Tips for Successful Cross-Cultural Communication in Business

OnePiece Work
December 8, 2019
OnePiece Work

In today’s global workplace, cross-cultural communication is the new norm - and a must-have skill set for anyone with a global vision. Use these tips to improve your cross-cultural communication and be on your way towards impactful, successful interactions today.

Do Your Homework

You researched your counterpart and know their CV and business inside and out. But what about their cultural norms and standards? Cross-cultural communication can be extremely nuanced. You may be surprised at how everyday business interactions differ from country to country, from your greeting to the tone of your emails. A little research can go a long way to helping bridge the communication gap.

Speak Slowly

Respect the fact that your counterpart may not grasp your language, so speak slowly and clearly to give them additional time to interpret what you’re saying. As an added benefit, you’ll appear more calm and confident.

Avoid Slang, Jokes, and Sayings

Slang, jokes, and sayings almost always get lost in translation. Aside from being largely untranslatable, most humor and idioms may offend or belittle members of other cultures. Avoid awkward or embarrassing exchanges by limiting your communication to the business at hand and some simple pleasantries.

Read Body Language

Body language is just as important as verbal communication when it comes to cross-cultural contact. Start by observing how members of other cultures interact amongst themselves and follow their lead. Once you’ve identified norms and patterns, read posture, eye contact, and intonation for clues about the speaker’s feelings.

Accept Mistakes

Mistakes will happen! Accept both yours and your counterpart’s with patience and grace. Apologize if necessary, and use it as an opportunity to learn and move the conversation forward.

Keep It Simple

Simplicity is key for successful cross-cultural communication. Don’t complicate an already challenging situation by using long words and complex sentences.

Avoid Closed Questions

Open-ended questions force the speaker to explain themselves and outline their point clearly, making it easier to understand their response and context. In some cultures, it’s even difficult or embarrassing to answer negatively - so you may get a “yes” even if the real answer is “no.”

Listen Actively

Ask frequent questions and summarize what your counterpart is saying as often as you can. This not only builds rapport in cross-cultural communication, but it’s also an effective way to ensure that information isn’t being missed or misinterpreted.

Look Beyond Your Own Experience

Use your emotional intelligence! Empathize with your counterpart to better understand them. Open your mind and accept that there is no right or wrong way to communicate, and that your preferred norms are not the best - nor the only - way to interact.


The best tour-guides for cross-cultural communication are those who have experienced it before. OnePiece Work is a community of founders, entrepreneurs, and professionals who communicate cross-culturally every day. Our members innovate, grow, and mentor together. Take advantage of our cross-cultural communication experience today!

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