The ability to maintain the effectiveness and pertinence of one’s communication even with the people of varying cultures is known as his intercultural competence skill.

For having intercultural competence as a skill it is important that communication goals are achieved without having to violate the norms, values, or expectations of a relationship with someone from a different culture. It requires a certain degree of inquisitiveness about other cultures, sensitivity to the observed differences, as well as willingness to amend one’s behavior as an indication of respect for other cultures.

Why is intercultural competence important

Things like aircrafts, Internet, and the advanced infrastructure maintained by delivery services (such as DHL or UPS etc.) have made the boundaries between countries and their nations indistinct. With the blurred boundaries and growing globalization, companies have a more promising prospect of target market expansion but it has also increased the anxiety.

This is because targeting market in a foreign country requires you to understand the needs of those prospective consumers, design a product according to those needs, and then be able to communicate the features and benefits of that product to the intended audience. None of these is possible without intercultural competence.

Therefore, for any internationally operating company or its employees (such as the expatriates), intercultural competence is a skill that ultimately determines success. Its lack can result in miscommunication, or lost opportunities such as job or a business deal, proving to be detrimental to the financial or economic well-being or the organization and its workers.

How to improve intercultural competence as a skill

Following are the two most important tips to help you improve your intercultural competence:

  • Understand your own culture first. For effective intercultural competence, the first step is self-awareness. It is important to realize how you have been programmed by the culture that defines you. What kinds of behaviors do you see as appropriate and acceptable? Do you like to communicate directly or let people read between the lines? Do you like obedience or seek arguments from other people? All these factors and many others determine how your interaction style has been shaped by your culture.
  • Listen, observe, and learn. Before you give your personal opinion on what is wrong and what is right, it is important that you listen to the ideas and opinions of others, observe the verbal as well as no non-verbal cues as they communicate, and try to find out what it reflects by learning more about their cultural behaviors and practices. The more you try to learn about and understand the culture of the person you wish to communicate with, the better will be your intercultural competence as a skill. This will help you prevent misunderstandings caused due to cultural clashes.