Cross Cultural Solutions: Avoid Ambiguity

More Cross Cultural Solutions From Yael Zofi

We continue this week with more cross cultural solutions from the LEARN Concept with strategy #3, the A of L E A R N = Avoid Ambiguity.

cross cultural solutionsAwareness of culturally derived differences in behavior and communication is step one in decreasing ambiguity in your cross cultural interactions.  If you score low on this category from the Cultural Strategy Checklist on pages 64-65 of Communicating Through a Global Lens, How to Broaden Your Perspective in a Cross Cultural World, 2nd Ed, know that the ability to avoid ambiguity is directly tied to active listening skills. Avoiding or tolerating ambiguity doesn’t necessarily mean that you deliberately avoid these types of situations. It is the ability to react to new, different and potentially unpredictable situations with little visible distress. The goal is to avoid the uneasiness that could lead to frustration, which hinders your ability to communicate. Active listening is considered the most effective way to overcome cross cultural communication challenges and will be crucial in your overall success. Having prior knowledge about team members’ cultures can also help reduce ambiguity. The greater your knowledge about another culture the less ambiguous it becomes, and when someone behaves accordingly you won’t be surprised and uncertain.

These cross cultural solutions can help build a virtual environment that avoids ambiguity.

  • Create a safe, friendly environment that encourages participation.
  • Ask questions to clarify any cross cultural etiquette and manners issues.
  • Share information about team members’ cultural backgrounds.
  • Be careful with humor. It can be easily misunderstood, or even considered offensive, in many cultures. In most cases, it is best to just avoid making jokes.
  • Recognize your own assumptions and pre-judgments, which may be clouded by cultural backgrounds, past experiences and subconscious bias.
  • Encourage participation in conference calls so that questions are brought up.
  • Paraphrase what the other person says to be sure you understood correctly
  • Build in feedback loops to ensure clarity.  May include: asking questions; paraphrasing what someone says; asking someone to repeat a statement.

Using these cross cultural solutions to avoid ambiguity will greatly improve your future cross cultural interactions.  Try them out the next time you encounter a cross cultural colleague or client.  Remember that practice makes perfect!

Next week’s post will focus on the fourth letter of our L E A R N cross cultural communications acronym:  R= Respecting Differences.

Enjoy!  Yael Zofi

For more information, check out the 2nd Edition of my Communicating Through a Global Lens booklet.

Posted in Intercultural Business Communication