In the first part we looked at various ways the same sentence could be interpreted based on context and how it is said. Then we reviewed specific danger spots that we need to pay attention to when communicating at work.
In this second part, let us look at additional challenges in the remote business world of today when we are communicating across cultures.
If we analyse the structure of face-to-face conversation, things like tone of voice, body language, facial expressions or even the location, e.g. are you talking in a meeting room or next to the coffee maker, will factor into how something is perceived.
But how many of these “face to face” elements are available in a mail or a message via MS Teams chat? In other words, almost all implicit cues of “how something is meant to be understood” will have disappeared which leaves a lot of room for interpretation and therefore possible misunderstanding.
A few “safety belts” to help avoid miscommunication in a remote work environment
· In case of a complex and/or possibly tricky topic, it helps to review the message (by re-reading) to check how it could be interpreted differently by looking at it from another point of view (regardless of whether you are sending or receiving it).
· To identify the danger spots that might invite misunderstanding, why not test drive messages you send? Put the emphasis on different parts as in our exercise above and also check it against factors like “shared knowledge” and “quality of relationship between yourself and the recipient”.
· Once the danger spots become clear, it is recommended to check what additional information may be needed to create the full context for someone from another (business) culture.
· To create context, a good balance between keeping it short for efficiency’s sake on the one hand and simply repeating every single detail on the other is needed. Getting the balance right does take practice and the amount of info will naturally differ from recipient to recipient!· When sending messages, not only pure information but also communication that focuses on the relationship between you and the recipient might be needed.
· Make sure to also seek direct feedback from your colleagues from time to time to check whether your communication style is working for them. That way shared “traffic rules” accepted by all can be created!
It is easy to see why communication is one of the key topics in JCO training sessions as well as in our E-learning.
JCO´s courses (available as open courses or in-house) will help you to learn more about best communication practices when communicating across cultures.