8 Skills for Effective International Communication

Posted on May 28, 2019 | 1 comment

8 Skills for Effective International Communication

What skills are involved in being an international communicator? To thrive in the world of international business, professionals need to engage “soft” skills in addition to “hard” skills like technology. Working on communication skills in an international environment is an important aspect of success in any field.  Our recent blog looks at two basic aspects of approaching international communication. Here are eight areas to consider for improving international communication skills:

1.Mindfulness: Keep an open, motivated mind. Good intercultural communication fundamentally requires intercultural awareness, an understanding that different cultures have different standards and norms. It also requires an understanding that individuals are shaped, but not bounded, by their cultural background and that, sometimes, you have to meet people more than halfway. This requires leaving your comfort zone and putting yourself out there in a networking situation. Take risks by asking questions and practicing language skills.


2. Body Language: Be aware of differences between cultures regarding body language. For example, eye contact in western countries is taken as a sign of honesty and openness, while in some Asian cultures it may be perceived as rude. Big, toothy American grins may come across as confusing, threatening, or as a sign of inferiority. Westerners might perceive a neutral or serious expression as unfriendly when the intention is to be respectful. Cultures have different standards for appropriate personal space. Certain gestures, such as nodding to indicate agreement, are not universal.


3. Words and Repetition: If you don’t know what to say, copy the words you hear. Rephrase what was said in a positive way to ensure you understand the meaning. Ask others to re-cap your words to make sure your meaning was clear.


4. Questions: Most people are comfortable answering a leading question, but always leave an “out” if the speaker is uncomfortable responding. Remember that some questions that are “small talk” fodder to some cultures will solicit in-depth responses from others, such as the seemingly innocuous comment “how are you?” Don’t be afraid to apologize! If you see you have caused offense by asking a question or making an assumption, be plain that you did not mean to create discomfort.


5. Listen: Engage in conscious listening vs. hearing as a physical act. Work to remember new words and names. Ask for clarification for terms you don’t understand to show you are engaged in the communication.


6. Play Ball: The classic image of a conversation being thrown back and forth is important in international communication as well. Work to keep a balance between speaking and listening.


7. Communication Style: Analyze the style of communication that works best for your comfort level and notice the style of those around you. Certain cultures, for example, may be comfortable with interrupting and consider it a style of active participation, while others find it rude or dismissive. Excessive gesturing may seem animated or too intense, depending on the audience. Consider also the pace of your speech: Is your rate too fast or slow to suit your audience?


8. Essential Skills: Remember some basics when speaking with others in non-native languages. Use simple words and re-phrase what you hear to encourage understanding. In English, avoid using phrasal verbs—a verb combined with an adverb or preposition—that are difficult to translate, such as “I love to work out” or “Let’s hang out over here.”


Of course, there is no “correct” standard for communication. Understanding the differences between cultural styles and practicing the basics of good communication will help ensure effective and meaningful exchanges. Remember: Good communication should leave you charged, not drained!


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One Comment

  1. we enjoy what you guys have posted here. don’t stop the super work!

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