Working in a multicultural environment can be a satisfying and rewarding professional experience. You can broaden your horizons by learning various skills and communicational approaches when you interact with people from other parts of the world. However, working with people from different cultural backgrounds requires a degree of tact and a willingness to learn and to adapt.
There is a wide multitude of cultural differences, ranging from beliefs to cultural norms. People from diverse cultural backgrounds bring personal and professional practices into the work environment that may differ in terms of being socially acceptable. These are neither right nor wrong…only different. Whether you agree with them or not, it is important to understand these differences.
Customers and co-workers come from a variety of backgrounds, and their habits, customs, reasoning, behaviours, values, and communication styles vary according to their background. Our cultural understandings, as well as our prejudices, are challenged by demographic changes that bring us face-to-face with new people and unfamiliar notions.
CULTIVATE CULTURAL AWARENESS
Cultural awareness is the understanding of the differences between oneself and people from other countries or backgrounds, especially differences in behaviour and values.
Cultural awareness is the very foundation of communication, involving the ability to step back and become aware of our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Why do we act this way? How do we see the world? Why do we react in such a way, specifically? Cultural awareness becomes key when we have to interact with people from different cultures.
People see, interpret and evaluate things differently. What is considered appropriate behaviour for one culture is often inappropriate for another. Misunderstandings occur when a person uses their own frame of reference when trying to understand another person’s reality.
DEVELOP CULTURAL SKILLS
Cultural skills refer to the ability to interact effectively with people from different cultures and to successfully manage intercultural situations. It is the on-going process of seeking cultural awareness, knowledge and skills that will enable you to respond to people from different cultures in a respectful and effective way, so that their value is recognized, affirmed and valued.
Lack of multicultural knowledge can lead to misinterpretation, misunderstanding or even involuntary insult. Skills such as cultural awareness, flexibility and effective communication are essential to manage the expectations of people from different cultures. The more you understand culture, the more successful you will be in a wide variety of interpersonal interactions.
Our modern workspace is very multicultural, multilingual, intergenerational, etc. It requires the ability to see different perspectives, in order to make the best decisions and to create an inclusive system that enables everyone to be successful in the workplace.
Communicating with different cultures can sometimes be challenging. When we are dealing with people from unfamiliar cultures, it is easy to misinterpret meanings and intentions. This can lead to confusion, discontent and frustration. For communication to be effective, one person must understand the other person’s meaning and intent. The skills associated with effective and successful intercultural communication may seem vague to anyone lacking experience in this form of interaction.
The more you understand the influence of culture, the more effective communication will be.