Working in an international team: how to effectively communicate with colleagues from different cultures?
As many as 89% of employees, according to a Harvard Business School study, declare their membership in at least one international team, while 60% of respondents collaborate with individuals from three or more cultures. Working in international teams is becoming increasingly popular, highlighting the importance of effective intercultural communication. The efficiency of the entire team largely depends on it. How to communicate with colleagues from different cultures?
Effective communication within a team – the recipe for success in business
There is much talk about the significance of effective communication within a workforce. It is through effective communication that we easily convey information, share ideas, and solve problems that arise on the path to completing various tasks. Effective communication is the means to fully harness the potential of the entire team through the collaboration of all employees. In other words, efficient team communication is the key to the smooth achievement of business goals and effective operation in the market. Furthermore, it is the recipe for a good atmosphere within the team, making work much more enjoyable and to some extent preventing burnout.
One can confidently state that effective communication within a team is the foundation of a smoothly and efficiently functioning company. Striving for open and harmonious communication turns the team into a strong unit capable of overcoming even the most challenging obstacles and achieving set objectives.
While communication within a monocultural team may not pose significant issues, effective information exchange among employees from different cultures can be quite challenging. Cultural differences, distinct behavioral patterns, varying value systems, and even issues stemming from religious affiliations all influence the form and specifics of work and teamwork. Differences among employees can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts that disrupt the effective functioning of the entire team.
Effective intercultural communication does not occur spontaneously. It often results from a well-thought-out strategy and a conscious approach to communication matters.
The secret to effective communication
The foundation of effective intercultural communication lies in understanding cultural differences and the cultural context, which includes the values, norms, and behaviors characteristic of a particular group of people. It is important to dispel stereotypes and prejudices about other cultures and treat everyone with respect. Avoiding slang and complicated, potentially misunderstood terminology is advisable. In intercultural communication, openness to different ideas and diversity, as well as flexibility in approaching various matters and aspects of daily work, are also crucial.
Active listening is the cornerstone of effective communication
To communicate effectively with colleagues from different cultures, one must first learn to listen attentively. Active listening, which involves paying attention to speakers and paraphrasing their statements, helps avoid misunderstandings and shows respect. Asking open-ended questions is also crucial, as it indicates interest in the speaker and their message and facilitates the building of relationships, which is the foundation for effective collaboration.
Body language reveals a lot
Body language is an important element of communication. All our nonverbal behaviors, such as gestures, facial expressions, and posture, convey messages to our conversation partners. In other words, even when we are silent, we are still communicating with others.
Body language plays a significant role in intercultural communication. Specific gestures or behaviors can mean something completely different in different cultures. For example, direct eye contact, a sign of confidence in Western culture, may be perceived as rude in Asia and the Middle East. On the other hand, nodding, which signifies agreement in most countries, means “no” in India and Bulgaria. Special attention should be paid to the raised thumb. In most European countries and North America, a raised thumb indicates that everything is okay or that we agree with something. However, in some Middle Eastern countries, the Philippines, or Australia, it means the same as raising the middle finger.
The key to effective intercultural communication in a team is to understand that not everyone conveys the same message through their behaviors and attitudes. To effectively work in an international team, it is worth spending some time familiarizing yourself with the nonverbal communication style of colleagues from other cultures. Careful observation and remembering details can facilitate communication in the future.
Actively listening, considering cultural differences, avoiding prejudices, not generalizing, being open to different perspectives, and paying attention to body language are the foundations of successful intercultural communication. Striving for effective communication should be the cornerstone of any international company that aims for spectacular success in the market!