Imagine that an Instagram user, a LinkedIn user, a Facebook user, and a Twitter user were all invited to collaborate on a new social media platform. Each participant has brought her own communication preferences to the new environment, but there are questions. Should communication be long and expressive or short and simple? Should communication include discussions of personal life or should it be all business? Should text or visual images predominate?
The multicultural workforce is often like that new social media platform. Each of us has our own individual rules and preferences for communicating. These are shaped by our language, culture, life experiences, education, and personality. We tend to prefer our own communication style and may experience frustration when others don’t use the same style. (Why is she showing me another picture of her cat?) It is helpful to keep in mind, however, that the other person may be just as frustrated when communicating with us. (Why does he talk so much?) When communicating, each style may be different but also correct. Maybe if we sat down and discussed the process first, we could start to build an understanding—a common set of preferences—for resolving differences when styles are in conflict.
Next time you experience a miscommunication at work, remember that while you may be a LinkedIn user, the other person may simply prefer Instagram.
Ovient has been helping Silicon Valley communicate since 2006. Facing communication challenges at your company? We can help.