How to Avoid Offending Others: Part 3


Greetings, in my last two posts, I introduced the Do’s and Don’ts of Multicultural Communication and described 5 things you should never do if you want to communicate effectively with people who are culturally different.   Here are the last 2 DON’TS:

1.  DON’T ask inappropriate questions or engage in inappropriate behaviors, especially of a personal nature.  In a culturally diverse setting, it is best to stick to business at the beginning of a work relationship.  This means you must take care not to ask improper questions or engage in inappropriate conversations.  For example, don’t ask about another person’s grooming habits.  Don’t ask others about their child rearing practices.  Don’t ask if you can touch a co-worker’s hair (yes, I have heard questions like these on multiple occasions).  These types of questions can create tension and make people feel uncomfortable.  In addition, some people may find these types of discussions to be unsuitable for the workplace.  Once you have established a strong working relationship or friendship with someone, you may be able to have discussions of this nature.  But until that happens, it is best to avoid these types of personal conversations.

2.  DON’T try to speak or act like a culturally different person if it is not YOU.  Never try to behave the way you think someone else expects you to behave.  Never act in an unnatural way because you think it is what another person wants from you.  For example, don’t pretend you like certain foods, music or activities just to build a relationship with a culturally different individual.  Always be yourself.  This is the essence of genuineness, which is a key condition of effective cross-cultural communication.

NEXT POST – September 26, 2008:

Culturally Competent Communication – Part 1


One Response to How to Avoid Offending Others: Part 3

  1. Deborah says:

    Under your first “don’t”, isn’t it sometimes difficult to know what would be considered inappropriate for certain cultures? For instance, some people find it offensive to ask questions about family whereas for some that’s the first thing they want to know about a person. Do you consider it safe to simply veer away from any personal questions, whatsoever?

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