How to avoid misunderstanding?
Misunderstandings in an intercultural team are bound to happen. The fact of the matter is: people just comprehend and process information differently because of their diverse backgrounds and experience. Misunderstandings can prove detrimental to productivity, as well as relationships within the team, if not handled properly.

In this article, I would like to share 6 tips that can help you become more mindful of the information your international colleagues are giving you. They are especially relevant in the digital context, as this is an environment that generates even more misunderstandings.
1. Listen very attentively
Sometimes, especially during online meetings, we tend to check the calendar, look at the phone, or, in other words, multitask, without focusing on the matter of the conversation. Try to avoid listening and doing any other activity at the same time. It might seem hard at first, but it is the first step towards avoiding misunderstanding.

2. Ask to repeat a sentence or idea
During zoom calls, internet speed can fluctuate or be generally slow, which will lead you to simply miss an important piece of information. It is always better to ask to repeat the thought or clarify it rather than just sit there quietly, trying not to interrupt your colleague. You can use such phrases as:

Please could you clarify … ?”,
Can you repeat for me, please?”,
Could you say again what you’ve just said, please?”.

3.Use paraphrasing
Sometimes you can misunderstand your colleagues’ ideas because of a bad internet connection or the fact you are communicating in a non-native language. To make sure that you’ve grasped and understood the idea completely, you can paraphrase it, expressing the same thought using other words. To put it shortly, you can repeat the idea that was just said in other words.Try using phrases like:

Did I understand correctly that …”,
Did you just say that …”,
So you are saying that …”.

4. Make notes during the conversation
While talking to someone at an online meeting, you can write down minutes to stay on track and better process information. It is very useful not just for your personal understanding but for other participants of the meeting too. You can send the minutes to the chat to double-check whether everyone is on the same page about the main points of the discussion. Taking minutes can be difficult at first, because colleagues who are more fluent in English may speak at a greater speed, but as you practice, you will become better at it.

5. Summarize and repeat your ideas
To make sure that everyone at the meeting remembers the ideas of your speech/presentation, you can make a small summary at the end of your speech and repeat all of your main talking points. Don’t hesitate to enumerate them in a short yet precise manner. It helps other people to follow your thoughts and catch ideas that they might have missed when you’ve been introducing them earlier.

6. Use synonyms
Some words can be unfamiliar for your vis-à-vis, especially if English is not their native language. You also might be unsure about the pronunciation or meaning of a particular word that you use. For example:

The presentation that you have delivered today was really impactful, and I mean very helpful for our understanding and it will be very important for our future discussion”.

Here the word “impactful” may be unfamiliar to some members of your audience, therefore you can provide synonyms like “very helpful for our understanding” and “very important”.
To conclude, I would like to suggest one final tip concerning misunderstandings: it is impossible to avoid them completely. There is always going to be conflict so long as there are differences between us as people. The important thing is not to blame your vis-a-vis or yourself for it. Instead of trying to find a guilty party, focus your effort on fixing the damage the misunderstanding has done, and try to create an environment where you can avoid such incidents in the future.