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What are Intercultural Skills?

Student with woman in IndiaThe term “intercultural skills” covers a wide range of skills that are typically transferable from one context to another. These skills, or competencies, are useful when people from different cultural backgrounds or perspectives interact.

Common intercultural skills include:

  • Seeing, understanding and embracing cultural differences
  • Adjusting written, oral and non-verbal communication, depending on the situation
  • Being aware of one’s own cultural values (self-awareness)
  • Recognizing and adjusting when others are motivated by different cultural values
  • Listening and observing different modes of interaction
  • Communicating effectively in a multilingual environment
  • Being respectful and showing empathy for people from culturally-different backgrounds
  • Working effectively in diverse teams
  • Being able to establish rapport quickly
  • Adapting to new conditions without judgment
  • Tolerating ambiguity and coping with adversity
  • Managing and negotiating different expectations for time and time management

A recent study conducted by the British Council in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs and Booz Allen Hamilton found that many employers are looking for employees who have already acquired some of these intercultural skills. The study, entitled Culture at Work: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace, is available on the British Council website.