It used to be that ‘Cross-Culture” meant reaching across ethnicities. The bar for developing a successful relationship with individuals or groups of other cultures was low. You needed to communicate a common language, or used an interpreter, understood the basic do’s and don’t of the culture and conducted your relationship without much thought to anything else. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.
Globalization has directly impacted the importance of achieving successful outcomes in interacting with other cultures, ethnicities and races. Why? For the following reasons.
- Countries and ethnic groups are much more dependent upon each other. Companies and their managers need to communicate precisely and efficiently. The companies’ success may depend upon a successful relationship.
- International trade and commerce is substantially higher today than even ten years ago. Failed relationships can be fatal, not just detrimental to the large trade and commerce activity
- In social circles, when your cross cultural relationship fails, it just does not affect the two individuals. Chances are, with the global traffic today, there are families from the other culture that reside in the US. They, too, will be affected.
- With all of the tools of communication, everyone or almost everyone is aware of what is going on in a relationship. That includes cross cultural relationships.
- Globalization has robbed cultures of their purity, their nativity. Think of people in Asia who are today much more aware of lifestyle in the US and vice versa. You really need to pay attention to what the special attributes are of any culture. It requires much more deep dive than before.
- People are today much more sensitive to insults to their culture and heredity, unintended as they may be
So with all of this confusion in the cross cultural landscape, how do you achieve success? Here are a few tips.
- Be your natural self in dealing with people who represent the other culture. Be genuine, sincere and respectful.
- Take pride in your culture, but discard ego; it only hurts, does not heal or sustain a relationship. My favorite example is of a man from a culture that dominated the world 3,000 years ago–however is poor and dying today. He is condescending towards the American culture. And wonders why he scores so poorly with Americans.
- Learn to communicate in a manner that the individual from the other culture feels comfortable with. Avoid slang, Americanisms and bartalk. It shows that you are shallow.
- Be aware that globalization causes convergence of cultures. Even something so simple as two different cultures communicating in a common language–e.g. English—means walls are coming down on cultural differences.
- Highlight fundamental goodness and common virtues in the cultures, not differences. You will achieve terrific following when you do that, it is a true win-win strategy.