Collective priorities, values, and customs shape international business communication. Professional exchange between members of two different cultures requires knowledge of both cultures, languages, and traditions. This may come in the form of awareness of the other businessperson’s beliefs and practices. Communicators may also be sensitive to the differences between individuals within the same culture.
International business communication often requires a degree of flexibility because businesspeople from separate cultures may have very different views and communication styles. Inability to understand the language may be overcome through the use of professional translators. Interacting professionals should be sensitive to nonverbal cues that may help to bridge the gaps in verbal exchanges.
It can be important for the communicator to understand that other cultures often relate messages and conduct business very differently, but that those practices are not necessarily inferior. While it may be important to understand the general cultural climate in which business is conducted, it can also be important to resist turning generalizations into offensive stereotypes. Experiencing the other company’s society and getting to know the area’s citizens may help suppress stereotyping by giving the businessperson a rounded view of the local culture.
When preparing for international business communication, businesspeople may want to research the other culture’s communication preferences. Some nationalities prefer to communicate indirectly, relying on politeness and ambiguity, while members of other cultures would rather communicate directly. Other such preferences can include reliance on nonverbal communication, the importance of relationship-building before conducting business, and whether professional agreements are made in writing or by oral conformation.
Communicators may want to remember that while culture affects communication, so do other factors such as age, education level, and gender. Individuals of diverse backgrounds may have had distinct life experiences that shape communication style and preferences. The organizational culture of the other company also influences communication. Research into various experiences within the business culture and the communication preferences of specific individuals often provides vital insight.
Those getting ready for international business communication may prepare by studying the beliefs, values, and traditions of the other company’s society and culture. Understanding core values can keep a businessperson from saying or doing something socially offensive during interaction. Religious ideals, superstitions, and even the meaning of particular hand gestures may all be an innate part of the communication process. Some nations also stress differing social ideals, including cooperation, individuality, and social status.