At Applied Influence Group, similar to our previous lives serving in HM Forces, our client base stretched across countries, regions and continents. We've found that whether you're engaging with locals on an urban foot patrol during a military operation or coaching C-Suite executives in tech corporates, an understanding of the societal culture you are operating in is essential.
Preparing yourself for interactions can be done in many ways but having an insight into the culture of the people you will engage with can make all the difference and avoid unwittingly destroying an existing relationship due to an easily avoidable cultural gaffe.
This is no new or groundbreaking observation and this post is not going to give you a click bait-esque 'top 5 list of actions to take when preparing to engage with individuals from a different culture'. As you have opened it, however, we can take a guess that you have some interest in cross cultural interactions; all I recommend is that you research Erin Meyer and her book, 'The Culture Map'. This is essential reading if preparing for a cross-cultural interaction. The Harvard Business Review article referenced below is a great synopsis of Meyer's findings if you only have five minutes.
Her cultural mapping tool is an interesting and effective guide to understand the ways in which different cultures like to be influenced, lead one another, make decisions and perform many more communication tasks. Certainly, each person should be treated as an individual and should only be culturally stereotyped in the absence of other information, but Meyer's research acknowledges this. The book goes further than making statements based on assumptions and loose facts, it drills down into the value systems for a society and makes its evaluations and recommendations on how to engage based on those findings.
When working with our clients we always view them as individuals, but have a healthy awareness that the society and culture they are from will have had an impact on their personal identity. Therefore we prepare ourselves to flex our communication styles with them in order to capitalise on the diverse nature of our client base. Meyer's work has helped us do that even more effectively, and if you would like to improve your skills, we suggest you give her book a read as well.
'Manui dat cognito vires' - Knowledge gives strength to the arm.
Navigating the Cultural Minefield Erin Meyer