Guidelines for multicultural collaboration

Keep in mind the following guidelines when working with diverse cultures:

  • Learn from generalisations. Don’t stereotype or oversimplify your ideas about another person. The best use of a generalisation is to add it to your storehouse of knowledge so that you are better able to understand and appreciate other interesting, multi-faceted human beings.
  • Don't assume that there is one right way to communicate.  Keep questioning your assumptions about the ‘right way’ to communicate. For example, think about your body language; postures that indicate receptivity in one culture might indicate aggressiveness in another.
  • Don't assume that breakdowns in communication occur because other people are on the wrong track. Search for ways to make the communication work, rather than searching for somebody to blame for the breakdown.
  • Listen actively and empathetically. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes.  Especially when another person's perceptions or ideas are very different from your own, you might need to operate at the edge of your own comfort zone.
  • Respect others' choices about whether to engage in communication with you.  Honour their opinions about what is going on.
  • Stop, suspend judgement, and try to look at the situation as an outsider.
  • Be prepared for a discussion of the past. Use this as an opportunity to develop an understanding from ‘the other's’ point of view, rather than getting defensive or impatient. Acknowledge historical events that have taken place.  Be open to learning more about them. Honest acknowledgement of the mistreatment and oppression that have taken place on the basis of cultural difference is vital for effective communication.
  • Awareness of current power imbalances and openness to hearing another person’s perceptions of those imbalances is necessary for understanding and enabling people to work together.
  • Remember that cultural norms may not apply to the behaviour of any particular individual.

(Reaven 1997)

Last modified: Thursday, 3 November 2016, 2:35 PM