Working across cultures successfully is about being aware of your cultural lens. This means being aware that there are differences across cultures in the way that we communicate, evaluate, persuade, lead, decide, trust, disagree, and schedule (The Culture Map, Erin Meyer).
Here are 3 tips to help you work better across cultures:
1. Assess your cultural lens.
- Communicate in a low- or high-context manner?
- Give direct or indirect negative feedback?
- Have a principle- or application-first approach to persuading?
- Have an egalitarian or hierarchical leadership style?
- Have a consensual or top-down approach to decision-making?
- Trust someone on how well they complete a task or how well you know them?
- Confront or avoid confrontation?
- Schedule time in a linear or flexible way?
2. Replace the Golden Rule with the Platinum Rule (Michael O’Connor and Tony Alessandra)
- The Golden Rule states “treat people as you want to be treated”.
- The Platinum Rule by Michael O’Connor and Tony Alessandra states “treat people as they want to be treated”.
- When we implement the Platinum Rule, we engage in conversations more openly through active listening rather than forming our responses before the person has finished.
- This approach also helps to distinguish between empathising and agreeing with someone. You may not agree with the way that they are working on a project, but if you understand how they work, then you can reflect on the impact that this approach is having on your working relationship and think of ways to mitigate the differences.
3. Set protocols up-front
- Once you have established how you and your partners or prospects work, it is important to create a protocol of engagement.
- A formal or informal protocol could specify how you communicate, give feedback and work with timescales. Mutually agreeing on how you can best work together helps you both feel comfortable and helps to minimise cultural misunderstandings.
- Remember, things that seem obvious to you, may not be obvious to another person as they will be working with a different cultural lens to you.