By Delano Garner
Effective communication is the key to good collaboration.
Our workplaces are becoming increasingly multi-cultural as business environments continue to expand. Soon enough, you may find yourself working side-by-side with colleagues from different racial, ethnic, or social backgrounds. For many of us, this can make communication—both professional and social—intimidating and difficult.
Understanding how to communicate effectively in these situations is important not only for improving your workplace experience but also for helping your place of business grow. Recent research shows that diverse companies are increasingly more profitable and successful than companies who are not.
While some companies already have “inclusion initiatives” in place, there are additional steps you can take to improve cross-cultural communication in your work environment. By following these five tips, you’ll not only improve your communication skills, but you’ll vastly improve your professional skills as well.
Recognize and embrace your differences
A benefit of a diverse workforce is the chance to tap into the unique talents that people of different backgrounds bring. Employees from different backgrounds can offer a different perspective or solution to problems that come up on a daily basis.
Diversity is much more than black and white, young and old, male and female; it’s about how we relate, connect, interact, and intersect.
By recognizing the differences between yourself and the others around you, you can start to build bridges across those gaps. You'll have the opportunity to learn from your colleagues and give them the opportunity to learn from you.
Support other people who feel as if they don’t quite belong
Everyone, from time to time, has felt that they did not belong.
If you are lucky enough to be on the “inside” in your office, keep an eye out for those who might feel they are on the “outside.” You don’t have to be everyone’s new best friend, but reach out to them in a professional way that shows you value their skills, ideas, and contributions. Talk to them. Encourage them to share what they know with you and let them know that their voice and skills matter.
By doing so, you're promoting a sense of inclusiveness—something extremely critical towards creating a better and more comfortable intercultural work environment.
Show up fully
We’ve all got a lot on our plates. However, when you’re engaged in a conversation with a colleague, it’s important to give them your full attention.
Academics call this “active listening,” and it involves asking frequent questions and occasionally restating the speaker’s statements to show that you are engaged and correctly understand the information they are trying to convey. However, active listening also involved nonverbal communication, too.
Features like eye contact, body posture, and attentiveness can impact how welcoming the conversation feels for both parties.
Communicating across cultural differences is already hard enough, so it is important to stay engaged and give the other person your full attention.
Encourage constructive feedback
Okay—so I know you’re an expert at what you do, but let’s face it: We can all do better.
Constructive criticism is important because it gives employees a chance to become better workers and people. When expressed positively, feedback can promote effective communication, personal growth, and organization within a business.
Let your managers and peers know that you welcome their constructive feedback on your work and ideas, and respect their opinions by objectively considering what they have to say. Likewise, be brave and honest when giving feedback to others.
Reciprocity is important. No one wants to be blatantly told that they are wrong. Respectfully let others know how they can improve, and expect them to do the same.
Approach communication with openness and transparency
The best way to foster openness in your workplace is to prompt your colleagues to share their ideas and opinions in a positive way, and in return, show that you place equal value to each idea shared.
An open workplace is a workplace that is more productive, effective, and united.
Thanks to recent advancements in technology, the Internet, and education, business environments have become more culturally diverse. As such, it's important to keep these five tips in mind.
To most businesses, cultural differences may seem like an obstacle, but if utilized correctly, cultural diversity can create a better and more productive company.
Interested in taking further steps towards creating a better work environment?
Grab our eBook, How to Thrive in a Culturally Dynamic Workplace, it's free!