Cross-cultural communication – how to improve

Navigating cross-cultural communication to strengthen your working relationships

Improving your cross-cultural communication is all about being able to respect our differences and individuality, whilst also finding ways to effectively work together and build connections.  

When we do not effectively communicate with individuals from differing cultures, the following issues can arise…

  • Misunderstands leading to mistakes and lost time  
  • Disconnected teams  
  • Conflicting Values leading to disagreements and conflicts  
  • Remote/Multi-locational working issues eg. timezones 
  • Stereotyping and ethnocentrism  
  • Language barriers  

When these issues occur, individuals may feel frustrated, unmotivated, misunderstood and so on. This can mean we are communicating without the intention of connecting and working together.

Below we have created some useful phrases and tips that focus on sustainable resolution and meeting needs of all involved when it comes to cross-cultural communication…

When you feel offended:  

“I am sure you didn’t mean to offend me, but I must admit that when I heard you saying xxxx I did feel XXX, Would you be willing to have a conversation about this?” 

“The word/action you used has a specific meaning in XXX culture, used in the wrong context it could be interpreted as offensive. Can I tell you a bit more about it to prevent that happening?”  

When you don’t understand:  

“I am sorry, I am trying to but struggling to understand what you are saying. Please could you repeat or rephrase?”   

Voice your own understanding and end with “Have I got the right understanding of what you are saying?” 

When you feel you are conflicting with someone:  

“I have observed that we might have conflicting communication styles. I value connecting with my team members, so would you be open to having a conversation about how we can work together more effectively?” 

Expressing that something is not working for you:   

“When XXX happens, I feel XXX. I value peace and efficiency so could we have a conversation about how we can make this work for us?” 

Here are some practical tips to keep in mind alongside these phrases:  

  • Keep it simple – speak slowly and clearly  
  • Always assume positive intent
  • Be careful with humour  
  • Listen actively  
  • Understand your own communication style and be willing to flex to others from time to time  
  • Be patient  
  • Try to focus on one topic at a time  

Using phrases like these and making a conscious effort to adopt some of these practical tips will help you navigate cross-cultural communications, prioritise relationship building and learn about other cultures.

It’s not about stopping the issues/misunderstands altogether, but more about how we deal with them. This means that everyone can stay authentic to themselves and their communication style, rather than having to adapt to others. An opportunity to use our differences for growth and innovation.

The Plain English Campaign is also a great initiative which strives to strengthen our cross-cultural communication practise.

Get to know us…

We are committed to changing the way we speak at work.

We are a consultancy specialising in psychological safetycommunication training and coaching and conflict resolution, based in the South West of England, and operating worldwide.

Since 2005, we have made it our mission to find ways of bringing compassionate and authentic principles into the workplace, so that employees may experience connection of a different kind; one that cultivates a healthy working environment, stimulates high performance and unlocks true potential.

In this aim, we have developed multiple tools and programmes to help organisations embed these vital skills within their teams, their management and their culture.

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Cross-cultural communication – how to improve

Navigating cross-cultural communication to strengthen your working relationships Improving your cross-cultural communication is all about being able to respect our differences and individuality, whilst also finding ways to effectively work

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