It’s that time again: Olympic fever is upon us, as people from around the globe all come together to watch the world’s greatest athletes compete against one another. In this spirit of this multinational event, this week, we’ll focus on the effect that culture can have on communication, and some of the differences you need to be aware of when working and communicating in a multinational environment.
Eye Contact: Although eye contact seems like a natural behavior that transcends culture, it can vary greatly in how it is used. For example, in some Eastern cultures, averting your eyes is a sign of respect for someone of a higher status and is looked upon favorably. However, that same behavior in many Western cultures would likely communicate insecurity or dishonesty. Take note of different patterns of eye contact in your multicultural colleagues or clients, and be aware that your own patterns may be different from what they expect as well.
Volume: The volume that is considered appropriate for different communicational situations can vary significantly from culture to culture, as can what volume denotes. In some cultures, speaking in a quiet voice can indicate insecurity, while in others, it communicates respect for your communication partner. In a multicultural situation, if you find yourself speaking in a volume that is noticeably different from your communication partner’s, try to match their volume as much as possible to avoid offense or discomfort.
Personal Space: How close you stand to a communication partner is greatly dictated by culture. Mediterranean, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern cultures all stand somewhat closer during conversation than a typical American. Far Eastern cultures, on the other hand, tend to maintain a wide margin of personal space. As with many other aspects of communication, mirroring the behavior of your conversation partner is often the most helpful way to make sure that your communicative behavior is in line with accepted cultural conventions.
Next week we’ll continue our multicultural conversation and take a look at some other communicative behaviors that vary widely from culture to culture.
Want to improve your communication and speaking skills? Give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Let our team of corporate speech-language pathologists help you turn communication into your most powerful professional tool. Don’t live in NYC? No problem! Our services are Skype ready, so CSS can help you improve your communication from anywhere in the world.