5 Tips to be Successful in Intercultural Communication

The importance of Intercultural Communication

Business leaders will need experience engaging in intercultural communication. Working with people from different cultures and social norms have become very common. People and businesses are communicating more and more across the entire globe. Although these new connections open up many opportunities, they can also come with challenges. These intercultural communication situations can be complex, but there are methods you can implement to help manage your company’s growing intercultural interactions.

Here are five tips for successful intercultural communication:

Adaptive Behavior

It’s no secret that one of the most valuable skills a leader can have is the ability to adapt your approach to fit each situation, especially during intercultural communication. Scenarios involving different cultures may require even more flexibility, as the people you are interacting with vary greatly in their personal and professional perceptions. For example, you may be motivated by learning new skills and working with people you consider friends, while others may be motivated by financial achievement or moving up in the company. If you were to lead them with these motivators, you could unintentionally hurt their motivation.

Action then Modification

During intercultural communication, don’t just dwindle on a situation when faced with difficulty. Act first, then change your approach only if necessary. Ask questions to decide how you can tweak your approach. For example, an American manager gives feedback to a Japanese team in a direct style which aligns with his culture, but to his Japanese team, it feels like a slap in the face. The manager could observe his team’s reaction and modify his feedback to be more subtle.


You make decisions based on your culture, and others will make different decisions based on theirs. Take the time to try to understand others’ decisions based on their experiences during intercultural communication. Even a quick Google search can help you gain cultural competence and understand other cultures better.

Embrace the Unknown

Intercultural communication isn’t easy to master. Get used to being uncomfortable and recognize new situations as an opportunity for growth. Try to put yourself in new situations on a regular basis, so you become more comfortable dealing with situations you aren’t accustomed to.

Use Cultural Tendencies with Caution

There are many cultural tendencies that will affect your interaction with others in the workplace. Everyone is different, and it is important to use them as a guideline, not a rule. In Asian and Arab culture, communication tends to be more indirect as they are high-context cultures. In lower-context cultures such as German and American culture, intercultural communication tends to be explicit and direct. Understand that culture tendencies are a spectrum, and can affect communication differently.


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