Caucasian businessmen shaking hands on elevated walkway.
Bridging helps diverse teams to communicate more effectively.

Bridging: Preparing & Decentering

The next step is to bridge communication differences among team members.

Phases of the MBI model - Phase 2: BridgingAdpated from Lane & Maznevski (2019)

Once team members have an understanding of the cultural perspectives within the team, they can work on communicating more effectively.

The bridging process involves three components:

  • Preparing
  • Decentering
  • Recentering.

In this step, we introduce the first two components of bridging: preparing and decentering.

Preparing: Engaging with motivation

It’s important that a team is motivated to understand and communicate across cultural differences. Otherwise, it’s pointless to talk about effective communication strategies.

We know we can’t assume team members will see and feel what we do. So we need to make an extra effort to understand the interaction from their perspective. When we prepare, we engage with our team to make sure they are motivated to improve.

How do we prepare?

To become more motivated and confident in communicating with culturally diverse teammates, you might:

  • seek out information on other cultures
  • talk to friends and colleagues from different cultures
  • observe others and ask questions.

(By the way, taking this course is also a step in the right direction!)

Decentering without blame

Decentering involves shifting the centre of focus away from yourself when conveying or interpreting a message.

Too often, we communicate without putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes. And when something goes wrong, we tend to blame the other person for not communicating properly.

How do we decenter?

To decenter you might:

  • take the perspective of the person you are interacting with. For instance, high context (indirect) communicators in the team may feel uncomfortable directly expressing disapproval. Instead, be alert for non-verbal signs that convey meaning rather than expecting an explicit ‘no’. Speakers with a low context (direct) communication style should also be aware that delivering blunt criticism risks offending some team members.

  • resist the urge to judge or blame a teammate. When confusion or conflicts occur, consider instead how the situation and different assumptions may have contributed to the misunderstanding.

Your task

Reflect on your own communication with others in your team.

Can you think of one example of how you could apply decentering to an interaction within your team?

Share in the comments.

Reference

Lane, H., & Maznevski, M. (2019). International Management Behavior: Global and Sustainable Leadership. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 112

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Harnessing Cultural Diversity: Effective Team Leadership in the Workplace

Deakin University

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