What are some tips to improve communication skills?
Now that you understand the importance of intercultural communication, the next thing to do is to look at ways in which you can improve the communication skills of yourself, your team, and your overall organization.
- Keep an open mind and be flexible
A problem that many of us are prone to is thinking that the way we do things is the right way, and that doing things in any other way is wrong. This can happen on both an individual and organizational level. What we don’t often realize is that these ways of doing things are often cultural in origin or even specific to our personal background – there are actually multiple ways of doing things.
Instead of assuming that the way things are being done is the only way, stay open to other ideas and perspectives. This broader approach can yield new insights, and help us to understand that there are actually multiple ways of doing things, and even that the previous ways didn’t take cultural differences into account.
Being open-minded goes hand-in-hand with being flexible. Don’t be rigidly set in your ways, and if you find that taking into account other perspectives will change the way your organization does things and makes decisions, go with it.
- Promote an understanding of diversity
In any given workplace it’s almost certain that one culture will be the most prevalent. This is most often due to the location of the office or the place of origin of the company. Miscommunications and differences can arise when this more dominant culture doesn’t have an understanding of the diversity of cultures within an organization.
Everyone in a company should be encouraged to learn about different cultures and understand how values and beliefs can differ between them. It can involve reading about other cultures to understand different social norms, ways of living and history.
This understanding can then be taken forward to your interactions with co-workers and clients. Something as simple as knowing how to correctly greet people from different cultural backgrounds can contribute greatly to better intercultural communication. If you know when to bow and when to shake someone’s hand, you’ll be displaying a real appreciation of other cultural norms.
Individuals and companies can also make great strides by being aware of and honoring culturally significant dates. We are often very good at knowing what the important dates in our own cultural calendars are, and we should extend this to other cultures in the workplace too.
- Encourage one-to-one interactions
Reading and self-educating about different cultures is important for you and your team and is the best starting point, but even better than this is direct one-to-one interaction. When co-workers communicate directly with each other it’s much easier to explain the subtleties of each other’s culture. Being curious and asking questions will make these conversations meaningful and interesting.
This kind of open communication and personal interaction is also an invaluable way of making employees feel comfortable with each other. If someone is new to an organization and has joined from a different cultural background, they may feel apprehensive and unsure of how and when to communicate with others. By encouraging individuals to engage with each other, it will help new starts to feel more at home.
As with many behaviors within an organization, an example is set at the top and then followed by others. Team leads, managers and C-suite staff should set examples by making a concerted effort to have these kinds of exchanges with others as often as is possible.
- Facilitate induction courses
At the organizational level, initiatives like induction courses for new employees are ideal opportunities to communicate the policies and culture of a company at the outset. If your company culture has more formal interactions between managers and staff, this can be communicated at this time.
For employees who are joining a new workplace and culture, this will be of great benefit to them. Rather than having to feel their way through and potentially make mistakes, they can be informed from the outset. It also provides a forum for new starts to share some information about their own cultural background.