June 2015

June 2015

7 Tips for Overcoming Language Barriers

Earlier this month, I delivered a workshop addressing cultural diversity in the workplace at the NJ Society of CPAs conference. The topic was selected to address the reality that the workplace in New Jersey is becoming increasingly more multilingual/multicultural. Communication and understanding become more challenging when the employees of a company or firm come from a variety of ethnic, religious, or cultural origins. The challenges are universal and while each situation and company demographic is unique, I’d like to share with you some easy techniques you can use to assess and increase understanding that I shared with workshop attendees.

Here are seven tips that will help avoid mutual mystification in communication:

1. Speak slowly and clearly. You’re more than halfway to communication success when you slow down!
2. Ask for clarification. Don’t assume you understood what others say. Politely ask if you don’t understand 100%.
3. Check for understanding. Ask for a “teach-back” to assess understanding. Don’t ask if someone has understood your instructions. Few want to admit lack of understanding.
4. Avoid local and cultural idioms.
A good general rule is that if a phrase requires knowledge of sports, American history or a metaphor, don’t use it. Watch for blank expressions and rephrase!
5. Be mindful of jargon.
Curb your use of acronyms, abbreviations and other terms specific to a company or industry. They may not be understood by others.
6. Be specific.
Define your expectations and deadlines clearly. Avoid words like ”soon” or ”later” which can be loosely interpreted.
7. Be patient. Cross-cultural communication takes more time. It’s well worth the effort in terms of rapport as well as in the bottom-line.