Globalization is a reality now. Because of that, the ability of being able to deal with people from different cultures is now a must. Failure to handle cultural differences can cause a lot of problems and in the future it can be a source of bigger problems.
How to Deal with Different Cultures
Do you have to deal with people from different cultures? Don’t be too troubled because there are steps that you can take in order to do that. It is important to keep in mind when you are dealing with different cultures that people who came from different cultural background can view the same thing in different ways. So you have to suspend your judgement on things until you have seen where others are coming from. Here are some important steps that you can take in dealing with different cultures.
How They See You
One of the most important steps when you are dealing with people from different cultural background is to know and be aware of how they will see and perceive your actions. One good example of this would be your humor. If you make jokes all the time, someone from a different culture might take it as a sign that you do not take things seriously. If you are interacting with them on a professional level then that might not be a good sign for you. This means that you should know something about their culture. But you can also seek some feedback from a person from the other culture who could understand you.
Relating as a Person
It is a common difficulty of those dealing with people from other cultures to be stuck with stereotypes. They are unable to get over the common idea about someone from a certain culture. You should not allow yourself to be stuck with such stereotypes. You have to learn how to relate with everyone as a person. It will be hard at first especially if you are not used to talking to people from a cultural background that is different from yours, but you can get used to it over time.
Accept the Differences
An important part of communicating with people from different cultures is to accept that there are differences . People from other cultures will have different value systems. If you are not prepared to accept that they will be different from you, not just with the value systems but when it comes to communicating, personality traits and other important aspects then that can cause problems. Those differences could be found in people who live in the same place so you should not be surprised that you can encounter those in people from other cultures.
Study Their Culture
If you are in a situation where you have to deal with others from a different cultural background than yours, then you should take the effort to study their culture. You don’t have to become an expert. It’s enough that you read a few articles or check it out online. Find out the things that they might find offensive or those that they might not like. Learn about their greetings, how they say goodbye and the kind of food that they eat or what they do not eat. If they learn that you took the trouble to learn something about their culture, they would appreciate that and that could help in making things smoother for you.
Respecting Their Faith
Most people of the world behave according to their faith or religion. If you are dealing with people of different faith then you have to be respectful of what they believe. If you make fun or fail to respect the faith of others in any way, then that can become an insurmountable barricade towards relating in the right way.
Use the Right Non-Verbal Communications
Communicating with other people comes in two levels. The first one would be the verbal and that is when you talk with others. You would be using a common language between you two. But the other level is just as important and that is the non-verbal communications. You might think that the non-verbal aspect of communications is not that important, but you are mistaken there. Your gestures and movements when talking to others can be full of meaning and you have to be conscious of that. Using what you learn from their culture, you should refrain from using gestures that might be offensive to them, but which are acceptable to the culture that you came from.
Asking questions is an important part of communicating not just with people from other cultures but with everyone. If you are unsure about how you should say something so that they might not be offended, then you should ask them. Ask them about the right way of saying things. Ask them how to say something in their language. You can use that in order to bridge the gap between you.
Give Proper Personal Space
Another important thing to learn about other cultures would be their idea of personal space. For some cultures, it is okay to stay physically close to others. They would not have any problems with that at all. But for others keeping a good distance even when you are talking is an important part of their culture. Not understanding the concept of personal space to others can lead you to offend others unintentionally.
When you are doing research on the culture of the people that you have to deal with, find out about their concept of relationships. What is their concept of relating to people? For example, other cultures feel that the American idea of relating is too casual and impersonal. On the other hand, Americans feel that the concept of relating of other people is too close for comfort.
We have been discussing the ways of communicating through cultures because of cultural differences. These differences are caused by the geographic distances and other factors. Here are some of the more common differences that you should keep in mind.
- High-Context vs. Low-Context
- Sequential vs. Synchronic
- Affective vs. Neutral
In a high-context, most of the things that have to be communicated are not left unsaid. Instead of using actual words, gestures and other non-verbal cues are used. In low-context cultures everything is expected to be said. A person who wants something is expected to say it out loud. Sequential and synchronic would refer to the way that a culture views time. In a sequential culture, time is viewed as a commodity, as something that can be used up, or something that can be saved. People who came from a synchronic culture on the other hand would see time as interconnected. They see the past, present and the future as one continuous stream.
In a culture with high affect, people tend to show their emotions plainly. They laugh and cry when they feel like it. There is little or no attempt to disguise their emotions. Neutral cultures on the other hand, tend to hide what they feel. They frown upon displays of intense emotions. That does not mean that people who come from neutral cultures are unfeeling. Instead they just don’t like to show how they really feel at times.
These are just some of the cultural differences that you should be aware of.