Creating effective intercultural communications

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So, Monday 16th November is International Day of Tolerance – a day when we embrace diversity and tolerance. Our acceptance and tolerance of diversity and change is manifested in the way we communicate, and as such our communication skills, styles and methods become incredibly important to ensure our thoughts, beliefs and opinions are widely and clearly visible and not misunderstood.

Living in the cultural melting pot that is the UAE for the past 15 years, I have had lots of time and experience developing these communications, and there are some key points to remember if you want to ensure clarity and comprehension of your message across cultures, traditions and generations:

Knowledge is power

You need to establish common values and interests to help you understand and relate to your audience, know their priorities and more importantly, their concerns. Be clear about their preferred tone of voice, expected communication styles and standards so that you can communicate in the way that will have most impact.

Be aware of sensitivities

Know your audience, and any areas that may be particularly sensitive, whether in terms of the topic itself (such as alcohol or religious beliefs), or imagery and the way people and lifestyles are portrayed. Be careful with gestures and humour as these do not always translate in the same way. When you communicate, be sincere and respectful, and do not belittle another person’s beliefs.

Have some respect

Be mindful of others, pay attention to their customs, show curiosity about their traditions, be open and receptive to their world views. Have a willingness to learn about others, keep an open mind and be curious in what you say and do.

Keep it simple

Avoid jargon, colloquial expressions and business language,  as well as complex sentences. You need to be sure that everyone can understand you, no matter their level of English or their backgrounds and beliefs.

Don’t just rely on translations

The words you use have so much impact, choosing the right ones for the context, as well as structuring the sentences correctly, make all the difference in the way a message is received. If you are communicating in different languages, create the new content and messaging from scratch in that language, don’t simply translate, that way you can ensure the right message is given and any humour or sarcasm make sense.

As with all communication, the essential thing is to be genuine and authentic, and if you are genuinely interested in creating effective intercultural dialogue, it will come through in the way you communicate, by seeking to understand your audience, asking for feedback and using the feedback wisely. Your actions and behaviour should mirror your words, and if the your words are genuine, this should naturally follow.

For more advice, or any other tips to share, please do feel free to contact us:

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