The middle of a crisis is not the ideal time to fix issues of intercultural communication. Still, in the midst of your crisis management execution, clear communication is needed.
Crisis: We need to get essential information out to people because we are in a crisis.
Barriers to Communication:
- History of subjugation, racism, sexism
- Power inequality
- Lack of trust
- History of bias
- Unresolved conflict
These communication barriers lead to intercultural conflict. People experience this conflict as an emotional struggle between different groups. The feelings increase during a crisis because there is a shortage. The shortage could be real or perceived. (See Kim’s model of Intercultural Conflict). Kim argues that intercultural conflict occurs at three interdependent and interrelated levels, including a micro, or individual level, an intermediary level, and a macro, or societal level. People are concerned about access to:
- Vital resources
- Present or future opportunity
- Safety and well-being resources
Crisis Management Solutions:
- Bring in trusted leaders/influencers to send the message.
- Translate/interpret information as appropriate to address language and accessibility issues.
- Clear, concise information is best; don’t wing it when you are sharing information.
- Check-in with groups who in the past have complained or who have expressed concerns regarding communication
- Show your face. Don’t just send written communication in a crisis. Let people see you and show empathy and concern.
- Overcommunicate. During a crisis, people want to know what is going on. If you don’t provide enough information, people will make up information.
- Be honest. “We don’t have that answer yet” is better than telling a lie.
During a crisis, the amount of “background” noise increases. People who are stressed are not as receptive as calm people. Keep this in mind as you share information.