Understanding diversity is important. If you don’t, when you’re dealing with another culture, you can cause all kinds of communication headaches.
So what should you do when you’re about to do business with someone in another country? Here are some basic tips to help avoid conversational misunderstandings:
- Research the culture of the other party. Know what it is appropriate to talk about and what is off-limits. There’s a wealth of information on Google, or in books like Business Etiquette for Dummies.
- Learn a few words in the other language – “thank you”, “hello”, “good-bye”, “I’m sorry I don’t speak you language”, “it’s a pleasure to meet you”. Show that you’re making an effort. It will start your relationship on a good foot.
- Start your conversation with a neutral topic, like the weather. In some cultures, it’s rude to ask personal questions right away. Also, you want to hear the other person’s accent, and let them hear your accent. Give yourselves time to get used to the way you speak and you will understand each other better when you really get down to business.
- Acknowledge the elephant in the room. You both have accents. If you truly don’t understand what the other person said, tell them so nicely. Ask people politely to repeat what they said. If you see the person doesn’t understand what you said, respectfully repeat using simpler words and sentences.
- Never shout or speak unnaturally slowly. This is offensive. The problem is not that the other party is hard of hearing – it’s that you are not making yourself clear.
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