July 9, 2019

Cross-cultural Communication

Communication with people from a different country and culture may seem intimidating at first, but learning how to communicate well in the United States is very important. Here are some things you need to be aware of:

Verbal Communication

Misunderstandings: During your first months in the US, you may misunderstand things, which is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Try your best to be positive � if someone appears rude or mean, ask yourself if it is perhaps due to a cultural difference instead of assuming they are not nice. If you don't understand something that is said to you, ask the person to repeat what they said. Or ask them to say it again more simply. Do not be afraid to keep asking.Sensitive Topics: Try not to say things that will offend a particular group of people. For example: Many Americans do not tolerate jokes about someone's race or sexual orientation, as this can be seen as offensive and hurt people's feelings. Most Americans do not like to talk about their weight, their age, or how much money they make. If you say something about someone's weight, how old they are, or how rich or poor they are, they might be upset.Small Talk:�Most Americans will engage in small talk� with you. They will ask how you are or talk about the weather. This is considered being polite. If someone asks, How are you?�, the other person almost always says, �I'm good, how are you?"Please and Thank You:�In the US, people say please� when they ask for something and thank you� when they receive something or someone helps them. Americans tend to thank others even for little things. If someone holds a door open for you, it is polite to say thank you. If someone gives you a gift, you should accept the gift and also say thank you.Tone of Voice: Depending on the environment you're in, you typically want to use your indoor and professional tone of voice and not raise your voice at/near anyone.Speaking in Your Native Language at Work: While you may find comfort speaking with others in your native tongues, we want you to be mindful that this can cause patients and colleagues to feel excluded or uncomfortable. It can be a natural tendency for some to think that others are speaking negatively about them, and in turn be harmful to a cohesive team work environment. We want you to know that we celebrate and admire your heritage and foreign language, but we suggest that our healthcare professionals practice their best workplace manners and help make their patients and colleagues feel as comfortable as possible.

Nonverbal Communication

You can also communicate with people non-verbally, whether you are aware of it or not. Nonverbal behavior is the way we use our body to communicate. It includes facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, posture, etc.Some people think nonverbal communication is more important than the actual words we say. It helps people decide if they like and trust others.Different cultures use different types of nonverbal communication. Here are some of the ways Americans use nonverbal communication:Facial Expressions:�Americans smile a lot to show they are happy and to be polite. When you meet someone new, or walk by people at work, smile at them to show that you are friendly and polite.�Eye Contact:�Most Americans make eye contact during conversations. If you do not make eye contact, people may think you are lying or impolite. People who look directly into your eyes are often viewed as more trustworthy, intelligent, and kind. If you come from a culture where people do not look into each other's eyes, this may be very hard for you to do. Just try your hardest to look people in the eyes when you are speaking with them, and eventually this will be easier for you to do.�While you are in a conversation, add in some nodding to signal that you understand what they're saying. That way you are not just blankly staring at someone or they might think you are confused about what they are telling you.Gestures: Some people will casually move their hands and arms around as they speak. This is normal. It is considered impolite to point at people and to flail your arms around excessively.Posture:�Try to stand up straight and don't cross your arms and don't put your hands in your pockets. When you stand up straight you look more confident, and people tend to give you more respect.Touch:�Most Americans shake hands when they meet. Sometimes people will hug each other if they already know each other. Never hug someone when you first meet them, instead shake their hand. If you feel uncomfortable hugging someone you have met before, offer to shake their hand instead.Space:�In the US, people have more personal space.� This means if you are talking to someone, they will probably stand at least an arm's length away from you.So remember that communicating politely, both verbally and non-verbally with others helps build a solid foundation for friendship and teamwork.Be sure to check out more great articles in the Employee Education Center to help you succeed in your new life in the USA!

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