand, when communicating with an audience of a high context background, generally the expectations are different. Their preference is less task oriented and more relationship-based.

Beware of Eye Contact

In some cultures, direct eye contact with everyone is very important. However in other cultures, looking an elder directly in the eye, is not considered disrespectful. A rule of the thumb is to keep a friendly eye contact that does not appear to be prosecutorial. Also understand that the way you look at a lady in one culture is different from another. Though it may be OK to give a brief adoring look in one culture, in another culture, that can get you into trouble. A fine line.

Pace and Tone

By speaking faster of slower, you can either connect or disconnect with an audience. If you want to connect more, think about the pace of your communication with your audience. For this reason, it is important that you use a pace of speaking (rate ie the number of words per minute) and tone that is socially acceptable to the audience in a particular culture. If you fail to observe this, the audience may consider you arrogant or disrespectful.