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Cultural Communication Norms

By Shawn Stratton | Follow him on Twitter


North American teambuilding culture emphasizes the phrase thank you. Expressing appreciation andShawn Stratton, Team Building, Leadership gratitude to others is highly valued in this culture and it helps to increase your chances of being helped in the future if a favor is needed. Of the many ways, both physical and verbal, to express thanks in North American culture, actually vocalizing thank you is where it begins.

Thank you is an expression of gratitude that will never wear out;

it’s welcome on any team.

In my experience working with Asian and European cultures, thank you was not a commonly expressed, or expected, phrase. The sentiment of appreciation was not any less than it is in North American culture; the phrase was just not used. These days, many of the corporate teams I work with are culturally diverse, within the office and in global virtual teams. Such diversity of cultures brings opportunities and challenges, one of which I call cultural communication norms—the beliefs a cultural group holds about acceptable, expected, and normal behavior and communication.

Before, and during, the team development process it is essential that cultural communication norms be discussed. 

Tweet: Before, and during, the team development process it is essential that cultural communication norms be discussed.

An abruptly ended the conversation brief email, or the non-vocalizing of please and thank you are examples of cultural behavioral differences that can damage trust and break down communication within a team. Without open communication, cultural differences and norms can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, low trust, and stall the team’s progress.

If you are currently part of a team that includes people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, I encourage you to discuss cultural communication norms. What is your experience working with a multi-cultural team? How have you dealt with communication breakdowns due to cultural differences?

 Shawn has a Masters in Leadership and devoted 15 years to   wilderness leadership expeditions as a senior instructor with the National Outdoors Leadership School and other international organizations. His skill for fostering powerful teams has made him an international speaker, workshop leader, business consultant, and author of bestseller TEAMS ON THE EDGE: Stories and Lessons from Wilderness Expedition. Follow him on TwitterFacebook, or Google Plus