Intercultural awareness is a broad field. It’s a field that some people have never heard of, but one that has become better known over the last couple of decades at least. Once you know what it is, how to use it and when to employ the skills that can be gleaned from it, you and your business can get well ahead of the game!
“Someone’s cultural awareness is their understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values.” – Collins English Dictionary
At the heart of cultural awareness is understanding. Understanding why you as a member of group ‘A’ do something one way, for example, whereas someone else from group ‘B’ does something a completely different way. This also includes developing the tools to recognise this difference, process it and act in such a way as to maintain respect for the other person, avoid conflict and gain a satisfactory resolution to an interaction. When many people go to another country, they are quite capable of recognising differences: “Oh, they do this or that so weirdly here…” However, it’s the other steps in the process which can require a deeper understanding of intercultural awareness. Possessing a set of key skills can be critical for your business.
What kind of key skills can I gain from an intercultural awareness course?
- Communication – the ability to communicate in a conciliatory way with people from other countries and cultures. Learning to listen, as well as speaking. Taking stock of a situation from a distance prior to diving in, thus avoiding misunderstandings and conflict.
- Information sharing – the ability to share and receive information.
- Recognition of cultural bundles – recognising key features of culture. This includes a culture’s customs, standards, business culture, social mores and ways of thinking and acting.
- Sensitivity – being able to treat different situations with the sensitivity they require. This can include levels of politeness, turn-taking in conversations (or perhaps, talking at the same time) and so forth.
How can these skills benefit me and my business?
These skills can seem quite abstract. However, they are important and if you can master them, you can gain an advantage when doing business with people from other countries and cultures.
For example, your English may be perfect (fluent, colloquial, great pronunciation etc.), but if you go to Birmingham and do business with British people and speak at them, forgetting turn-taking conventions and communicate in a very direct way, you very well may come across as rude. Politeness is an extremely important feature of communication in the Anglo-Saxon world. Forget this at your peril!
Having a more in-depth knowledge of your target audience’s way of living their lives and conducting business will help you in your interactions with them. Instead of creating and widening distances and causing shock, you will be able to build bridges and trust and understanding- things greatly valued by clients and business partners the world over.
There is so much more you can learn when it comes to intercultural awareness. By taking a course, you can greatly improve your skills set and arm yourself with the necessary tools to interact with people who come from cultures where the thinking processes can vary greatly from your own. If you complement this with an intensive language course, you will be set and prepared to carry out business with the world!