If you’re like most professionals, you’ve seen how globalization has made the workplace increasingly multicultural in recent years. Whether your job includes traveling to other countries, working with clients from other cultures, or simply has a diverse community of employees, chances are you communicate with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds on a regular basis. Today, we’ll look at some issues that can affect communication in a multicultural workplace:
Eye Contact: In Western culture, we’re typically taught that strong eye contact is a good thing, showing confidence and increasing your ability to connect with others. However, in some cultures, too much eye contact can be considered rude, especially when speaking with people who are older than yourself or in a higher position. When communicating with people from other cultures, be aware of if your conversation partner is matching your level of eye contact or seems uncomfortable in any way.
Personal Space: What is considered an appropriate amount of personal space can also vary widely across cultures. Some cultures leave wide space between speakers during a conversation, particularly in a professional environment, while in other cultures, close contact and even frequent touching are common. Again, your best way to determine what is an appropriate amount of personal space is to be sensitive to the reactions of your conversation partner and follow their lead.
Gestures: Using your hands while you talk can be a great way to enhance your message. But there are some gestures that are positive in one culture and extremely insulting or vulgar in another. For example, the “thumbs up”, and “OK” sign are considered insulting in some other cultures (similar to Americans’ perception of the middle finger). To be safe, when traveling or giving a presentation to another cultural group, avoid gestures and hand signals that may be uniquely American. If there are things you are unsure of, check with a colleague from your target audience’s culture beforehand to avoid potential misunderstandings.
Stay tuned: Next week we’ll wrap up our series with tips on how to improve your speech when communicating with non-native English speakers.
Are you ready to transform your speech into your most powerful professional tool? You may benefit from the services of a corporate speech-language pathologist! For information on the New York Based Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com. Not in NYC? No problem! We also provide Skype and video conferencing services.
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