Fostering Communications between Cultures

During his 34-year career in energy management and the oil and gas industry, Javier Alvarado served as the executive director of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and in other leadership positions. Before retiring, Javier Alvarado taught in PDVSA’s Research Division and focused on ethics, risk, and intercultural communications.

Many people find communicating with colleagues from the same culture challenging. Therefore, communicating with individuals from other cultures, especially ones with a different primary language, can be even more confusing and frustrating. Because American metaphors like “out of left field” or “step up to the plate” do not necessarily lend themselves to easy translation by those from other cultures, those who are familiar with such expressions should try to limit their use when meeting such individuals.

Instead, commence with formalities, including “sir,” “ma’am,” and “miss” for people from the United States. Learn the common way to greet people from other cultures to set them at ease. After making introductions, find common ground by asking them about their culture and what they think of their new living area so far.

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