Communication

Communicating across cultures can be difficult. Here are some tips that might help your cross-cultural experience:

Relax What are your non-verbal signals saying?

Avoid asking yes/no questions Open-ended questions facilitate better dialogues.

Avoid slang This includes abbreviations or in-group terms.

Use written information and other visual aids to assist in explanations when needed.

Silence can be good Relax into silence to allow the other person time to think. Silence also allows for cultural difference in turn taking.

Pay attention Try to clear your mind of its preoccupations so you can concentrate on what is being said.

Set your assumptions and values aside, and suspend judgment Try to hear not just what the other person is saying, but what she or he means or intends. You will have more success in communicating if people know you are trying to understand them, rather than evaluate them.

Be complete and explicit Be ready to explain your point in more than one way, and even to explain why you are trying to make a particular point in the first place. Give background and provide context to make it clear where you are coming from. Much of meaning is derived from context and communication is more successful when all involved know what the context is.

Pay attention to the other person's responses Notice verbal and nonverbal reactions and if you sense puzzlement, keep trying to explain.

Ask for verification After you have spoken, try to get confirmation that you have been understood. Ask the other person to restate some of what you have said. It does NOT work to simply ask if the other person understood. Most people will say “yes” whether they understand or not.

Paraphrase After listening to the other person, but before you make your own comments, restate what you heard and what you thought the other person meant. Only after being reassured that you have heard correctly should you add your comment.

Be alert to different meanings Sometimes you will think you understand what the other person is saying, and suddenly realize you do not. When this happens, stop your conversations and discuss any points of misunderstanding.