This informal CPD article on Cross-Cultural Communication & How It Impacts Your Writing was provided by the London School of Publishing (LSP). In a globalised world, cross-cultural communication is more important than ever. Adapting your business writing to your audience can make your communications clearer, more impactful and can help you avoid offence and misunderstandings.
People and organisations have different values, practices, and cultures and it’s important to remember this in your communications. So, here are a few cultural nuances to consider when writing:
Strict organisational hierarchies are more prominent in certain cultures such as Japan and Korea. In these cultures communication between different seniority levels is more formal, and open criticism and feedback are not seen as appropriate. Whilst in low-power distance cultures, people typically communicate in a similar fashion regardless of the seniority level of the recipient. So do your homework on who your audiences are in order to understand and communicate more effectively.
The amount of detail expected in communications often varies from organisation to organisation, as well as depending on the geographical region. The high and low context culture framework is always useful to consider. High-context cultures such as France and Spain feature more implicit information, more complex social rules and high levels of background knowledge. On the other hand, low-context cultures such as the UK and Germany prefer short, concise and specific communications.
Individualism and Collectivism
Cultures differ in their placement on the individualistic/collectivist spectrum. Individualistic cultures such as the US and parts of Europe are concerned by personal achievements, whilst generally Asian cultures are concerned by the goals of the group. You can factor this knowledge into your communications to better appeal to your audiences' motivations.
Direct communication is explicit in its purpose and in revealing the speaker's intentions. The Netherlands and many Eastern European countries are considered direct, with South-East Asian and Latin American considered more indirect and implicit. The level of sociality also differs between cultures, some are to the point whilst others value high levels of personal connection. For example, in China, discussing sensitive business terms such as contracts often come temporally later than in the UK. To bring these matters up too early can seriously hinder relationships.
Initiations and Rites
Many cultures welcome new members with the completion of established initiations and rites. These initiations can be explicit or implicit, and regardless of their subtleness, they are very important. You should respect and understand the importance of these different initiations whether they exist internally within your organisation, or externally with your business partners.
Monochromic time-orientated cultures are highly organised with significant respect to time. Polychronic time-orientated cultures have a more fluid attitude to time, for example, dinner and business may be mixed and timings will be more of a rough guideline as opposed to a strict framework. Germany, Israel and Switzerland are examples of monochromic cultures, whilst often Mediterranean and South American cultures are polychronic.
Having a deeper understanding of norms and cultural nuances, helps us appreciate each other's ways of expressing ourselves. This is often directly reflected in the tactics we use to write emails and send messages across various platforms. Being knowledgeable, sensitive, and inclusive helps us shape our messaging to our audiences and reflects well on our ability to adapt and form meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues.
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