Jul 07 2016
7 principles of intercultural communication by the Equality Academy

Equality, diversity and inclusion are everyone’s business. The importance of intercultural communication in the workplace has never been felt as strongly, especially now with tensions running high across the country following the fallout from the EU referendum vote.

To help promote healthier outcomes in the workplace The Equality Academy, experts in their field, have defined seven principles of intercultural communication (building on the work of Deardorff & others) for you to follow: 

  1. Respect, openness, curiosity: be willing to take a risk and to move beyond one’s comfort zone. Be willing to be wrong, or at least to have one’s perspective altered or widened
  2. You are not the centre of everyone’s universe: realise that one’s own culture is specific, and study how it has affected one’s own world view – also how odd or foreign it may seem to others, and how it may impact upon them
  3. Culture, power, status: understand that cultures are often in a relationship of status, power and domination / subordination – that those who feel dominated often feel ignored and marginalised, and those who dominate often do not recognise their privilege or power. When these power or status relationships change, there is often upheaval, fear, anger and anxiety
  4. Learn from the other: with this understanding, be willing to learn as much as possible about others’ culture, as far as possible without judgment, but with respectful curiosity. This will often throw a new light on one’s own culture
  5. Develop core skills: intercultural communication requires self-mastery, as we develop our willingness and ability to observe, listen, evaluate, analyse, interpret, and relate with less judgment and more openness
  6. Reap the inner dividends: this process will enrich you personally and professionally, as you gain in flexibility, adaptability, empathy, and the ability to really ‘get’ what others experience and perceive, whether or not you ‘agree’ with them
  7. Reap the outer dividends: Deardorff defines intercultural competence as “the effective and appropriate behaviour and communication in intercultural situations.” and she explains that “…effectiveness can be determined by the individual while the appropriateness can only be determined by the other person – with appropriateness being directly related to cultural sensitivity and the adherence to cultural norms of that person”. This distinction is important, but has very different implications, depending upon whether the person attempting to be inter-culturally competent is part of the dominant, or the non-dominant, culture in a situation. In our work, we deal with both these instances

In the workplaces where EU exit – or any other sensitive issue – is a matter of fractured communication, and perhaps fragile relationships: having leaders, managers and supervisors skilled in intercultural communication, and able to promote these seven principles, could mean the difference between a team that can work through difficulties and re-find their common cause and team citizenship – and one that loses morale and experiences a consequent drop in performance.

Want to find out more about the principles of Equality, diversity and inclusion?

During our one day Equality, diversity and inclusion training course, you will learn how the Law on Equality applies to you and the practical steps you can take to recognise and respond to equality, diversity and inclusion matters when they arise. You will learn about the Protected Characteristics and some of the issues that may be associated with them, developing practical techniques to ensure you and others are treated appropriately.

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