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Cross-cultural communications strategies for effective leadership

In an increasingly globalized economy, the ability for leaders to communicate effectively with people from other cultures has become an essential leadership skill. Just because someone speaks the same language as you, doesn’t mean that they have the same cultural background and understanding as you. 

 

Many of our communication habits have become habitual, and when we are surrounded by diverse cultures, it’s relatively easy to ignore, mess up, patronize, or even offend people if we aren’t aware of how to adapt our communication style.

 

These cross-cultural communication strategies will help you effectively influence and motivate people’s attitudes and behaviors across a wide global community. 

 

  • Don’t make cultural assumptions 

 

Researching our audience is essential before you make any presentation. You need to know how the audience culture varies from your own so that you can adapt your presentation accordingly. 

 

Consider what cultural similarities there may be between you and the audience, and think about how you can build on those similarities in your presentation. This is especially important in the first 30 seconds of your presentation. I call it the “7-30 rule”, the first 7 seconds gives them your first impression, and 30 seconds, second impression. This is where you can earn trust from your audience. If you build on similarities in the first 30 seconds, your audience will trust you and listen to the rest of your presentation.

 

  • Be cautious using humor

 

People from different cultural backgrounds may interpret humor in different ways, so whilst humor is a great opener to get on the right side of your audience, what people find funny can vary significantly across cultures.

 

  • Be aware of your non-verbal communication 

 

Gestures that have become habitual in your culture, may be offensive in others.  For example, a “thumbs up” in Latin America, West Africa, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan is considered offensive by local people. Forming an “O” with your thumb and forefinger, which for people in the United States means “a-okay,” or “got it,” yet in some cultures, it can carry wildly different interpretations. In Japan, it means “money!”

 

Modify your gestures, be mindful about your non-verbal cues, and conservative with word choice.

 

  • Keep it simple and slow

 

Avoid using over-complicated messages that are going to be wildly misinterpreted.  Keep your One BIG Message as simple as possible. 

 

For many audience members, English may not be their first language, so speaking too quickly makes it hard for others to understand you. Practice slowing everything down when you rehearse and don’t let your nerves get the better of you. 

 

  • Practice active listening

 

A well delivered presentation requires active listening to your audience; being aware of their reactions, body language and facial expression. Brief pauses in your presentation will allow you to silently interact with your audience, giving them a chance to respond to your message, and for you to understand their reaction. 

 

If you find that your presentation is not delivering the intended message, be ready to adapt your presentation on your feet. Quite often what you say is not nearly as important as how you say it. 

 

  • Repeat your One BIG Message

 

Repeat your One BIG Messages in different ways at key stages throughout the presentation. You want your audience to leave with one key takeaway, so by repeating it in different ways, using different delivery skills, you can be sure they’ll understand your important message. 

 

To learn more about maximizing your potential to deliver a powerfully persuasive message across cultures, enrol on my online course: “The Art of Persuasive Speaking in Global Business.” This will help you approach cross-cultural communication with greater confidence and with PROVEN techniques to persuade regardless of any language barriers. 

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