3 Ways to Communicate Authentically Around the World

June 11, 2015    |    Kathleen Redd

The highlight of my career at Mandel Communications has been developing the team of communications experts who work with our clients around the world.

We started the process in China. I’ll never forget my first night in Shanghai. For someone who grew up in southeastern Utah in a small town of 2000, I felt a bit overwhelmed in a city of 24 million!

Going global was a must for Mandel, as it continues to be for corporations around the world. Still, we wrestled with how to go about it.

  • How would we find the right people to work with us? 
  • What would we need to do to adapt our business model to meet the needs of customers in different geographies? 
  • Would communication training be vastly different, the further we got from our corporate HQ in Capitola, CA?

Answering those questions and building our global presence to what it is today didn’t happen without hiccups, and we learned many valuable lessons along the way.

One of the most thrilling things I realized is that there are ways of communicating that truly transcend all borders. Three “tools” in particular were instrumental in helping me to build stronger relationships with my new colleagues and partners around the world.


Being Respectful

As Aretha Franklin sang in the 60s, a little respect goes a long way when communicating with people of different cultures, languages, and traditions.  

A colleague of mine, Andrea Raabe, said it beautifully: “Every culture is different and wonderful, including ours. We don't need to change ourselves to host properly, simply show respect. People appreciate effort, not perfection.”

Before travelling or meeting with colleagues from around the world, I always do a little homework. I like to learn about local ways of doing business, their protocol for meeting and greeting, and their approach to hospitality.

For example, on my first trip to Malaysia, I was curious about what I should wear, since it’s a predominantly Muslim country. My colleague told me that there was no need for me to wear a headscarf, or hijab. He did suggest that I wear long sleeves and a high neck, which was a simple but respectful thing to do.

My husband, who travels internationally for his work, always learns five phrases in the local language:  hello, goodbye, please, thank you…and no problem!  His colleagues appreciate his interest in and respect for their language, and it helps to establish rapport quickly in new situations.


Being Curious

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

As I develop relationships with new colleagues and acquaintances around the world (and even in my own backyard), I bring my curiosity with me.

I like to ask questions and I listen carefully to peoples’ responses, so that I can better understand who they are and what they value.

I observe the people around me, to learn everything I can about how they communicate. If I see things I don’t understand, I respectfully ask for clarity or insight into why things are done the way they’re done.


Being Flexible

Ed Musselwhite, our CEO, is often quoted as saying, “Be thoroughly prepared in order to be thoroughly flexible,” which reminds me of my trip to Beijing.

A colleague had arranged for me to have a driver who would pick me up at the airport, take me to my customer meetings, and drive me around the city. While the driver spoke Chinese, Russian, and Norwegian, I’m limited to English and a smattering of Spanish. 

To make it possible for us to communicate, my driver readily adapted to the situation. He quickly called his 24 year-old, English-speaking daughter on his cell phone, and she translated for us.

Even with thorough preparation up front, inevitably things won’t always go as planned. That’s when it pays to practice “grace under pressure.”  I’ve learned to take a deep breath. Smile. Then, ask for help if I need it. I find it puts others at ease and minimizes the stress people often feel in new situations, especially if things have gone awry.


When You Communicate From the Heart...

Ultimately, being respectful, curious, and flexible is about communicating from the heart. Being genuine and genuinely interested in others can only enhance your interactions, no matter where in the world you might be.

Karen Bintz, Area VP of Customer Experience at BMC Software, summarizes her experience working with colleagues around the world this way:

....I have now taught people from 31 countries, sometimes with up to 8 different countries represented in the same class.  Human communication is truly global. Yes, there are nuances but in large part all people relate to open body language, gestures that paint a picture, a warm voice and certainly a smile.  I can also tell you that "ums" and "uhs" are recognizable as clutter regardless of the language!  We are "one world"..."how" and "what" we communicate build relationships that influence how that world turns.

Today, I can’t imagine NOT having my amazing colleagues in various locations around the world. 

They’ve enriched the work we do at Mandel. They bring value to our clients, and also to me, personally.  I’m grateful for them and for the experiences we’ve shared.



Looking to deliver training to audiences in multiple locations worldwide, but not sure how to do it? Mandel delivers training in 55-plus countries. We can scale programs to support your needs, while ensuring content and delivery is culturally and regionally relevant to your audience. Learn more about our Global Capabilities