You want to expand your business edge as you make a greater positive impact. You can, through taking two steps toward culturally intelligent communication. For example, before I left for Malaysia and Hong Kong (photo) to teach International Business as well as Organizational Behavior for a US University, I was advised that the students would not be accustomed to speaking in class without being called on. As faculty, I was instructed to give students permission to and encourage them to participate in class discussions (expecting the students to adjust to US classroom culture, illustrating the first step, below), and also to make use of small group learning.

Imagine how surprised I would have been if I had not been aware of this cultural difference and been unprepared for students not speaking up in class. When these surprises occur, misunderstandings or even negative attribution can follow. For example, a professor surprised by students not speaking up might conclude: 1. their students were not understanding them or 2. their students were not prepared for class and therefore could not participate in the discussion (further concluding “they are lazy” or some other negative assumption or bias).Research shows we operate out of our unconscious (out of our awareness) 99+% of the time, which is where bias begins.

2 Steps to Culturally Intelligent Communication for Greater Impact:

1. Start with an awareness and understanding of your own culture and biases. Next, consider the culture of those you are communicating with, and decide how you can most effectively communicate together to make meaning of shared experiences. In coaching, this can include acknowledging the cultural communication differences between you and your clients and choosing together how to communicate and work as partners. This can also be applied to teams (including virtual teams), organizations and classes or training.
2. When you consider communication, include also nonverbal communication and cultural norms. Gestures carry different meanings, as does silence, formality, how directly you communicate and the pacing (how rapidly you speak), etc. In US, East Coast cities like New York, speakers known for speaking more directly and rapidly than those in the Midwest or South, for example. Of course this varies according to additional cultural identities such as gender, generation, where the person has lived and been educated, their cultural heritage, urban vs. rural, etc etc. It’s complex, and “It is impossible to not work interculturally!” when you consider all these factors. And when you don’t consider all these factors and make some adjustments, it can set you back in terms of how you are perceived and trusted.

Congratulations on discovering how to take an initial two steps to greater impact through Culturally Intelligent Communication. Let me know how it works for you, and if you want to discover more, leaders, about how to increase your impact in our diverse, global business environment to transform your teams and organizations, Apply for an Unlock Potential strategy session.

Coaches, want to expand your IMPACT, influence, and income? Join our Culturally Intelligent Mentor Coaching + Culturally Intelligent Coaching™ Certificate Program that integrates cultural and coaching competencies, fulfills ICF Mentoring requirements, prepares you for advancing your credentialing and provides the opportunity to earn up to 30 hours ICF CCEs as well as the Culturally Intelligent Coaching™ Certificate Discover more here:

Marilyn O’Hearne, master teacher, coach, mentor, supervisor, provides a hugely supportive environment in her programs for exploring one’s own cultural identity and recognizing the cross-fertilization of others’ cultural heritage, customs, and expectations. Not only does this impact the coaching setting; it also informs relationships across life in general. My ability to recognize cultural norms, conflicts, and potential resolutions has been significantly enhanced – a hearty recommendation, indeed. ~Marion Garber, PhD

To our success-we are in this together!

Stay tuned till next week!

Marilyn O’Hearne, MA, MCC, CQ

Unlocking Potential, Prosperity and Peace through Executive, Leadership, Team and Mentor Coaching; Coaching Supervision

First published May 22, 2015 and updated