In last month’s Cross-Cultural Communication Challenge we looked at how you need to “know yourself and feel confident with who you are”. This was in the series of 5 tips on cultivating quiet self-confidence. There are 2 aspects to this…
First, when people first begin business meetings with people from other cultures they often do not realize the extent to which their own cultural baggage is the source of any communication troubles. It is true, that when it comes to international sales, you also need to pay more attention to yourself. When questions come up you need to remember to look at how you came across first. How did others perceive you.
Second, while this is easy to follow, you can begin to question yourself too much. You also have to maintain trust in yourself. You need to know yourself well enough to draw on a quiet self-confidence.
This is our starting point for today’s international sales best practice.
Building Trust In International Sales – Tip 7
Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. – Dr. Benjamin Spock
International Sales Best Practice
- Know Yourself
Why is it important to know yourself? There are several reasons, but today I want to talk about one in particular: self-knowledge.
In my experience self-knowledge often makes the difference in whether you get or lose the international sale.
The Power Of Self-Knowledge
All business criteria being equal, what is the one thing that will put you above everyone else? The depth of your own self-knowledge. Have a look at last month’s Cross-Cultural Communication Challenge for details on how this goes back to:
- The limitations of our own cultural baggage
- Being aware of the cultural baggage we have
- Our ability to enter international business meetings without our own cultural baggage
- Knowing our personal boundaries and creating buffer zones around them so they never
The Risks Of A Lack Of Self-Knowledge
When you do not know yourself well this can create some very unpleasant cross-cultural communication experiences. Not all the time. It depends. But when you add culture shock issues things can get seriously out of control rather quickly.
Why Lack Of Self-Knowledge Gets You Into Trouble
There are many reasons why your own lack of self-knowledge can ruin cross-cultural communications. To go into them here would take more than the space of this article. But here is the general idea…
First there are two main points:
- Your cultural baggage effects how you interpret what people from other cultures communicate to you.
- You are probably reacting as if the person was from your own culture and not a different one, so there is no real conversation.
Trouble starts when you do not know what your own cultural baggage is:
- You get upset. You react negatively or wrongly or inappropriately.
There is simply no connection in the communication.
Understanding Your Boundaries
The thing to remember is that it is not about changing yourself in any way. It’s more like finding a different viewpoint when looking at yourself. What you want to do is to know where your personal boundaries are when dealing with different cultures. But before you can do this, you need to know what your boundaries are.
This may sound easy, but hang on. You will soon find that there are also context issues with these boundaries.
For example, as a North American I feel uncomfortable when a strange man comes up too close to speak to me in an empty room. Well it’s not that I am conscious of feeling uncomfortable… but I will take a step backgrounds without thinking, as soon as he enters my personal zone.
But if the room is packed, the same stranger could approach me within the same space and I would not step back involuntarily. This is because my personal comfort zone has reduced drastically in this context simply because I’ve lived in big cities and am used to crowds.
Now imagine this was in a business context… In this case, I would need to control myself to not offend the other person by an inappropriate involuntary action… and also, I would be prepared to steer the situation away from possible areas of discomfort for myself.
Personal cultural baggage can get pretty complex when you begin to try to understand yourself. For cross-cultural communication purposes within an international business environment you only need to go so far. The simple fact of being aware of your own cultural baggage usually helps you through most cross-cultural difficulties. Still, there is a good amount of personal development work to really get to know yourself.
On a side note, there is another interesting benefit with improving your self-knowledge and you becoming more aware of cultural baggage in general:
- You can sometimes get a glimpse of the cultural baggage other people have and this helps to improve your cultural skills
Pay Attention To Yourself
In cross-cultural communication it is important to know yourself and to understand your boundaries. In international sales this self-knowledge helps you to find the right approach when dealing with international clients. You are more able to adapt to different cultures when you know where you are.
Now it is over to you…
- How does your self-knowledge impact your international sales?
- Why do you think it is important to know yourself in international sales?
- How does the success of your international sales depend on how well you know yourself?
Please share your stories in the comment section below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Sales
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