3 Important Things About Communicating Across Differences

In: BlogDate: Oct 12, 2023By: Claire Lickman

I’ve recently facilitated a session for a large group of professional coaches with the international coach federation (ICF - UK chapter) and part of what we've explored in the session was participants' identities. We've done an exercise where participants explored different factors of their identity and as part of that same exercise, they also got the opportunity to reflect on which of these factors are most meaningful to them and how those factors influence how they show up personally and professionally. I’ve really enjoyed this session and the engaging discussions that took place.

Read more in this blog written by Marwa Farouq.

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Awareness of self

One thing that has stayed with me the most however was a message I received after the session. One of the participants had generously shared with me that because of reflecting on different aspects of his identity, he realised that he has been overlooking an important aspect of his identity and realised how he missed it. He then went on to explain how doing the reflection enabled him to both gain awareness on how important this aspect of his identity is to him and set an intention around inviting it more into his life, both personally and professionally.

There was a wonderful tone of celebration in his message, and this is why I think the work around learning about our identity, culture and how that influences how we show up is such important work.

Interpersonal relationships

It enables us to be grounded in who we are, invites a level of learning about ourselves, that enables us to show up with intentionality and authenticity. Over time, I’ve also learned that being grounded in my own identity enables me to go into relationships with curiosity and openness to difference when it arises.

Learning about the different ways our background influences our communication preferences for examples and knowing what mine are, enables me to have more empathy and be non-judgemental when someone I’m interacting with is different. We’re able to go the extra mile and are more willing to cooperate and adapt, when we know that how the person, we’re dealing with isn’t communicating in a certain way (for example, too indirect) to be rude but is rather communicating in the way they know how.

Letting go of these assumptions and motives enables deeper connection and strong relationships. It also is foundational for effective conversations.

I remember someone I used to work with, who had an animated communication style. Her passion always showed especially when talking about the work. Sadly, she was often judged by others as aggressive, angry and sensitive, and many colleagues avoided her - all because they had interpreted her approach to communicating and engaging as these things. Which was anything but the reality!

Shortly after I met this colleague, I attended a session on communicating across cultures and learned about how in her culture people often communicated with emotional expressiveness and were quite direct. It was considered rude or cold to be emotionally restrained. This was eye opening in many ways and as I explored my communication preferences and culture, I learned strategies to communicate effectively with her and others without the weight of judgement on my shoulder.

Working with teams and collaborating

We all face similar dynamics either at work or families or our friend groups. We often have that one friend or colleague aren’t as emotionally expressive as we'd like them to be or aren’t as direct as we would like them to be, so when we learn about the differences in our communication and preferences are deeply influenced by our identity, and culture that really opens a different deeper path to connecting with others.

Learning strategies to communicate across difference in teams, and organisations enables better collaboration and invites effective ways to manage conflict when it arises. I live in the UK and there is so much diversity of background and culture and being equipped with that knowledge enables me to show up to the world around me with authenticity being grounded in who I am and at the same time, being curious and not judgemental about others around me. This, to me, feels really empowering.

Next Steps

If you are interested in learning more about ways of effectively communicating across differences, Happy offers an ideal workshop, Communicating Across Differences: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.

This workshop is geared towards navigating some of these issues and provides tips for how to facilitate better communication.

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Improve Your Communication and Empathy Skills With happy

If you would to develop your communication and empathy skills, we offer several courses you might be interested in.

Communicating Across Difference: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace this one-day course is a first step to enable you to communicate, relate and collaborate with those different from you with clarity and connection. Find out more

Nonviolent Communications (NVC) Micro Foundations Course held over two half-day sessions. NVC is particularly useful in situations where there's difference, and challenge. It's also a powerful tool for empathy, that enables non-judgmental connection with self and others. Find out more

Effective Coaching Skills for Leaders is a one-day workshop that will enhance your ability to coach those around you to become more motivated and find their own solutions. You will understand when people work at their best and how to nurture this culture at your organisation. Find out more

Active Listening Skills & Giving Positive Constructive Feedback workshop is a one-day workshop where will learn and practice the 5 key elements of active listening, how best to use questions, and recognise what stops you from listening and identify solutions to deal with this. You will also look at giving constructive feedback to others, clearly and within appropriate timescales. Find out more

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Claire Lickman

Claire is Head of Marketing at Happy. She has worked at Happy since 2016, and is responsible for Happy's marketing strategy, website, social media and more. Claire first heard about Happy in 2012 when she attended a mix of IT and personal development courses. These courses were life-changing and she has been a fan of Happy ever since. She has a personal blog at lecari.co.uk.

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