The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw famously said, "the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." Whether our communication preference is to start with task completion or relationship building, being able to understand and communicate in different styles is a critical skill for any global mobility professional, client, or member of a global team. The ways we modify our communication style and messaging is known as code-switching. Depending on the context and situation, we frequently fluctuate between different communication styles. Below, our long-time trusted partner, IOR Global Services, provides important information for successful cultural integration.
Keeping Employees Engaged and Staying “Top-of-Mind” with Clients Globally
Writing and reading culture-adjusted messages is a great investment to further develop trust, strengthen relationships, and continue successful partnerships with the clients and employees both at home and abroad. Should messages be short and concise to accomplish tasks faster? Or should they be longer and more detailed to engage employees and strengthen relationships with clients at home and around the world? For example, a seasonal "Happy Holidays" at the end of a two-sentence email in the U.S. is adequate, but an elaborate paragraph with well wishes for yourself and family from a client in Brazil is more appropriate. To build trust and familiarity, switching communication styles based on your audience is a valuable tool.
Goals are Similar across Cultures, but the Mode of Communication and initial Focus Differs
Many cultures start with the exchange of important information, which does not require a prior relationship, while others spend time on relationship-building first and information sharing second.
For example: the United States, Australia, Israel, and the Netherlands tend to place great importance on an individual's ability to speak articulately and communicate precisely with words. Perceptions of effectiveness and trust are based on direct communication and quick task completion. When engaging with clients and partners with such preferences you may want to consider the functional nature of the messages, which typically are:
- Shorter and straight to the point
- Explicit, with more open criticism and opportunities to debate and disagree
On the other hand, Japan, France, India, and Brazil value a person's ability to "read between the lines" by providing more details and minding nonverbal and contextual cues. Building trust is based on maintaining face and adhering to implicit rules of hierarchy within the culture. When engaging with clients and partners with such preferences you may want to consider the engagement nature of the messages, which typically are:
- Longer, subtle, and can weave around the point
- Implicit, with attention given to harmony, with no direct criticism or feedback
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