Just slow down!

While USU and Logan may not be a place commonly associated with ethnic diversity, we still have people from many places around the world and from many different cultures. While on campus, it is possible to run into students from Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Libya, and the list can go on. While working at some of the factories, like Icon Fitness or Yesco, employees might encounter other employees from Central America or the Philippines. Just a few years ago, Cache Valley took in over 100 Burmese refugees who were fleeing from their war-torn country. This diversity is great, these people bring a rich culture and heritage with them and can influence others in remarkable ways.

With this growing diversity, we also need to be conscious of the challenges they might be facing. According to the website diversitydata.sph.harvad.edu, about 10% of our population is Hispanic, 2% Pacific islander, 0.5% African American, and 0.4% American Indian. That demographic report is pretty shocking, I imagine it could be difficult to live in a city where the dominant race makes up 86% of the population. And it doesn’t make it any easier that there is also an overwhelmingly dominant religion in the valley, that heavily influences the culture.

In being conscious of the challenges that minorities might face, we need to know how to communicate clearly. Whether we work together on a project or are employees in the same place, it is always important to have patience and understanding when it comes to communication.

The other day I found a great article on the website “6 minutes,” which is a speaking and presentation skills website. The article discussed 5 ways that speakers can communicate more effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. They are:

  1. Don’t assume they can understand you.
  2. Be cautious of cultural jargon.
  3. Be adaptable to local style.
  4. Slow down.
  5. Watch your body language.

It’s a great article, and I highly recommend it. It is geared more towards the subject of professional speaking, but I find the insights to be useful in everyday communication as well. One tip that I think is so important is #4: slow down. That doesn’t mean dumbing down speech, but I do believe that speaking in a slow, calm, clear manner makes everything more easy to understand. Speaking slowly also allows the speaker to think about what he/she is saying, and helps in avoiding idioms and colloquialisms.

My big challenge is body language, I use my hands and facial expressions to communicate, and I know that can be difficult for people from other cultures to understand. What do you think you need to work on?

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