Tips to Better Communicate with Overseas Colleagues


In today’s world, business colleagues are often spread out all over the globe. In between them all are different time zones, many different oceans and languages.  The ability to communicate with all of them can be a tricky feat. Here are some helpful tips to employ so you can best get in touch with overseas colleagues.

It’s all about time. If you and your consultants or colleagues are based all over the world, it is best to remember the time zones they are in. To avoid missing deadlines or calling in the middle of the night, keep track of where everyone is and what time it is there before you pick up the phone.

Adjust your time. To ensure you can speak with your colleagues on the other side of the world when their day starts, you may have to stay up a little later to do so.  Calling Taiwan from New York may require you calling between 8pm and 11:30pm New York time. This way, they learn that they can also call you during those hours to discuss any important aspects of projects. Of course, you can always discuss with them what times are best to email non-urgent questions and thoughts.  Or you could get a general guide to your colleagues’ hours by memorizing their email time stamps. This will let you know if they are early birds or night owls and whether or not they work a more flexible schedule.

Time your email If you are emailing across the world late on a Friday afternoon and your colleagues in Russia receive it on a weekend, they may miss it when they return to work during their normal work week. To avoid your email being stuck at the bottom of many other emails, time the sending of your emails to coincide with their regular business hours. Maybe send it on a Sunday for Monday morning.

Keep it simple To work well together with anyone, we must understand one another. Even if our overseas business acquaintances are fluent in English, not all of our colloquialisms will “cut the mustard.” And they may not feel comfortable – or it may be considered impolite—for them to ask you to define your terms more intelligibly. Be sure to keep all communication clear, all language simple. Speak more slowly and use concise, shorter sentences both when speaking and writing.  Remember to also limit your use of heavily bureaucratic, technical and legal jargon.

Remember your Audience When writing emails, keep with the simple theme, especially if you are unsure of your colleagues’ comprehension level. When in doubt, add a translated version of your email to the bottom of all initial emails you send. This way, you can get your point across in their native language. They will most likely be impressed by your effort and you, in turn, will benefit by familiarizing yourself with the local language. You may even add to any fluency you already possess!

Be culturally aware. As always, be aware of international business etiquette. Know when you should bow, shake hands or kiss. Learn the cadence of their business meetings. aiaTranslations Global Training Group provides short “lunch and learn” sessions which train your department on specific cultures or regions. Every country has a unique way to do business and researching what their local ways are can be fascinating and ultimately more rewarding for you and your business.

By Ilona Knudson

image from www.chronicle.com

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