Business World: Multicultural Communication

Multicultural communication in the business world is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks we are faced with today.

Frequently, we communicate poorly and don’t even know it. For the most part, it's not our conscious fault. We adopt certain patterns and walk around using them with everyone. One of my latest pet peeves exemplifies this perfectly:

This statement: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”

You believe this, right? I mean really, who doesn’t? Well, you are WRONG! Feeling a little defensive? Everyone does at first. Let me explain…

You and I are colleagues. I ‘treat you as I would like to be treated’. But, what if you like to be treated differently? What if to get my attention, I need a really good slap across my face? How well will it go over when I slap you across your face? Well, no one is going to go around slapping people. But this extreme makes my point.

What if these differences are subtle? I'm probably not going to know and will continue to treat you as I like to be treated. This is going to create subtle problems between us.

This is EXACTLY the problem with multicultural communication. The more different a person is, the easier it is to realize they might like to be treated differently.

Okay, so how do we communicate effectively in our multicultural world?


  1. Don’t talk to people in a patronizing fashion.
  2. Don’t make assumptions about people.
  3. Don’t assume a culturally different person is an "expert" about their cultural group.
  4. Don’t engage in behaviors that single out a culturally different person.
  5. Don’t try to speak or act like a culturally different person if it is not YOU.


  1. Talk to others as equals.
  2. Recognize that cultural differences exist but confirm these differences before you act on them.
  3. Stick to the business at hand until you have established an effective relationship.
  4. Treat every person you come into contact with as an individual.
  5. Be YOURSELF at all times.

Taking time to learn and practice these ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ takes a ton of time. Too much to do with too little time. However, to use a cliché, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’.

Put simply, take time. It will help you not only with multicultural communication, but also in life.

If you would like to discuss how we may help individuals in your organization recognize for themselves their need to communicate more effectively, please call one of our facilitators. We love to help!

Resources: multicultural communication in the business world

Workshops for improving multicultural communication
Workshops for improving other communication issues
Activities for improving multicultural communication
Activities for improving other communication issues
Repario Ltd. / Lake Tahoe NV. / Boulder CO. / San Francisco CA. / Las Vegas NV. / 800-513-8759