Tips for Online Communication with Culturally Diverse Teams

Person on an online meeting

Tips for Online Communication with Culturally Diverse Teams

With more teams moving to online meetings right now it is good to think about how you communicate in virtual meetings, especially if your team has members who don’t speak English as their first language.

With that in mind, here are four simple tips to ensure time is not wasted and that 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒐𝒏𝒆 leaves the meeting on the same page:

1. Remove unnecessary words from your speech in online communication

It is worth remembering that a lot of the words that we use when we are speaking add very little value. This is particularly true with ‘filler words/expressions’ (so, like, do you know what I mean, etc.), indirect language, and finally, idioms. These can all be really confusing for non-native speakers of English.

Instead of: ‘Moving forward, it would be ideal if we could…’

Say: ‘From now, we will…’

2. Address people before you direct a question at them

Especially on an online conference call, but in meetings in general, think about using people’s names before you address them. This is particularly true online, of course, because you cannot look directly at one specific person.

Instead of: ‘[task] I would like you to look at this, Juan. Is that OK?’

Say: ‘Juan, I would like you to [task]. Is that OK?’

This gives a signal to the person, in this case to Juan, to listen even more closely.

3. Check understanding without asking ‘Do you understand?’

Never assume that something has been understood. This advice rings true no matter who you are speaking to, so build in the habit of checking understanding. However, we can easily fall into the trap of asking ‘Do you understand?’ to which we are often met with an automatic ‘Yes’ even when the listener did not in fact understand.

online communication

Instead of: ‘Do you understand?’

Ask the meeting participants to relay the important points of the meeting to you so you can make sure they have been understood.

4. Be patient with your listeners in online communication

For non-native speakers, being able to see a speaker’s mouth movements and body language helps with comprehension. Remember, these are either unseen or less apparent in virtual meetings, adding to the challenge.

So, be patient!

Sometimes the answer to smooth communication across language and culture is simple

These tips can be easily implemented and are part of the skill of cross-cultural online communication that you can develop.

Why not start implementing these tips today?

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