Cross Cultural Communication


With increasing Globalisation, even the use of a common language in a company will not guarantee effective communication across borders. Misunderstandings range from the devastating to the downright comical, but each time there is a cost and risk implication.

The underlying issue here is often the dilution of company culture by local norms and practices. Even within the same building, communication suffers from the way that different departments view the issues and their roles.

Due to the complexity of the situation, a pre-meeting with some managers and HR personnel is recommended so that each Workshop can be customized according to the focus and segment of the organization, make-up of the group, the colleagues/clients that they interact with.

There are however, some themes that are common to most situations and these form the basis of this outline. In addition, company-specific modules, such as Company Personality, Dealing with Difficult Partners, and Using and Controlling Emotions, can be introduced as required.

Duration: 2 Days
Participants: 6-18
(for more than 12 participants, 2 trainers are recommended)

This is essential to create a ‘safe’ atmosphere conducive to constructive feedback. Whilst the participants may work together and feel that they know each other, some attitudes and character dimensions usually emerge that result in a bonding of the group and more effective delivery. This segment also allows the trainer to gauge the language level, and communication abilities of the participants.

A scene-setter which promotes discussion on the various forms of cultural variants present in the participants’ daily work. This would include not only national and ethnic considerations, but also discussions on gender, age, company and departmental cultural influences. It is found that this is an effective way of eliciting information to focus the Workshop on specific needs.

Differences in culture are not always necessarily a barrier to communication. This segment explores ways in which differing cultural norms can actually be positively exploited to build effective relationships and also ways in which cultural similarities can be utilized to create stronger bonds, even across companies.

The research carried out by Gert Hofstede within IBM is pivotal to the science of mapping cultural differences. Since the participants will later be actively involved in this process and applying the information directly related to their main areas of operation, the parameters and theory are explained here.

These three words are often used as synonyms, but there are significant differences between them. An examination of these through a process of introspection is designed to better equip participants to analyse their own feelings and predict those of their colleagues and business partners. Participant observations and experiences are actively solicited here.

This segment is designed to promote understanding, and indeed some empathy, for the day-to-day differences between cultures. In particular the easing of social interaction and enabling effective entertaining where accommodation and catering are involved, are discussed.

An important component of any training or workshop that deals with interpersonal communication, the important ‘non-product’ needs of both sides of business transactions are explained and applied through this model. If participants have already attended a training session where this approach has been explained, then the section is treated as revision. Where there is a ‘mixed’ group, those that have already had some exposure to the concept are invited to make the specific applications.

Building on the Six Human Needs framework and in further preparation for the application of Hofstede, participants examine a number of relevant occasions where business partners have appeared to be ‘difficult’. The objective is to understand the underlying reasons and provide strategic solutions for meeting these situations in the future. Also relevant here are ways in which various cultures structure their ideas and arguments.

The concept of Active Listening as a precursor to effective communication is examined and practiced. In particular the value of picking up vital clues about feelings and intentions from what is said or unsaid is described. A group exercise is used to demonstrate the message, followed by a de-brief to put in place avoidance or repair mechanisms.

As a way of consolidating the participants’ thoughts, either a role-reversal scenario is created or a discussion initiated. The former is preferred, but due to language limitations or the make-up of the group, may not always be possible.

Participants are encouraged to develop a proactive personal strategy for dealing with the issues highlighted in the course and commit these in writing to an agenda. The concept is that, whilst the names and maybe the products or services may change, there are actually only a few underlying causes for the miscommunication and these can be mitigated, if not eliminated entirely by adopting a pro-active stance.