How to Effectively Communicate with your International Student Through Minor Disagreements

We understand how important communication is between host families and international students. It’s not always easy, especially when cultural differences get in the way. In a blog post we shared earlier this summer, we suggested a few ways to have conversations about “rules” with an international student. Today, we have a few more tips that might help make your conversations smoother.

Be Natural

Most of the time, the natural way to talk about something is to address the issue as it happens. For example, if you are trying to tell your international student to lower his/her voice when the rest of the family is in bed, do it when the noise is actually bothering you.

This can also minimize any possible misunderstandings. Some host families like to “sit-down” with the international students and “have a talk.” In some cases, this might be effective; however, students can’t always recall what exactly you’re referring to. Your student may not remember when he/she made noises late at night, or what he/she was doing that caused the noise.

Have it Face-to-Face

It’s always important to have the conversation face-to-face. While texting or WeChatting is ok for something brief, try to avoid emailing or communicating via any other methods in which your international student can’t see your facial expressions. If your international student can only see the words instead of hearing them directly from you, he/she wouldn’t be able to get a feeling of what your emotion is; and because of the East Asian culture, it’s very likely they would assume the situation is a lot worse than it actually is. By having the conversation face-to-face, you will also be able to see your international student’s reaction. Observing how well he/she is taking the conversation can help you better determine your approach and how to handle future conversations

Phone calls can work, too, when necessary. But don’t forget to smile! According to a study out of the University of Portsmouth in the U.K., a smile is, in fact, something that you can hear.

Casual Tone for Casual Situations

As we mentioned in another blog post, those from collectivist cultures will oftentimes avoid conflict in the hopes of maintaining harmony between others in social interactions. Try to think about the conversation you’re about to have from that perspective — just because you’re having a conversation about a conflict, the international student might already assume it’s a very serious issue since you’re addressing it.

Under most circumstances, things are not that serious. Try to use a casual tone when you talk to your international student. Make sure they understand it’s totally okay they did something that didn’t meet your expectations, and the more important part is you two to communicate and sort things out.

If it is a serious situation, bringing in a third party, such as the Support Services Coordinator, can help you communicate with your international student.