Top 10 Tips to Breaking Cultural Barriers

cultural differences

These days more than ever before, we are able to communicate across international borders. Gone are the days of exclusively presenting our opportunity and products face to face to our friends, family, and neighbors. We can place an ad, reach out on social media, and touch the lives of those so far removed from us not only geographically, but culturally, religiously and racially.

Isn’t it the greatest time to be in network marketing??

Yes, but it can be tough! Let’s be honest — we all can experience difficulty in communicating effectively with those we love, let alone someone 10,000 miles away that we don’t know! Add in pressures of language and cultural idiosyncrasies, and communication can become rather complicated.

With all of that said, it can be easy for communication to break down. But it is possible to successfully get your point across to anyone in the world. After all, effective communication is key to our business, and to doing business in general! Here are 10 tips for effective communication across cultures.

1. Don’t rush. Speak slowly and clearly. Enunciate. Pause. Break up your sentences into short, easy to understand segments and don’t use complex verbiage. Give your listener time to translate and understand what you are saying. Asking politely if they understand and seeking permission to continue is always courteous.

2. KISS. Keep It Simple. Sweetie. If you are using a script, simplify it. You may need to pretend you are back in primary school if it helps. Keep language, sentence structure, words, and your message as simple as you can possibly make it.

3. Ask. I find sometimes people who speak English with a heavy accent are extremely difficult to understand. I know at times I can be too embarrassed and worried I am going to offend by asking them to repeat or slow down. Sometimes the best way to break the ice is to be honest. “Hey John, I’m from Australia so I know my accent is a bit weird. You’re from Japan and your accent is challenging for me, too. Would it be okay if we both slowed down a bit so we can both understand each other easier?” Being honest breaks barriers. Be authentic and people will appreciate you and trust you faster.

Be authentic and people will appreciate you and trust you faster. Click To Tweet

4. Listen to the nonverbal. We are taught this as Life Coaches and it’s so true when communicating with your prospects, too. Even if you are on the phone with them. Simple things like a sigh, a pause, or silence can mean something different in different cultures. Similarly, if you are face to face with someone, certain hand gestures can mean different things to different nationalities. For example in Germany, if you ask for three of something, you hold up two fingers. In some English-speaking countries, this can be seen as an offensive gesture! A bit of research on good old Google can iron out the mysteries.

Simple things like a sigh, a pause, or silence can mean something different in different… Click To Tweet

5. Be professional. In some cultures, it is impolite to use a first name if you do not know the person. Again, ask Google before you pick up the phone to be sure.

6. Be humble. Different words can have different meanings even in English speaking countries. On a recent visit to America, the word “toilet” was not understood. I had to put on my best American accent and say “bathroom”. Refer again to number 2 – Keep It Simple.

7. Avoid Lingo. Stay away from using metaphors that may not be understood. Here in Australia, we have many euphemisms that simply don’t translate. “Flat out like a lizard drinking” makes perfect sense to any Australian as being very busy, but to someone, for instance in Canada, this makes no sense. You risk coming across as arrogant and flippant.

8. Eliminate double negatives. Some languages and cultures just do not translate double negatives. It’s best to avoid them completely.

9. Do your research locally if you can. If you are calling someone in India and you work with Indians, ask your Indian partners what to watch out for. Get a bigger picture and be as informed as you can be before picking up the phone. It could save you a lot of embarrassment.

10. Be courteous, respectful, and genuinely interested. Ask your prospect about the weather, where they live, their culture, their beliefs. I travel the world and people are usually more than happy to share their different ways of life with me. You don’t necessarily need to know everything there is to know, but making an effort can be the bridge between an outright rejection and booking a follow-up call.

I always like to think that when I travel, I’m an Ambassador for my country. When I’m calling someone for my network marketing business, I’m not only an Ambassador for my country, but also for my company and the entire network marketing profession.

(Based on an article published in May 2014 at and re-written by Dean Foster for Toastmaster magazine April 2016).


fiona lindseyFiona Lindsay is the CEO and Founder of  “The Networking Formula.” Considered one of Australia’s leading network marketing business transformation & training experts, she is herself a seasoned networker with over 23 years of experience. Fiona combines a unique mix of life coaching processes and Law of Attraction philosophies in empowering other network marketers to transform not only themselves and their businesses but those of their teams and communities.



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