Cultural differences influence our interactions. The words we use, the way we act, and the overall communication styles we adopt aren’t always interpreted the way we’d want them to be. People belonging to a certain group may perceive the interaction differently than members of another group. This is why it’s imperative to establish strong cross cultural communication skills.

Cross cultural communication describes how people of different groups interact. It encompasses the verbal and non-verbal interactions exchanged between members of different groups. The groups are classified according to various cultural aspects, such as race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. Cross cultural communication attempts to work around the differences between two or more groups, facilitating an inclusive, harmonious, and friendly environment for everyone.

Here’s how you can improve your cross cultural communication skills through youth empowerment programs.

Do Your Research

Here’s the thing: the onus of making an effort to learn about other cultures lies on you. It’s 2022, and there’s no excuse not to use the abundant resources you have at your disposal. Thus, it’s imperative you do your research and make actual efforts to learn more about cultural differences.

teamwork concept

This is especially important if you routinely interact with people from different backgrounds—which you probably do. When researching, think of specific cultural aspects you want to learn more about. This will help you narrow down things and make it easier for you to absorb knowledge instead of getting confused. Think of your interactions with the people around you and what you’ve noticed. For instance, maybe there’s a particular phrase a coworker says or a behavior you’ve observed in a group. Research it to learn more about it.

Of course, you can ask community members about specific things too. However, make sure what you’re asking isn’t offensive or disrespectful. Also, avoid asking vague and generic questions about “heavy” subjects you can easily research yourself. Asking a Person of Color to explain how racism works, for example, isn’t the best approach. The subject directly affects them, and a discussion on it will likely take a greater mental toll on them. Do your research and approach them about specific (and respectful) things you’d like their insight on.

concept depicting cultural differences

Be Open-Minded

Cultural communication is all about embracing differences and being open-minded. You may have done things a certain way or held certain beliefs for years, but don’t let that limit your thinking.

Being closed-minded will serve as a barrier to cross cultural communication. It’ll hinder your progress instead of facilitating it. Instead of thinking there’s just one right way to look at things, be open to other perspectives. This will help you understand cultural differences better.

Open-mindedness helps build trust within communities. People are more likely to candidly communicate with you if you’ve proven yourself to be willing to learn and listen to new viewpoints and ideas.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is another integral tool needed to improve cross cultural communication. You can’t cater to cultural differences if you’re not truly listening to what people have to say. In fact, by appearing dismissive or inattentive, you can hinder effective communication.

The solution? Pay close attention to individuals from different backgrounds when they’re speaking. Active listening means listening to understand instead of immediately responding. Focus on what they’re saying, where they’re coming from, and how they’re responding to the interaction (i.e., observe their body language). Be empathetic and make people feel heard. Active listening goes a long way!

multicultural workplace

Facilitate Meaningful Conversations

In addition to practicing active listening, you should encourage and engage in dialog. This helps everyone feel safe and comfortable, creates awareness, and kick-starts meaningful conversations.

This doesn’t mean you put a certain individual under the limelight and direct all your questions to them. However, you can hold discussions and workshops that help team members feel included. This will also encourage them to talk to you about personal issues openly.

Welcome feedback and criticism. Remember, communication is a two-way street. By initiating and facilitating meaningful conversations, you can help create a safe space where each individual feels free to share their thoughts. It’ll also help everyone develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s perspectives and differences.

Develop Cross Communication Skills Through Youth Development Programs

Youth With a Future is a non-governmental organization that helps young individuals develop core life skills through its youth trainings and workshops. It helps the urban youth become better conversationalists and empathetic leaders by developing their interpersonal skills.

Get in touch with their leadership team today to funding for youth development programs!

The author of this guest post is a writer, a career counselor, and a volunteer at Youth With A Future.