This article discusses the very important topic of direct vs indirect communication and how direct you should be in a given situation. In Canada we expect a clear message delivered in a respectful manner. But levels of directness vary around the world and what can seem polite in one culture may be confusing and unclear in another whereas those that prefer direct communication may appear rude. Great topic to learn more about.
A Culturally Intelligent Way of Handling the Elephant in the Room
by Dave Livemore
I’ve always been a fan of directly addressing the elephant in the room. I don’t enjoy conflict but I loathe avoiding it even more. In this way, I’m terminally a New Yorker. Don’t dance around the issues. Shoot straight with me and tell me what you think! Yet for most of the world, conflict is best addressed more subtly. Harmony and saving face are the driving values.
Direct versus indirect communication is one of the biggest challenges faced by multicultural teams. And the conflict is exacerbated when most of the communication takes place virtually. A blunt email, an obtuse response, or a silent team member can erode trust and productivity.
Most of the teams who take our CQ Assessment have a wide range of preferences regarding direct versus indirect communication, even if they’re a relatively homogenous team. Many things influence how directly you communicate, including your age, gender, personality, upbringing or cultural background. And the more culturally diverse the team, the more likely communication differences will chafe at you.