The Green Sheet Online Edition
February 14, 2011 • Issue 11:02:01
Thriving in a multicultural environment
||Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit.
- Jawaharlal Nehru
In our always-on, instant-access, globally connected world, payment professionals in the United States find ourselves doing business not only with people who have settled in our great land from all over the world, but also, increasingly, with diverse individuals doing business with us from their native lands.
This presents great opportunity for those of us willing to explore cultures and religions that differ from our own. Some of us are already comfortable interacting with people of diverse backgrounds. But if you're new to this, don't fret. Here are four tips to help you along the multicultural business highway.
Four tips for breaking barriers
- Learn about other religions and cultures: A little research goes a long way when it comes to cultural understanding. If you want to do business with an immigrant merchant who has set up shop in your area, read up on the history and current events of the merchant's country of origin.
There may be conditions there that led to his or her move. Understanding such forces can help you establish rapport. And once you've broken the ice, ask sincere questions about the merchant's business and way of life.
- Don't accept stereotypes: If you're thinking of establishing partnerships in a new region, but you've heard negative rumors about the people who live there, don't take the stereotypes to heart.
Think of untrue characterizations people outside of your own group have voiced about your culture or religion, and you'll realize how these rigid statements and beliefs can seriously hamper the development of meaningful business and personal relationships.
- Always be respectful: Establishing a working relationship with people from different cultures can take time. Be respectful if prospects keep their distance for longer than you think is reasonable. Don't pressure them.
And never belittle their fears or beliefs. They are likely waiting to open up until you have sufficiently demonstrated that you are someone they can trust. Showing respect is part of gaining that trust.
- Remember, people are people: No matter what a person's religion, race or country of origin is, no matter how peculiar or inscrutable someone may seem to you, the truth is that we all, as human beings, have far more in common than we have differences. We have the same basic drives and aspirations. It is not difficult to relate to people of different beliefs and cultures if you keep in mind our common humanity.
Interacting with people from around the world, hearing stories from far off lands, and learning melodic phrases from different languages can all enhance our businesses and enrich our lives. Let yourself enjoy it.
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