As national economies evolve, overlap, and merge, the need to work with people from other cultures is an irreversible necessity. International corporations are increasingly searching for business management professionals who are skilled, flexible, and able to adjust and apply their skills with the tact and sensitivity that will enhance business success internationally. Degrees with a cultural emphasis such as an MA in a regional study or an LLM in US law are essential to learning the specific skill sets needed to transcend cultural boundaries, but do not have a focus on cultural communications. Increasing one’s personal worth in the global workforce is a difficult task in today’s hypercompetitive, interconnected economy; however, this task becomes more feasible through intercultural communication training.
Intercultural Communication DefinedIntercultural communication involves the sharing of information across different cultures and social groups, including individuals with different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. It seeks to understand the differences in how people from a variety of cultures act, communicate, and perceive the world around them.
Culture has a large impact on how people conduct business; therefore, cultural implications are critical for succeeding in an international context. Lack of intercultural sensitivity in business dealings can offend prospective or current clients, alienate employees who work in other locations across the globe, and have a negative effect on a company’s bottom line. Specific steps can be taken to improve intercultural communication skills and cross cultural interactions that will enhance personal marketability.
Remove Cultural BarriersIntercultural communication training is incredibly important to breaking down cultural barriers and building awareness of cultural norms, as well as enhancing self-awareness and communication skills. This form of communication allows individuals to adapt their skill set to meet the intercultural collaboration needs that global businesses value.
International affairs graduate programs work to remove cultural barriers by teaching analysis and interpretation for cross-cultural interactions, including the impact of culture on conflict and communication at various levels. Basic matters, such as what’s considered appropriate personal space and meeting etiquette, can have a major impact on the outcomes of business interactions.
Improve Negotiation SkillsIntercultural communication training also enhances the ability to negotiate, which increases individual marketability within the global workforce. Each culture has its own set of rules when it comes to negotiating. Some experts recommend integrating a cross-cultural framework for people who work with multiple cultures every day.
An example is the Business Model of Intercultural Analysis (BMIA). The BMIA uses six “comprehension lenses” to examine business-related challenges across cultures and help individuals improve their negotiation skills:
- Cultural Themes may be rooted in religious or folk beliefs and need to be integrated when developing a negotiating strategy.
- Communication is key, since subtle differences in language can have a big impact on how negotiation messages are given and received.
- Group Dynamics significantly influence the sales process, since decision-makers may not actually be at the table but represented by various parties, such as family members.
- Globalization requires global brands to adjust to local cultures and markets to be relevant and successful.
- Process Engineering in global companies needs to be addressed, since resources may not be uniform across locations and may impact the flow and timing of the negotiation process.
- Time Orientation varies significantly throughout cultures and can greatly influence expectations and the pace of negotiations.
To increase the value and marketability of your company and of yourself, it’s important to adopt the mindset of someone who knows how to navigate the industry and understand cultural differences and different worldviews. Intercultural communication training is one of the best ways to accomplish this and can be achieved through a variety of international studies graduate programs.
The more individuals adjust and adapt with cultural sensitivity and intelligence to the needs of the environment, the more companies will find exactly what they’re looking for—a culturally competent and sought-after business professional.
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This post was originally published in July 2014 and was updated with recent research and resources.