Today we start the first of 5 tips on how to show respect to build trust in cross-cultural communication. Here are the 4 other tips:
- Listen with respect
- Do not be self-centered
- Show yourself respect
- Understand what to say and when to say it
Respect is important in building trust in cross-cultural communication because it is challenging to trust someone who shows what you perceive as a blatant lack of respect. The difficulty is that cultural differences can inadvertently be perceived as a lack of respect. In cross-cultural encounters other factors often come into play and an accumulation of cultural differences can create some unpleasant situations.
Respect often involves personal perceptions and interpretations. In international business it is best to avoid creating awkward situations due to wrong personal interpretations.
But it is not always easy to find the right way to show respect…
Different cultures, and different sub-cultures within these cultures, have different expectations and needs with regards to respect. Although you can read up on general guidelines on these cultural differences in showing respect, you will rapidly find them inadequate. For many people, respect is not about mechanically going through a series of actions. There is a deeper attitude involved in respect. This is why books can only help you so much… you need to develop good communication skills to learn how to adapt to different cultural environments.
Trust In Cross-Cultural Communication Challenge – Tip 21
Adopt a respectful attitude
We all usually feel fairly comfortable with our communication skills and we don’t always question the level of respect we show others. To successfully acquire strong international skills we need to spend some time learning more about respect.
Identify What A Respectful Attitude Means To You
The first step is to adopt what you consider a respectful attitude.
Imagine how you would show respect to:
- Your friends
- Your business colleagues
- Your clients
- Your parents
- Your grandparents
- Other elderly people
- Your teachers or policemen
- Your country’s president or prime minister or head of state
Most people will have different ways of being respectful to different people.
- Are you aware of the differences in the different ways you show respect?
- Are you aware of everything you find disrespectful and can you explain why?
- Are you aware of certain things which are fine in some circumstances, but which you find disrespectful in other circumstances and can you explain what these differences are?
The deeper your knowledge of how you react to respect and the boundaries you have, the better you will become at cross-cultural communication. Why?
- Because you will encounter situations where someone from a different culture will not show you the respect you would normally expect. How you react to this “lack of respect” is important. Knowledge of your own cultural baggage with regards to your expectations and needs makes it easier to find the best response.
- Because the knowledge of your own cultural baggage opens your eyes to the different cultural baggage other people have and help you to look for ways to get beyond cultural barriers.
- Because good cross-cultural communication always starts with knowing yourself
Acknowledge Different Interpretations For A Respect Attitude
Now for some cultures, and for cross-cultural business encounters, any or all of your own different levels of respect might:
- Be too much
- Be too little
- Not be considered as anything to do with respect
- Not be the appropriate respect to use in these circumstances
- Be totally inappropriate
It is important to realize that the attitude you consider respectful will be very different to the attitudes other people from different cultures consider respectful. Different cultures do not have the same definitions or interpretations of what is respectful. Even when people from different cultures use the same words and actions to describe what is respectful, there are often little nuances that can have great impact on the respect perceived.
Find Your Best Respectful Attitude For Different Cultures
So how do you find the best respectful attitude?
- The first place to start is to try to be as respectful as you can
- The next step is to practice
While you practice finding the right respectful attitude, there is a little bit of work. You need to understand how other cultures perceive:
- Your culture
- And your cultural baggage
Adapting your respectful attitude to fit well with other cultures requires a little bit of personal development. You need to find the right way to be perceived as being respectful and in an appropriate manner to people from other cultures. This means connecting with different cultures on a level where you can get feedback.
While working on this, keep this in mind:
- There are no rules
- There are different styles
Adapt Your Respectful Attitude To Different Cultures
When observing other international professionals, it is often obvious that they have refined their own communication style to fit well across most cultures. And when engaging with someone for the first time, they are very attentive and adapt their communication to suit each particular encounter.
The process of adapting to different cultures is a two-way process.
You – With practice you get to know your own cultural baggage and your own cultural expectations with regards to others showing you respect. What generally happens is that:
- You learn to not react to the very obvious cultural differences
- You learn to express your own cultural differences and expectations in a way that facilitates communication and does not create barriers
The other cultures – With practice you learn to avoid the pitfalls cultural differences can create and you learn to adapt to different situations.
After reading this you probably thing that finding the right way to show respect can be like walking on eggs. You are right. Fortunately, like most cross-cultural skills, it is something you pick up with practice.
Throughout this series of cross-cultural communication tips I often mention that seasoned international professionals become skilled at multitasking the monitoring of various factors. Respect and perceived lack of respect is one of the things you need to continually keep on your radar.
A few questions for you…
- What cultural differences in respect have you noticed?
- How have cultural differences in respect effected your international business?
- How do your expectations in respect effect your cross-cultural communication?
Please share your stories below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: Cross-Cultural Communication
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