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Communication Hacks: 5 Ways to Hone Your Global Skills

Communication Hacks: 5 Ways to Hone Your Global Skills

    Most people who work in the business world today regularly interface with colleagues and clients all over the globe. In an economy without borders, enabled by instantaneous technology, they must actively collaborate with people in unfamiliar nations, speaking unfamiliar languages. The key question is – do up-and-coming twenty-first century leaders have the diplomatic skills and cultural savvy to be successful in this new climate? The answer in many cases is no.

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    In a recent study conducted by the Career Advisory Board established by DeVry University, hiring managers noted that global outlook was a skill that was considered most important but also most rare among current job candidates. However, improving global outlook and competence is not as simple as reading a book. Here are a few ways to hone yours.

    1. Do a stint abroad

    Get to know another culture intimately by observing variations in daily living and values. In communing with people who are different from you, you will acquire an additional perspective that’s extremely valuable and can be used in your future career. Although even short travel is beneficial, it’s better if you have the financial ability to stay a few months or a year.

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    A great site to look for and learn about the logistics of overseas job opportunities is Goinglobal.com. If you are currently employed with a large organization, inquire internally about the chance to do a stretch assignment offshore.

    2. Read The Economist

    More so than in other countries, American citizens lack an understanding of what’s occurring in the outside world. Become better informed and more culturally sensitive by subscribing to an international business publication such as The Economist, and by talking through global issues with your family members and friends.

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    3. Learn a new language

    Although English is still the international language of business, that could change at any time, so it’s a wise investment to become proficient in an up-and-coming language like Chinese. Online or offline coursework is helpful, as is having a native speaker in your community with whom you can practice conversing.

    4. Pick an interesting country and go deep

    Before going overseas, or even instead of going overseas if travel is not possible, find a local contact who has previously resided in or worked with a country that intrigues you. Arrange an information interview to discuss that country’s culture and way of conducting business. Build the relationship over time with in-person lunches or coffee dates. Hopefully your contact will provide essential insights about global work and that nation in particular.

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    5. Consider working at a foreign company

    This approach will allow you to increase your global awareness and competence without leaving U.S. soil because you will routinely interact with overseas contacts. Use directories such as the “Directory of Foreign Firms Operating in the United States” to create a target list of employers, and then leverage LinkedIn to identify openings and find individuals at those organizations with whom you can network.

    In closing

    As with any new skill, you have to start somewhere. Even if the effort seems small now, a continued focus on increasing your worldview will render you more marketable and employable in the future.

    (Photo credit: Global Communication via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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