February 27, 2020
People often mispronounce my name. When it happens, I politely correct them and inform them it’s “LaNella,” like “Vanilla with an e.” I usually get a surprised look at first, but then it quickly registers with most folks.
In a former position, my team and I were responsible for putting together global communications meetings. The live webcasts involved an in-house audience of approximately 200 employees from North America, as well as a few hundred employees from around the globe in Latin America, AsiaPAC, and Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA).
Each year, one of the quarterly meetings was reserved for employee recognition. It was a big deal and a great way to engage employees. The communications team would reach out to those who were being recognized to ensure we pronounced their names correctly. We would then insert the phonetically correct pronunciation of the names into the talking points.
However, on one occasion, one of the leaders decided to “wing” it. Without practicing ahead of time, he began rattling off awardee names from around the globe. And, you guessed it, he mispronounced several employees’ names who resided in Asia. To make matters worse during the formal presentation, he began laughing at himself as he “butchered” each name. The employees failed to see the humor. It was indeed a case of culture incompetency, and the Asian colleagues rightfully complained.
Due to this cultural faux pas, the entire organization underwent a cultural competency training program.
In this diverse global world, encounters between different cultures are part of everyday life. According to the writer Randa Abdel-Fattah, we are, at almost every point of our day, immersed in cultural diversity: faces, clothes, smells, attitudes, values, traditions, behaviors, beliefs and rituals.
That’s why it’s essential to be culturally competent. By definition, cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (1) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (2) attitude towards cultural differences, (3) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (4) cross-cultural skills.
Here are some general cultural communication tips you can adopt from ITAP International, an organization that specializes in global, cross-border consulting:
WHEN USING ENGLISH:
WHEN USING EMAIL
Below are other ways you can develop skills to better understand different cultures:
What tips do you have to increase our cultural competency?