Culture and Communication

In Western cultures we use all manner of jargon to communicate. Especially sports analogies. How many times have you used...

  • let's get this project over the goal line.
  • the deadline is here, throw a Hail Mary Pass.
  • this will not be a slam dunk.
  • we need a full court press on this!
  • there is no "I" in Team.
  • that is a sticky wicket.
  • is that par for the course?
  • where is the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat?
  • we are in extra innings.
  • it isn't over until it's over.
How many times have you seen that look of confusion or the blank stare on the face of someone with a different culture? How many times have you provided instruction and then discovered that your employees still don't understand? Could you be using jargon to instruct?

Western politics, corporate boardrooms and the guy next door all use these to communicate. But how does that translate across cultures? As Americans we tend to think the rest of the world is on the "same page" (anther one!) as us. Unfortunately, in this global economy, that is far from the truth.

Errors in communication can cost you the "deal" or prolong the decision. You may be perceived as inept or unprepared as well. Neither of these results will benefit you or your company. So what can you do to get a "leg up" on communicating in a multi-cultural environment?

  1. Research the culture. The internet is full of information for businesses who want to be successful in a multi-cultural market.
  2. Examine your use of jargon. Come up with other ways to say the same thing. For example: change "this will not be a slam dunk" to this will be a difficult task.
  3. Do not assume that everyone knows what you are saying. If you do use jargon, use a clarifying sentence after it. i.e. "Is that par for the course? Is that your expectation?"
  4. Train your employees in Cultural Communication. Contact Chrome Zebra for a custom course that targets specific cultures.

    Did You Know?

    • In Western cultures purity is symbolized by white (think wedding dress). In Eastern cultures, death is symbolized by white. Never wrap a gift in white.
    • In China red represents luck. In India, red represents purity. Have Chinese employees? Wrap gifts in red!
    • Want a safe color for everyone? Choose blue.
    • In tropical countries green is used to represent danger. Ever hear of a green warning? In Ireland it represents the Catholic religion.

    Rhonda Goetz
    Chrome Zebra, Inc.
    Helping Employers Prevent Employee Lawsuits

    Rhonda Goetz is the owner and CEO of Chrome Zebra, an online human resource training company. She also is an authorized harassment and discrimination trainer and online instructional designer.

    Her online courses provide businesses with an alternate training method that saves time and money. Employees train at their desks or workstations, and can train anytime. Businesses no longer have to lose production time to large training seminars, or hire expensive consultants or be locked into a set training schedule. Online training is cost-effective as well.

    Contact Rhonda Goetz at 866.241.9927 for custom culture and diversity training.

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