The impact of tiredness on cross-cultural communication

The impact of tiredness on cross-cultural communication

No matter how much cross-cultural training you’ve had, how open-minded you are, or how flexible you are to others’ communication preferences, sometimes you will get tired and just want to be around those “like you.”

This guy’s pretty tired! Image Source: Unsplash, Chris Saur

When you’re tired, you just want to enjoy your creature comforts – maybe your own bed, a favourite book, or a cup of tea in your favourite mug. You don’t want to do anything for anyone else – you just want to take a rest and be a bit self-centred for a while.

This same pattern can be found in how you communicate. Case in point: my husband and I have been a bit more tired than usual recently (moving house does that to you). I’ve noticed that we have both slipped back into our most comfortable form of communication. For example, I come from a low context culture, so I have been saying things very bluntly, very matter-of-fact – getting to the point immediately. My husband is from a high context culture, and has been going back to that form – to me, it feels indecisive, or he’s being deceptive – it feels like he just tries to “hint” at what he wants, rather than telling me. For his part, he finds me very rude when I am so blunt, and that I have no patience!

This is where awareness comes in handy. Yes, it’s corny to say it’s always the first step, but it’s true!

The key is – what is the step after that? I think the answer is do what your body/mind is telling you – REST! If you can, withdraw yourself and take some time to get some good sleep and sure, indulge in a few of those creature comforts.

Of course, it’s not always possible to do that immediately. So instead, I suggest letting those around you know that you’re a bit tired, finding it hard to communicate and apologise in advance if you don’t seem like yourself. If you give them the heads up, at least it gives them the opportunity to be a bit more patient with your communication style until you’re rested.

And one final tip – this is why it is always useful to have a day’s rest before your meetings if you’re travelling overseas for business!

(Full disclosure – I have checked with my hubby and he is ok for me to write this post…at least, I’m pretty sure he is…again, high context culture could be at play haha 😁)


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