The world is getting ever smaller, and it is more and more common to attend meetings with people from different cultures; meetings where communication takes place in English, among non-native speakers.
The difficulties we may face are of different types, and overcoming them might not be so easy:
Difficulties that may be even more robust if the meeting is virtual!
In Oriental cultures, starting a meeting with irrelevant discussions, simply making conversation, is quite normal; conscious listening is common and saying NO is a sign of a lack of respect.
In Western cultures interrupting, correcting, or asking direct questions irritates the interlocutor; starting a meeting by making conversation that is not relevant to the goal is considered a waste of time (especially in the US), and directly showing your thoughts, without any preambles, is the norm.
How can you behave to avoid misunderstandings, make sure you understand the message, and manage communication effectively when none of the participants speaks the native language?
- Prepare the meeting
- Gather information about the people you’re going to meet (from co-workers, on social media, news, etc.) – having an idea of who you’ll be meeting will be most helpful;
- Prepare to be patient: if your interlocutor, before getting into the point, wants to talk about sports, vacations or the country beauties, he probably wants to invest some time for the success of the meeting.
- Focus your attention on the person in front of you
- Don’t let anger get the best of you: if you see behaviours that upset you, count to 10 before letting irritation drive your actions. By 10, if you’re not feeling better, you’ll certainly be more open to understanding the situation;
- Do your best to understand the needs, motivations and goals of people you meet: putting yourself in their shoes will help you understand why they make some choices instead of others.
- Make sure you understand what’s happening
- Ask for clarification, even when it all sounds clear to you, without leaving any uncertainty: paraphrasing and comprehension check will be of great help;
- Don’t judge people, assess the situation: then you will have a more comprehensive understanding of what is going on;
- Take notes and, if necessary, verify that your interlocutor shares the content.
Is that all?
No, there is one final point.
When your interlocutor nods, he/she is most likely saying, “I get it!”
Not confusing “I understand” with an “I agree” will help you avoid making blunders.
Do you agree?
If you want to improve your communication skills, you can attend the following eLearning courses and/or read this book: