Communicating Effectively

My friend, author-speaker Nido Qubein, in his Executive Briefing newsletter, gives some advice on communicating with people from other cultures. "We must remember that people from different backgrounds send and receive messages through cultural filters. Words, expressions and gestures that mean one thing in one culture may mean something entirely different in another culture.

A term or a gesture that may seem perfectly harmless to you may be offensive to someone from another ethnic group. Nido says, "We must first find out what terms and expressions are offensive to minority ears and avoid slang words that refer to people of different racial, ethnic or national minorities. Don't use them even in joking. Next, we need to understand that English is a precise language but is perceived as blunt by many speakers of other languages. For example, Americans often pride themselves on 'telling it like it is,' but this is a turn-off to Japanese workers who practice 'ishin-denshin'--that is, communication by the heart."

"Saving face" is an important consideration in some cultures and this may influence the way people respond to you. If you say, "Do you understand?" to someone from an Asian culture, you may get a polite "yes" when the person has no idea what you're talking about. If they say "no," it can only mean one of two things to many Asians: They're too dense to comprehend or you are a poor instructor. Nido says that it's important to watch the facial expressions of the person with whom we're talking. It's hard to disguise puzzlement and it's usually easy enough to tell whether the face comprehends.

He suggests that first of all we ask for feedback; second, that we listen carefully for questions because if there are no questions, there's likely to be no understanding. Third, we should use clear, simple language. This is only a minute capsule of communicating properly with those from other cultures, but it's a good place to start. Give it a try and I'll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!


A talented author and speaker, Zig Ziglar has an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture, and occupation. Since 1970, he has traveled over five million miles across the world delivering powerful life improvement messages, cultivating the energy of change. Since 1970, an extensive array of Ziglar audio, video, books, and training manuals have been utilized by small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, U.S. Government agencies, churches, school districts, prisons, and non-profit associations...

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