Increased globalization and use of technology in the marketplace will likely put you in contact with suppliers and clients from different cultures. To make these interactions successful it’s helpful to understand and respect the customs, work styles and other nuances that make a certain culture unique. This understanding—or cultural competency—can help you build trust and strengthen your professional relationships.
You may be inclined to shy away from focusing on cultural differences to avoid stereotyping or assuming a person will act a certain way because of where they are from. Erin Meyer, author of The Culture Map, insists that trying to pretend that the environment where people grow up doesn’t have an impact on how they see the world can cause misunderstandings that can have serious repercussions for business. It’s important for leaders in business to gain an understanding of different work styles to show genuine interest and gain important perspectives from colleagues or clients.
Do Your Research
When you’re preparing to meet or work with someone with a different culture, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with the way their culture conducts business so you can tailor your approach accordingly. For instance, when it comes to scheduling, do they keep linear time or are they more flexible? How do they deal with disagreeing—do they avoid conflict or choose to confront? The more areas you have an opportunity to consider the better your perspective from that culture will be.
Search For Similarities
While it’s important to be mindful of understanding cultural differences, finding what you have in common is a powerful way to make a connection as well. This could be a hobby, an iPhone app or a sports team that you both share. By focusing on similarities, you have the power to create connections and build relationships that can overcome cultural barriers.
Learning to understand and respect those from other cultures can position you for success in the world of business. When doing your research, remember that not everyone will fit their culture’s mold and that you should be prepared to treat that person as an individual. No matter how prepared you are, however, there’s always a potential for faux pas scenario. If you’ve already laid the groundwork of showing curiosity and respect for their culture, though, you have a greater chance of recovering from any missteps and being able to learn for the future.