Communicating across cultures is always a challenging task especially if you are sent to another country or are communicating frequently with colleagues overseas.
Before we look at a few useful tips on how to ensure effective communication let us play a little game.
Please read this sentence in English: “I didn’t say you have to buy them.”
Would you say that its meaning is clear to you? If that is the case, great!
In the next step, let us review the sentence a bit more closely by putting emphasis on different parts of that sentence.
Option 1: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” (emphasis on “I”) meaning that “Not me but somebody else might have said it”.
Option 2: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” (emphasis on “say”) meaning “I never said it out loud (but might have implied it)”.
We can see the meaning changing drastically. Of course, these two are not the only options to interpret this sentence if we keep changing the emphasis.
Using this method, how many more potential meanings can you find? (All interpretations are at the bottom of the text)
As we can see, once we really start to look at all the ways the same message can be decoded, a lot of room for misunderstanding starts to become apparent.
When communicating, it is vital to always consider how the recipient might interpret the message as it all depends on context.
Before initiating a conversation about a complex or maybe even tricky subject, there may be questions that you might need to first ask yourself even if the topic is not new:
– “Have we discussed this earlier this week already or am I bringing it up again after a long pause. If the latter, what amount of shared knowledge between us can I assume?”
Other factors such the “current relationship” might also colour how a message is read:
– “Are me and the recipient on friendly terms or have we had a disagreement recently that was not resolved properly?”
Just like in traffic, all of these are potential danger spots/ヒヤリハット that need to be identified so that you steer clear of them.
It is easy to see why communication is one of the key topics in JCO training sessions as well as in our E-learning.
In the next part we will look at concrete tips on how to go around these danger spots in a remote work environment.
Why not attend JCO´s courses (available as open or in-house courses ) to learn more about best communication practices when communicating across cultures?
Additional ways to decode the sentence:
Option 3: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” meaning that “I want to emphasise that I never said that at all”.
Option 4: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” meaning that “It did not mean that you had to do it (because I actually wanted somebody else to do it”.
Option 5: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” meaning “I did not mean that it was inevitable/I did not mean it as a direct order”.
Option 6: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” meaning “I wanted something done but thought there might have been other options first like renting it!”
Option 7: “I didn’t say you have to buy them” meaning “I did not want to buy them but the cheaper option we discussed”.