Every day life is becoming increasingly cross-cultural in a modern-day context. With the booming technology people of different backgrounds are more connected now than ever. This presents new challenges and in both one’s personal life and in the world of business. A new part of achieving business acumen is knowing how to approach a variety of different cultures.
When facing cross-cultural challenges, communication is the key. However, this reality is more complex than it might at first seem. Communication is not only made up of the words we speak to one another but of our most subtle interactions. For example, when recently attending a friends wedding I learned that in the Muslim culture, it is not appropriate to ask a female to dance without consulting her male companion. It was important that I received this information with an open mind. This was not a means of subjugating women, instead it was a method of respecting the familial structure inherent Muslim families. It was a beautiful expression of their cultural tradition.
In these moments cultural competency is made. Another similar lesson: communication is not only made up of the way we speak to one another but also the para-lingualisms that underlie our speech. Such things as this include body language, which is actually one of the strongest ways in which two people communicate with one another. It is of the utmost importance to be adaptable in this manner and approach different cultures in the way they choose to be approached and not with the traditions that we are accustomed to (Knapp, 2015). This certainly extends to one-on-one interactions with people of a different culture, but it is also quiet evident when dealing with a larger group of people.
When leading a presentation, the speaker is approaching the entire room at once and it is one made up of people with many different backgrounds. Being a part of a presentation is all about gaining trust of the audience. It is about presenting information in a digestible manner that is respectful of the audience no matter their background. When dealing with different cultures it is important to adapt the way information is disseminated. Some cultures prefer a strong business head. Others look for a calmer and less overbearing personalities. Most often it entails finding a middle ground between the two personalities. I have both of these sides within me. It is all about connecting with people on their own level in finding wisdom within oneself two know which identity to promote at any given time.
Of course, subtext and respectful approach is important to communication. But so to is the language used. It is important to recognize that many other cultures learn English to be used in the context of business. Many English-speaking citizens simply expect others to adapt to their language norms. This is more so the fault of people who lack an understanding of how difficult and impressive a feat it is to learn more than one language then those people who were not absolutely fluent in English. Especially impressive are those people who use this language to make important business decisions. Instead of assuming that every single person is 100% confident in English, it is imperative to deliver information in several different modalities when approaching different cultures (Knapp, 2015). Using pictures, signs, simple words on a screen, catchy phrases and mantras, it is easier for others understand a language that may not be their first. Even when this is not the case, effective visual tools are useful in most presentations because they maintain the audiences interest for longer period of time.
Ultimately to be a person who upholds cultural competence, the goal is being open-minded to every person. I spend time learning about others find a daily basis. I appreciate people as more than a workforce. I feel good about the work that I do and others can see you got in the way that I carry myself enthusiastically in my position. Respect translates in every culture. The key is in learning how a specific culture appreciates being respected whether this be via a hug, a firm handshake, a bow, a nod or even a kiss on the cheek. The modality is not what matters. Instead it is the willingness to foster relationships with other people that matters the most.
- Knapp, K. (2015). English as an international lingua franca and the teaching of intercultural communication. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 4(1), 173.