Communication in a multicultural setting is a challenge because different cultures have different values and norms and what they consider acceptable and non-acceptable social behaviors. First of all, we should be aware the communication also takes place in non-verbal form. Thus, we should try to have minimal knowledge of non-verbal communication, which includes gestures and body language, in different cultures (Lewis, 2008).
We should also try to avoid culture-specific terms such as blue-collar and high-five etc. because they may not be familiar to those from other cultures even if they have proficiency in local language. Another useful habit is to allow more time to those from other cultures to process the information. When we are not a local speaker in a specific language or have only moderate proficiency, we may take more time to understand the messages as well as to respond (Lewis, 2008).
Another useful strategy is to develop effective listening skills. By carefully listening, we often become aware of the norms in other cultures as well as the biases present in both our cultures as well as in others. This will help us adapt our own communication style according to the audience as well as the circumstances. We could also get important clues by carefully observing the audience body language. Thus, observation is another useful communication skill (The Project Shrink).
We should also actively seek input from those with different ethnic background and encourage them to be open. This will help us find out our communication shortcomings as well as the cross-cultural communication mistakes we usually make. In addition, it will also improve our relationship because the others will appreciate our sincere respect for other cultures.
Lewis, C. (2008). Successful Communication in Multicultural Environments. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from http://www.luthais.com/index_files/papers/Chad%20Lewis%20-%20Successful%20Communication%20in%20Multicultural%20Environments.pdf
The Project Shrink. (n.d.). 23 Powerful Tips for Working in Multicultural Teams. Retrieved February 14, 2012, from http://www.projectshrink.com/working-in-multi-cultural-teams-681.html