Intercultural communications – the must-have for global business

The key to successfully managing an incident in a different cultural environment is intercultural communication
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By Janni Jarvinen
Crisis Communications Manager, Navigate Response

Companies that operate globally can, during a corporate crisis, be faced with a range of cultural differences, which can shape attitudes towards communication, decision-making, and risk-taking. These differences also play a significant role in crisis management, as different cultures may have different expectations, values, and approaches to handling crises. So, what should your crisis communication efforts take into consideration the next time you have an ongoing incident in another culture?

The key to successfully managing an incident in a different cultural environment is intercultural communication. This refers to the process of communication between individuals or groups from different cultural backgrounds.

Intercultural communication involves understanding and appreciating the differences in values, beliefs, customs, and communication styles that exist between cultures, and finding ways to effectively communicate and interact across these differences.

In order to be an effective intercultural communicator, one must have an awareness of cultural differences, as well as the ability to adapt communication styles and strategies to suit the cultural context. But understanding cultural differences can be complicated, so here are some examples of cultural differences that can impact crisis management:

  1. Communication style: In some cultures, direct communication may be considered rude or aggressive, while in others it may be expected. This can impact the way that crisis communication is handled, as some cultures prefer a more indirect or nuanced approach and others prefer a more direct and transparent approach.
  2. Hierarchy and authority: Depending on the culture, authority figures can be highly valued and respected, or they may be viewed with suspicion or scepticism. This can change the way parties respond to and manage a crisis, and whilst some cultures expect clear lines of authority and decision-making, others prefer a more collaborative and decentralised approach.
  3. Risk tolerance: Cultures may have different levels of risk tolerance, impacting the way crises are managed. Some cultures are more willing to take risks and try new approaches, while others are more risk-averse and prefer a cautious and conservative approach to crisis response.
  4. Time orientation: Some cultures value punctuality and efficiency, yet other prioritise relationships and taking time to build trust, thus having different orientations towards time. This can have an impact on the crisis response, as some cultures expect a rapid response and quick resolution, while others opt for relationship-building and taking a longer-term view.
  5. Conflict resolution: Different cultures may have distinct approaches to conflict resolution, which can play a role in the approach to crisis management. Some cultures may prefer a confrontational or adversarial approach to conflict, while others may prefer a more collaborative or conciliatory approach.

Overall, cultural differences can have a significant impact on crisis management and communications, and companies must be aware of these differences and adapt their approach accordingly. This may require engaging with local experts or consultants to better understand cultural norms and expectations, and developing a crisis management strategy that takes into account these differences.

Navigate Response can help you with cultural differences and execute effective intercultural communications with the support of our global network of 46 local offices. Through our network we combine global expertise with local support, to deliver successful crisis communications in any cultural environment. By developing effective intercultural communication skills, organisations can improve communication, reduce misunderstandings, build trust and relationships, and achieve greater success in a globalised marketplace.


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