Strategies for Cross-Cultural Interactions—Respect Cross Cultural Differences

We continue this week with strategy #4 Respect Cross Cultural Differences, the R of L E A R N.

cross cultural differences

Effective cross-cultural communication can be difficult if you have trouble showing respect for another’s cross cultural differences.  A low score here does not mean that you don’t respect others; it means that your behavior may not show it.  Just as you want to be respected for different characteristics that you may bring to a group, others do as well.  With the right attitude (as the cliché says, attitude is everything), you can encourage your team members to think of their differences as the spice that lends interest to your Pepper Pot Soup



While different cultures vary in how they show respect, following these cross cultural solutions should lead to positive results:

  • Make it your business to learn at least one fact about every member’s culture.
  • Acknowledge cultural differences and remind team members to respect them, as they want to be respected in turn.
  • Make it a point to create common ground among team members where they share similarities, especially around work goals.
  • Be professional; even those with a less than perfect understanding of English will be able to detect curtness or indifference in your tone.  Therefore, make it a point to assume a clear and welcoming tone when you communicate by phone.
  • Be punctual when meeting someone new from an unfamiliar culture.
  • Do not over generalize or attribute characteristics of a given culture to individuals – in other words refrain from stereotyping, even when others around you do.
  • Use optimistic, positive terms in your written or oral communication.
  • Find every opportunity to acknowledge others.
  • Demonstrate flexibility. Be open to discussing other options. If you find that you and the person with whom you are speaking want different things, try to find a middle ground and compromise. Being rigid and too tied to your way of doing things could set back your progress.
  • No one expects you to master a slew of foreign languages; however using the phrases ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; in the individual’s native tongue is appreciated.
  • Watch or read the news from your team members’ countries of origin. Discuss cultural topics to better understand different viewpoints (perhaps it’s best to avoid political issues).
  • Become aware of the traditional festivals of your virtual team members’ countries. They may genuinely appreciate a greeting via email or IM on that day.
  • Respect different time zones when scheduling virtual meetings. Work towards sharing this responsibility so that everyone’s availability and time preferences are honored equally.
  • Use social networks to learn more about your virtual co-workers. You will often find common interests that can become topics of conversation.
  • Develop an action plan to improve your own skills.


Next week’s post will provide cross cultural solutions for practicing active communication in the virtual environment and will bring 5 steps to manage cross cultural differences.


Yael Zofi

Posted in Intercultural Business Communication