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7 international communication tips for giving feedback

1. Do your research    

Get to know more about the person’s culture and how business is conducted in their country as it will have a direct impact on how you communicate with them. Communication styles may differ from one appraisal to the next, so prepare well. This intercultural awareness quiz will give you an insight into international communication differences: www.londonschool.com/lsic/resources/intercultural-quiz/

2. Adapt your communication style    

Most appraisals follow a regular company-approved format, but consider how you might adapt it to suit a different culture, and anticipate cultural communication factors behind your and their responses with differing intentions. For example, Asian cultures will use silence in a different way to western cultures.    

3. Listen actively    

Listening to understand, not simply to reply, is vital in intercultural communication. This is especially true in an appraisal, where a colleague may be trying to communicate their ideas and thoughts using a second. Pay full attention to what is being said, as you may need to understand different accents, speech patterns, and use of language. Be aware of how different cultures use facial expressions or body language. For example, if a Japanese colleague closes their eyes while you are talking, they are concentrating hard, not being rude! Check understanding by asking questions, summarising and paraphrasing responses. This also gives the person being appraised a chance to assess and re-phrase where necessary.     

4. Speak slowly and clearly    

Effective cross-cultural communication results from all parties being able to understand each other. Speak at a slightly slower pace than you would normally. But don’t slow down so much that you seem patronising. Ask your colleague to slow down if they are speaking too fast. Speak clearly, pronounce your words properly, use shorter sentence structures and use fewer idiomatic phrases where possible. Avoid jargon, acronyms, or complex  analogies that rely on  shared cultural references. 

5. Take turns    

Give the other person time. Even fluent second language speakers can struggle to express themselves when under pressure. Short exchanges work best; it helps a conversation to flow and provides time to process what has been said.    

6. Encourage open-ended questions    

In an appraisal you want your colleague to talk freely so that you can gain an insight into how they are feeling about their work and the company. Avoid closed questions unless you really need a one-word answer. For example, don’t ask, ‘Did you gain much from last week’s training?’, and do ask, ‘I’d like to hear more about the things you learned in last week’s training’.   

7. Write things down    

Take notes and refer to them during the appraisal to ensure that the other person has understood what has been discussed. It is good practise to share your notes afterwards where appropriate to ensure that you have a good level of shared understanding about issues raised, work well done, professional development and actions to take forward. 

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