CULTURAL AND LANGUAGE BARRIERS
When we interact with international audiences or potential partners, the first thing we identify as limiting is the language barrier. It is natural for us to try to find a way to communicate (think and speak) in our own language to minimize the risk of misinterpretation and to be more effective in negotiating or discussion.
The important question is, in what language do we communicate? In ours? In that of the counterpart? Or… in a different language than the one of the parties involved? For example, English.
However, cultural barriers go beyond the language barrier, it is necessary to understand the culture and way of thinking and doing business of each of the parties involved in the negotiation, to be effective and communicate empathically and assertively.
Intercultural communication involves certain situations that must be handled with prudence to ensure success in your internationalization plans.
We have listed these situations below and provide you with tips on how to deal with them efficiently.
- Be open-minded: you must check your own attitude towards different cultures. You should do your research to learn about their counterparts, their backgrounds and origins, and find out a little about how they do business and how they communicate in their part of the world. “If rule number one in an international negotiation is to know the other party’s culture, rule number two is to avoid over-reliance on that knowledge,” writes Tufts University professor Jeswald W. Salacuse in his book Negotiating Life: Secrets for Everyday Diplomacy and Deal Making (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Just as you don’t want the other party to see you as a cultural stereotype, neither does your counterpart. Everyone involved in business negotiation will want to be seen as multifaceted individuals. However, negotiators often place too much weight on the other party’s culture and are based on stereotypes as a result. In one study, Japanese and American negotiators adjusted their negotiating style too much toward the culture of the other side, according to research by University of Waterloo professor Wendi L. Adair and her colleagues. As a result, these negotiators came up with stereotypical ideas among themselves that led to cultural clashes and misunderstandings.
- Efficient communication system: If you expect the negotiation team to overcome cultural barriers in communication, you will first have to set them up with a reliable communication system. Without this, even team members who come from similar backgrounds will have trouble understanding each other.
- Let the members of the negotiation team introduce themselves: This can help a lot to break the ice and better understand what is the position, the roll, the background and the communication style used by each of the parties.
- Use simpler and more precise language: Sometimes overcoming cultural communication barriers is about smart and careful people management and building trust between yourself and the negotiating team. And sometimes it’s just a matter of being direct and using clear, simple, fact-based language.
- Use visual methods: it is much more difficult to misinterpret visual language than verbal expressions, if this visual language is concrete and truthful. Charts, tables, and diagrams are universal and easily understandable, so you should definitely use them to your advantage.
- Maintain your composure in unpleasant situations: If an unpleasant situation occurs, it is recommended to maintain your composure and help defuse the situation. This is not to pretend that nothing has happened. The best thing is to talk about the situation openly and ask directly and clearly about what has happened, apologize and learn from the situation.
At LingoCall we help you anticipate cultural and language barriers in your multicultural gatherings.
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