When doing business internationally, communication becomes critical. In a situation where you can’t meet in your office once a week, phone and online meetings become vital to sustaining the relationship and keeping the flow of communication open.
However, the chance for a communication mishap increases in doing business over-seas. Cultural differences can be a barrier and a hindrance. To avoid any unwanted business catastrophes, utilize the following three steps.
“When working in the global commercial environment, knowledge of the impact of cultural differences is one of the keys to international business success. Improving levels of cultural awareness can help companies build international competencies and enable individuals to become more globally sensitive.”
Step 1: Acknowledge Cultural Differences
The first step in maintaining successful international communication is recognizing that there are cultural differences at play. Your office’s internal communication is likely much different from theirs. In order to sustain a high level of effective communication, it’s critical to work around these hurdles by accepting the differences and implementing proper meeting procedures. Cultural differences may include:
- Length of meetings: Some cultures see business meetings as a long process, meant for deliberation, discussion and decisions. Be conscious of whether or not you’re getting into a long meeting or going to wrap up quickly – especially if you’re preparing a presentation.
- Punctuality: If punctuality is important, it’s critical that you make a note of this. Being late can be the difference between working with a successful business partner or not.
- Body language: For some cultures, body language is the most telling sign. For example, Kwintessential.co.uk writes, “Since the Chinese strive for harmony and are group dependent, they rely on facial expression, tone of voice and posture to tell them what someone feels.”
Step 2: Prepare for International Challenges
While business cultures may differ from country to country, the fact that you may not speak the same language can lead to communication problems. While it’s ideal to speak in the same language, it’s important that you prepare for the fact that it just might not be possible.
- Communication breakdown: Without being in person, it’s impossible to read body language, facial expressions or the general vibe. Plan to listen intently and not take anything personally.
- Lack of understanding: With a language barrier in place, there me a translator. While this will be necessary, sometimes your words don’t directly translate. Be ready to explain and have patience, if necessary.
Step 3: Find Your Best Mode of Communication
Simply being in two different countries presents a challenge on its own. Suddenly meetings have to be scheduled well in advance, and you need the right technology to make said meetings efficient. Consider which communication tools you have in place and whether they are benefiting or hurting you.
- VOIP phone service: This phone technology can be used in your office, down the street or in another country. It costs less, and makes communication seamless. In international business, it may be worth the switch. Find out more from the Resource Nation blog.
- Video conferencing: Utilizing online meeting software will give you the benefit of reading facial expressions. You can often do this right through your browser making the process quick and easy.
When dealing with international business communications it’s critical that you take into account the varying array of pitfalls that could arise. However, when you’re prepared for the worst, you can communicate effectively which may lead to a long, healthy business relationship.
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