May 14, 2018
As diversified as the topic itself, there are many definitions of intercultural competency by well-known researchers such as Hofstede, Messner, Manian & Naidu.
In short, it is a range of cognitive, affective, and behavioural skills that lead to communicate effectively and appropriately with people of other cultures. Consider Finn Partners: it’s an international agency of 600 people and each person has his/her own cultural background (religion, traditions, morals and ethics) and qualities that result from genetics, the aforementioned culture and the influences of family and friends - all of which adds up to create each person’s own unique character. At Finn, we pride ourselves on being an agency of open-minded team players. As for all organisations, being able to adapt and work together is a must to achieve results.
In his studies of cultural differences, Geert Hofstede defined several cultural characteristics: individualism versus collectivism; masculinity versus femininity; uncertainty avoidance and power distance, to only name a few.
An interculturally competent person understands the cultural characteristics of his or her colleagues and can adapt to them - or at least use their understanding to help them interpret behaviour.
It’s the same in dealings with people in all walks of life: understanding the person helps understand their behavior - why is (s)he always late? How shall I interpret this email? Is (s)he happy or not? If someone always writes very objectively and without emotion in their emails, is that how they are in person? If you assume it is, it’s quite possible you’ll be wrong.
There is so much to interpret every day but if you think you understand your counterpart but still don’t really know how to interpret his/her emails and letters, you might want to try the Four-sides model. This model (more or less) outlines that whatever you say holds four messages: what you say; what this says about you; what you think of the other person and how you relate to each other; and something you want from this other person.
Once you know and understand that we are all influenced by cultural characteristics, you can better understand how your marketing and PR strategy could be adapted to engage with different mindsets. A strategy that might work in the UK for example, might never work in Italy. Figuring this out is a step towards intercultural literacy and that can help deliver amazing results.