Are you working in an international business environment? Is there a business meeting or negotiation abroad ahead of you? In today’s globalized workplace merely having strong business communication skills is not enough, you also need to have strong intercultural skills. Of course each country, each culture you get in touch with has its own rules and norms, but there are some general rules of thumb for successful business communication that can be applied regardless where you are going or where your potential partner is from.
- Personal and business communication cannot be entirely separated. First of all, this one is good to have in mind. The amount to which personal and business relations mix varies around the world. It can go from zero tolerance to closely intertwined, as there are countries where it is really expected that one doesn’t mix the personal with the business, and there are other ones where you are basically expected to bring your personal side to the table as well, that way strengthening the trust between potential partners. But no matter where you are, business is always conducted by people, and you simply cannot take who you are as a person out of the equation. Being able to connect with people is crucial no matter where your work leads you. This is the strong base, on which you have to keep building!
- Learn about the other person’s culture! Do your research, see what their business communication is like. Learn about their work and management style for example. Knowing a little about the workplace hierarchy in a country for example, can be of great help. And/or you can research whether they are more task-or people oriented, as this is something really important during business communication. Another thing you can research is their characteristic time management. How do they deal with time, how punctual are they? Is being late really rude, or 10-15 minutes are still considered to be within good taste? And you can even do some reading on their politics, as sometimes it has a say in the work environment as well: for example if a country tends to be more nationalistic, that can show in their international communication and negotiation style as well. The possibilities are endless, all you have to do is keep learning!
- Learn about your own culture! Or rather become aware of your habits and behavior that are defined by your culture. This is something we tend to forget about, as we always think of learning as much as possible about the target country’s culture. Why is it important to focus on your background as well? Because this way you can be more aware of the differences, and you can see what you have to pay attention to during your meeting. And you get a chance to see yourself from the other person’s point of view, which is always helpful.
- Focus on the common! Now that you are very well aware of all the cultural differences that you need to pay attention to, it’s time you focus on what you have in common with your partner as well! It’s a good thing, after you are all aware and prepared, because nothing creates a bond quite like something both of you share.