Flex for Success in Intercultural Communication

200412013-001A message has not been communicated unless the receiver understands it. People are different and cultures vary greatly. We must take time to learn about our audience and put their needs first. In doing this, we are able to flex our style, get our message across, and have an impact.

Recently, I was approached by an executive consultant who lives and works in Brazil.  He is not native to Brazil so he put considerable effort into learning and communicating well in Portuguese. Unfortunately, he lost some good business due to “difficult communication.”

Why did that happen?

He was proficient in Portuguese so his language and grammar was not the issue. After working more closely with the executive I realized his challenge was his communication style. I offered two points that would help him connect better with his clients and communicate his valuable insight in a more impactful way.

Flex your communication style.

It’s important to flex your communication style to connect with others. This consultant naturally preferred to communicate with a slow-paced, process-based, detailed approach. His client however, preferred a high-energy and results-focused style. I coached the executive to pick up the pace, lead with the results, and check in on the level of detail with his client. Different communication styles can either conflict or complement each other. The key is to understand the other person’s preferred style, and adapt accordingly.

Consider cultural nuances.

Another challenge the consultant faced was not being native to Brazil and understanding the cultural impact on communication. He is from a culture where the diagnosis of a problem should be delivered in a direct and factual way to move swiftly toward a solution. Whereas in Brazil, often an objective assessment or directly pointing out a problem or disagreement can be offensive. A more diplomatic approach to the same problem is preferred.

We went over a few real life scenarios where he could see these factors coming into play, and discussed ways he could flex to meet the communication needs of his clients.

I recently heard back from him that our conversation has had a great impact on his interactions with Brazilian clients. He feels he can finally grasp what is being communicated, beyond what is being said.

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