We continue this week with the LEARN Cross Cultural Concept with strategy #3, the A of L E A R N = Avoid Ambiguity.
Awareness of culturally derived differences in behavior and communication is step one in decreasing ambiguity. 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. 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 suggestions can help build a virtual environment that avoids ambiguity.
- Create a safe, friendly environment that encourages participation.
- 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.
- Build in feedback loops to ensure clarity. May include: asking questions; paraphrasing what someone says; asking someone to repeat a statement.
Next week’s post will focus on the fourth letter of our L E A R N cross cultural communications acronym: R= Respecting Differences.