Practicing Sensitivity in Different Communication Styles - Igor Poza

When it comes to working cross-culturally, one must consider the mindset and traditions of the other culture. Educating oneself on the other culture you are working with will only lead you to have better communication, more efficient business and optimal professional relationships. I recently came across a Forbes article Far Away But So Close: Boosting Global Communication With Clients And Staff In 2021 that discussed one of the most critical aspects of working globally.

Become Culturally Savvy. You have to be very sensitive to how various nations think and interact, what they dom and, more importantly, what they avoid doing. Some regions — for instance, Asia — have vibrant differences between countries. I’ve found that Japan and Singapore, for example, have drastically different manners for writing, reading, replying to correspondence, dealing with pitches and handling meetings. The same pertains to Europe: What is good in Italy might be a no-no for, let’s say, Germany. Hence, one slip-up in terms of sensitivity could cost you an opportunity.”

This reminded me of my own experience in Asia. Having worked in Hong Kong previously, I was aware of some of their communication approaches and what was considered acceptable. The Chinese value stepping back and intently listening when someone else is speaking. You should not interrupt, or add to a conversation if the person is not finished speaking.

As ‘Westerns’ this is a very foreign idea to us. Specifically in Southern Europe we tend to be louder and interrupt one another, not to be rude, but it is just how we communicate, especially on topics we are passionate about.

A couple of members of my team who were not familiar with the Chinese communication styles interrupted one of the Chinese businessmen. This was taken by the Chinese as rude and disrespectful, which then turned to be a means to diminish their trust. I was very sensitive to the cultural clash that was ensuing and observed the negative nonverbal cues of everyone involved.

I knew that my colleagues had no ill intentions, they simply had an opposite approach due to cultural differences. They simply had different communication styles. Working cross functionally was a must; we needed to work together very closely, and so communication adjustments were necessary.

I served as a cultural translator to deescalate the situation. I sensitized my team to the cultural differences and behaviors in the workplace that we were facing, and mentored them into a mindset change.

Week after week steady progress was made, and within a month our teams were able to get back to a positive direction and communicate smoother. I would be lying if I said that all of our engagement with one another was perfect, but it was much improved because there was a greater understanding and effort.

When working with different global teams, this is not an irregular circumstance. However, once we acknowledge that we are different and try to learn from one another, we can progress. We all must be sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues of any animosity because undiagnosed, it will become a problem in your work. Respecting one another’s differences allows a foundation of trust and leads to success all around.

About Igor Poza: Igor is a Global Brand and Team builder in Luxury Leather Goods and Cosmetics with 25+ years of comprehensive experience, both in headquarters and subsidiaries of Multi-billion Fortune 500, Family owned businesses and private equity owned startups. He has expertise in multi-channel retail and multicultural management. His cultural intelligence allows him to bring people together and transform businesses. He currently serves as the Chief Commercial Officer at Mansur Gavriel.




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