When communicating with colleagues, whether overseas or down the hall, it is important to keep certain guidelines in mind. This is especially true with written communication.
Many people prefer sending emails to calling or speaking face-to-face with colleagues because they can work out the wording of what they want to say and state things clearly without having to worry about non-verbal communication. Letters also give the receiver time to absorb your message.
But how should you compose an email, considering the differences in communication styles between people from different cultures, for example, direct/indirect and high-context/low-context preferences?
First of all, learn the appropriate use of emails for the culture and company you are working with. In more formal and private-oriented cultures, emails may be preferred over face-to-face communications, while in informal, public cultures, talking to someone personally is best.
When first starting a relationship with a colleague, it is a best practice to send a friendly, yet formal, email introducing yourself and expressing excitement at the prospect of working together. Sending follow-up emails and thank-you emails is also very often appreciated and helps you keep up to date with your coworkers. However, when sending official correspondence that reflects your company’s views or policies, be careful not to express your own ideas or opinions instead.
Also, for instrumental communicators, lay out the facts and data clearly and in an orderly fashion, whereas with expressive people, a more eloquent style will work best, including using emoticons and exclamation points. In any case, friendly and cordial is best, whether your and your colleagues prefer formal or informal communication.
Finally, no matter what style or format you’re writing in, and to whom your email is addressed, check all documents carefully. Spelling mistakes and typos will reflect negatively on both you and your company. They may also damage your credibility with customers.
By keeping the above guidelines in mind, you can convey your message as efficiently and politely as possible, without unnecessary distractions.Back to Navigating Culture Blog