Business Communication: Cultural Values Matter

With all its possibilities, I still find the Internet a restricted area for acceptance and freedom of speech. Case in point: my reluctance to blog about religion, sexual orientation, and music – even though I’d like to.

Of course, this is a semi-business blog, so those three areas of discussion really don’t belong, if you take a purist stance. On the other hand, we tend to blog about our views, our personal lives and anything that affects us strongly enough to warrant comment. Many relevant or current events in the three taboo areas do tie in loosely to our work and business.

But I don’t blog about god, sex and rock n’ roll because of the potential consequences, even if my discussion is only mildly opinionated, relevant, exploratory or observatory.

I find that a shame – but also a very important lesson to those working online with people of different countries. The lesson? Learn about the values and beliefs of other cultures and most of all respect them.

I’m Canadian, and our country’s mindset and cultural values are rather distinct. When I attended university, many sociology courses explored Canadian culture and how different our values and beliefs are when compared to those of other countries. One social work course I took was specifically about Canadian values – and I was a little surprised to learn that not everyone in the world values what we Northerners do.

I work with many clients from many different countries, but I work mostly with Americans. Here I was, thinking that the only thing that separated my country’s neighbors and me was a border and a penchant towards the military.

Harry taught me differently. We’ve had many a conversation where an innocent comment ruffled feathers or had us bristling defensively – and we’re best friends. Neither of us were right or wrong, just raised differently with different values.

Respect for the values and beliefs of others belongs in international business communication. I’ve had to adapt the way I think and the way I usually communicate (with fellow Canadians, of course) to effectively communicate with people in other countries – not just Americans, but the British, Australians, South Africans, and more.

I had to find the key to deliver messages properly and not have them misconstrued or misunderstood.

I found a web page that seems to explore American values for those readers interested. (Forgive me if this page isn’t an accurate representation of American values – I had trouble finding a website that didn’t take sides forcefully.) There are British values, Australian values (another culture who seems to have conflicting views), and values for every country, culture, and ethnic group.

I think it’s important to learn about the values other countries uphold and to learn to adapt and respect them in our communication. While we all hold onto our own beliefs and support the values we feel to be the most important, we each must respect the values and beliefs of others.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.