Top Qualities of a Cross-Cultural Communicator

I’ve been writing several papers and talking about how to communicate successfully across cultures lately.  I’ve come up with a list of essential qualities for cross-cultural communicators, but I am sure there are many more that I could have added to that list.  I am not claiming, by the way, to be proficient at all of the qualities below – there is always more work to be done and more to be learnt, after all.

1) Openness and genuine curiosity – by that I mean, a warm, caring curiosity rather than its nosy twin

2) Asking questions instead of assuming you know all the answers – perhaps a touch of humility

3) Flexibility and adaptability

4) Leave your ego at home (but not your values, you don’t have to agree and condone everything you see)

5) Patience – it can take a long time to break down barriers

6) Resilience – to recover from leaving your friends as soon as you’ve made them and to find ways to keep in touch even so.

7) Be prepared – do your homework before you go to another country. 

BUT be prepared to be surprised – no matter how well you do your homework!

8) Humour – ability to laugh at yourself and at others, although you don’t have to share your jokes with foreign audiences.

Anything else I should have mentioned?  What has been the character trait or quality that has kept you sane when travelling, moving, negotiating or marrying abroad?



Filed under Globalization

3 responses to “Top Qualities of a Cross-Cultural Communicator

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Top Qualities of a Cross-Cultural Communicator « Culture Broker's Musings --

  2. This is a great list, which covers a lot of ground.

    I always look for situations in which people from another culture can see that I am doing my best to fit it and can laugh at my attempts, for example, eating food which I don´t know how to eat or asking to try on clothes which look really odd on me. Those are really good ice breakers.

    Another important thing is not to forget the kids, if they are around. If you break the ice with the kids, the parents will usually follow. Your hair can be incredibly interesting to small children. I don´t know how many times I´ve had my hair brushed or stroked. If you sit still for a while and wait there is almost always a small hand which reaches out to you.

    • Yes, kids and the ability to laugh at yourself are excellent ice-breakers! Don’t you find that you get forgiven for being ‘eccentric’ and unable to cope (with chopsticks or other customs) if you are a foreigner, as long as you don’t come across as patronising, but willing to learn?

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