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?