Navigating Misunderstandings In International Client Relationships

International client relationships suffer when misunderstandings go unnoticed. That's why you should be prepared that your clients from different cultural backgrounds have specific perspectives and ways of doing things.
international client relationships
Canva Design

It’s becoming increasingly normal for professionals to work with clients from many different countries and diverse cultural backgrounds. However, one common problem that arises in international client relationships is the assumption that others share the same values, beliefs, and communication styles as we do. This can quickly result in confusion and frustration, particularly when clients from different cultures perceive the same situation from a completely different perspective.

For example, a client might assume that they are in control of when to request more information. They will feel pushed and annoyed if they receive too many emails and calls they didn’t ask for. While somebody else might expect a business to provide them with guidance on every detail of a task or process. If there aren’t enough emails and calls, they might feel abandoned.

These differences in expectations are often deeply rooted in the cultural norms and values of a person’s upbringing. For instance, in some cultures, individuals are taught to be self-reliant from an early age, while in others, people are taught to listen to orders and respect hierarchy. Such cultural standards can affect how international clients bring up a topic, ask questions, respond to information or discuss and negotiate.

Don’t Assume Common Sense In International Client Relationships

Csaba Toth, the developer of the award-winning assessment tool Global DISC, calls these challenges in intercultural business communication the “science of uncommon sense”. It is all about the misconception that there is common sense shared by everyone in a cross-cultural business situation. Many professionals that work with clients from different cultures are taken by it. They assume that their clients apply the same standards like they do. However, this is hardly ever the case. People from different cultures have their own specific perspectives and ways of doing things which can lead to misunderstandings. And the causes might never be detected.

That’s why it’s important for everyone involved in international client relationships to recognise that there is no common sense per se. Instead, we need to make an effort to understand our culturally different clients and learn more about what they expect and value the most.

So how can we communicate more effectively with our clients from diverse backgrounds?

Here Are Some Tips To Improve Your International Client Relationships:

  1. Acknowledge cultural differences: Recognise that what is considered normal in one culture may not be the same in another. Be aware of these differences and adjust your communication style accordingly – this can be the way you write emails or how you conduct online meetings.
  2. Be curious and ask questions: Instead of assuming that others share your perspective, ask them about their thoughts and feelings on a given situation. This can help you understand their point of view and create a more effective communication strategy.
  3. Listen actively: To find out the “why” behind culturally different behaviour, it is important to listen actively. Rather than judging based on your own values, try to understand the reasons behind. This can help you build stronger relationships.
  4. Explain yourself clearly: Make it a habit to explain yourself and verbalise your assumptions. By communicating clearly and explicitly, we can avoid misunderstandings with our partners. Use simple and concise language and avoid using jargon or technical terms that may not be familiar to your client.
  5. Be patient and flexible: Effective communication requires patience and flexibility. Be prepared to adjust your communication style and approach based on the needs of your client. This can help you build trust and rapport, and ultimately lead to successful business relationships.
  6. Use visuals and other aids: Visuals and other aids can be an effective way to communicate with clients from diverse backgrounds. For example, using images or diagrams can help you convey complex ideas more effectively.
  7. Avoid stereotypes: Avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes or preconceptions about a client’s culture. Every individual is unique, and it is important to treat them as such. Personality plays an important role too.
  8. Be respectful: Finally, it is important to be respectful of your client’s culture. This is not a private matter or the question of celebrating Christmas or not. Cultural factors can help you build trust and rapport, and ultimately lead to successful client relationships.

Conclusion – How To Navigate Misunderstandings In International Client Relationships

By following these tips, we can learn to create more transparent cross-cultural situations that allow us to communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings. And these tips aren’t just for service providers working with international clients. They also apply to individuals working with international businesses. By communicating with cultural awareness, we can all benefit from stronger international client relationships and more productive collaborations.

More Articles