As the face of Minnesota changes dramatically, how do we reach new members of our community? What can we learn from others who are succeeding in bridging differences? How can we sharpen our communications skills so that our organizations become better listeners and sharers? Where do we still have work to do?
These were the questions posed to the panelists and attendees at the recent MCF program Communicating Across Differences.
- Tim Spitzack, publisher and editor of the St. Paul Publishing Company, publisher of the St. Paul Voice, Downtown St. Paul Voice, South St. Paul Voice and La Voz Latina
- Allison Ahcan, director of communications at Blandin Foundation
- Lissa Jones, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the Minnesota Council on Foundations
Tawanna Black, president of Innovations by Design, facilitated the conversation.
Each shared lessons they learned while doing this work in their communities. Here are a few of the highlights:
In Communication, the Differences Matter
While you may have the best intentions when communicating across cultures, the differences do matter. Being mindful of this can reduce misunderstandings and sooth feelings when honest mistakes happen.
Nuance (both listening and observing) are key to effective cross-cultural communication.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ in communications. We must customize our messages, tailor them to our audience and be specific – narrowing our messages to reach the targeted community.
You need to have an authentic voice — be willing to know and tell your story. Highlight rather than dampen the differences.
Change happens through relationship. Be as intentional about relationship-building as you are about meeting your communications goals.
Work together to discern what difference makes a difference.
What You Can Do
Personal self-assessment is a good starting point — the better you know yourself and your communication style, the more effective you can be in adapting across cultures and audiences.
Cultural immersion experiences can be low-risk, high-yield activities that help us to build cross-cultural understanding.
Allow yourself to fail — it might be one of the hardest ways to learn, but you learn!
All of the panelists agreed that this work is not for the faint of heart, communicating across differences can be challenging, but very meaningful work!
-Megan Sullivan, MCF operations and publications coordinator