5 Tips to improve your intercultural competence

We are increasingly interconnected as we find ourselves living and working with people from a variety of cultures.

Intercultural competence, the ability to communicate effectively with people across all cultures, is essential as we work in multicultural environments in teams, with clients and service providers.

Here are 5 tips to improve your intercultural competence skills:

1. Culture influences everything!

How we speak, the pace, volume and tone we use. How we manage, instruct, reward and supervise people. The way we conduct meetings, deal with correspondence and network. How we listen, respond and put forward our views and opinions and more…

2. Know your own cultural defaults

Culture influences how we act and behave and knowing how your culture has ‘programmed’ you on why is acceptable and appropriate behaviour is the first step to understanding other cultures. We are influenced by family, and the wider community to fit in to our cultural environment. How do you introduce yourself and what does it say about you? Does a firm handshake mean sincerity or intimidation? Are you a direct communicator or do you have to read between the lines? Do you instruct or seek consensus? Is the task more important than the people you work with?

3. Listen with intercultural ears and look with intercultural eyes

We interpret behaviour according to our own cultural view of what it right and wrong. Think about how another culture’s response reflects their beliefs and values and how they differ from yours. Consider another perspective by finding out more about different cultural behaviours and practices.

4. Misinterpretation = Misunderstanding

Most intercultural misunderstandings arise as a result of hearing what the other person says but misunderstanding what they intended. Assumptions are not often clarified and the impact is negative on relationships which is not good when business is about making valuable connections!

5. Recognise the cultural clash

A good way to recognise a cultural misunderstanding is when you experience a negative feeling, when you come away thinking ‘something was not quite right but I don’t know what!’ A negative feeling is often the sign of a ‘cultural clash’ when differences in cultural values or beliefs create misunderstandings or problems when interacting.