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Modifying speech

Modifying the manner and the content of your communications in diverse and multicultural settings is CQ action: speech acts. This is your ability to alter your communication to effectively achieve a cross-cultural goal in various cultural settings.

High CQ action: speech acts mean you have a variety of ways to use words to effectively and appropriately bridge diversities. Low CQ action: speech acts mean you do not change the overall ways you communicate, regardless of the cultural context.

One of the main cultural values dimensions involves direct and indirect communication. Direct communication or speech is common in low context cultures such as Angelo counties, Germanic Europe, and Nordic Europe. A preference for indirect speech is often found in Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. A person with high CQ action: speech acts is able to be a direct communicator in Germany or convey a message indirectly in Morocco.

A great way to develop CQ speech acts is to take advantage of spending time with diverse others especially working in multicultural teams or groups. Surround yourself with others who help you think differently and see situations from a diverse perspective. It is very difficult to know how to utilize diverse speak acts unless you see situations through the eyes of people different from you. But with the help of peers from various cultures, we can learn and develop high CQ action: speech acts.

When you are around diverse others, pay attention to the way you communicate and the variation that exists in a multicultural group. Whether it is direct or indirect communication, knowing different ways to disagree or to say “no”, how to ask if the person speaks English, to apologize, to express gratitude, or how to compliment, these are best learned by experience.

Again, we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. This requires us to pay attention and reflect on what we learned from paying attention.

I once worked in an office with three females from South America. One preference of a Latin American culture is to overlap your conversation with another person. This means you start talking before the other person completes their sentence. In a culture that emphasizes overlapping, this is not interrupting or rude. In a Latin culture, this means you are very much interested in the conversation. Now I come from a culture that does not prefer overlapping the conversation. The cultural value preference is to take turns talking. I am expected to wait until you finish your sentence and then it is my turn to speak. You begin talking only when I am done speaking. We are supposed to take turns. It was a great experience for me to engage in many overlapping conversations with my three Latina coworkers. The energy in the room increased. We laughed. We listened. We told stories.

In comments, please share a story of a time when you were successful using high CQ action: speech acts. Join the discussion with others then mark this step complete.

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Develop Your Cultural Intelligence

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