When we meet someone from another culture, the first thing we think about is, “Oh gosh, how do I communicate with this person”? This has happened to me several times in my life. I worked in an international organization and grew up in New York City, where you have people from all walks of life and different parts of the world.
When we encounter this, things can go either good or bad very quickly. There’s a multitude of factors that can come into play. Factors such as your mood/emotion that day, how comfortable you were interacting with this individual, your belief and understanding about this person, etc. We don’t usually think about these factors initially, but they play a big part in our communication style.
“We all have a strong need for connectivity and belonging.”
If we are in a bad mood or had some negative emotions that day, it can ‘hijack’ the way we appear to the other person. We can appear aggressive or uncaring. The other person’s reaction can be reciprocal, or they can walk away. If you want to have effective communication with this person or communicate with someone from a different background is essential to you (for example, your in-laws), you may need to consider how you show up that day understand a bit more about yourself. The latter will have a long-term impact. So what do I mean by understanding yourself a bit more? Here are three tips that I’ve used personally that has helped me get through ‘difficult’ communications in a multicultural setting:
- Understand my cultural pitfall. Understanding what my traps are helped me be a bit more relaxed when I speak to the other person. This way, I was quick to know what I need to pay attention to more and what required less attention. Emotionally, we tend to think our culture is better than others. When we communicate in this setting, we can grow to become defensive. Understanding our pitfall first will help to relax your mood and be ‘open’ to receiving information.
- Remove all judgment. Removing all pre-judgment about the other person is very important. This is like saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ This applies when communicating with a person from another culture as well. We will have a better dialogue by removing these pre-judgments, and we can ‘listen’ more actively.
- Open Communication. This is the tricky part. We need to release all our egos when confronted or desire a better way to communicate. Having an open conversation puts everyone at the same level. No one is better or lesser than the other person. How to do this? Well, don’t interpret things or what you hear. Be open and ask for clarity and have understanding.
These three things are what I used personally to get through and have better conversations, even if I didn’t speak their language, at work and in my personal life.