Cross- Cultural Communication

“We didn’t all come over on the same ship, but we’re all in the same boat. “- Bernard Baruch Cross-cultural communication is the process of exchanging meaningful and unambiguous information across cultural boundaries, in a way that preserves mutual respect and minimizes antagonism, that is, it looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds endeavour to communicate. The study of cross-cultural communication was originally found within businesses and the government both seeking to expand globally.Communication is interactive, so an important influence on its effectiveness is our relationship with others.

All communication is cultural — it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices. The world today is characterized by an ever growing number of contacts resulting in communication between people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.This communication takes place because of contacts within the areas of business, military cooperation, science, education, mass media, entertainment, tourism but also because of immigration brought about by labor shortage or political conflicts. In all these contacts, there is communication which needs to be as constructive as possible, without misunderstandings and breakdowns. It is our belief that research on the nature of linguistic and cultural similarities and differences here can play a positive and constructive role.The two factors that have raised the importance of Cross-Cultural Communication can be stated as follows- • Improvements in communication and transportation technology have made it possible for previously stable cultures to meet in unstructured situations, e.

g. the internet opens lines of communication without mediation, while budget airlines transplant ordinary citizens into unfamiliar milieux(the social and cultural environment in which a person or thing exists). Experience proves that merely crossing cultural boundaries can be considered threatening, while positive attempts to interact may provoke defensive responses.Misunderstanding may be compounded by either an exaggerated sensitivity to possible slights, or an exaggerated and over-protective fear of giving offence; • Some groups believe that the phenomenon of globalization has reduced cultural diversity and so reduced the opportunity for misunderstandings, but characterizing people as a homogeneous market is simplistic. One product or brand only appeals to the material aspirations of one self-selecting group of buyers, and its sales performance will not affect the vast multiplicity of factors that may separate the cultures.Once the foundations of cross cultural understanding have been laid, the learner(s), either through continued training or experiences within the workplace, gradually attains a more acute appreciation of cultural differences. The different types of appreciation are cross cultural knowledge, cross cultural awareness, cross cultural sensitivity and cross cultural competence.

Although all the terms may appear similar in meaning, subtle differences exist between them. ‘Cross Cultural Knowledge’ is critical to basic cross cultural understanding. Without it cross cultural appreciation cannot take place.It refers to a surface level familiarization with cultural characteristics, values, beliefs and behaviors. ‘Cross Cultural Awareness’ develops from cross cultural knowledge as the learner understands and appreciates a culture internally. This may also be accompanied by changes within the learner’s behavior and attitudes such as a greater flexibility and openness. ‘Cross Cultural Sensitivity’ is a natural by-product of awareness and refers to an ability to read into situations, contexts and behaviors that are culturally rooted and be able to react to them appropriately.

An suitable response necessitates that the actor no longer carries his/her own culturally determined interpretations of the situation or behavior (i. e. good/bad, right/wrong) which can only be nurtured through both cross cultural knowledge and awareness. ‘Cross Cultural Competence’ is and should be the aim of all those dealing with multicultural clients, customers or colleagues. ‘Competence’ is the final stage of cross cultural understanding and signifies the actor’s ability to work effectively across cultures.Cross cultural competency is beyond knowledge, awareness and sensitivity in that it is the digestion, integration and transformation of all the skills and information acquired through them, applied to create cultural synergy within the workplace. Following are the five cross cultural communication needs that will allow for improved lines of communication, better cross cultural awareness and more successful cross cultural relationships Cross Cultural Communication needs .

Listening Skills Although emphasis usually lies on being a competent speaker, listening is a key skill that many business personnel do not exercise enough.For cross cultural communication, attentive listening is critical to be able to understand meanings, read between the lines and enable to empathize with the speaker. Cross Cultural Communication needs. Speaking Skills Listening and speaking must work in tandem for effective cross cultural communication. Speaking well is not about accent, use of grammar and vocabulary or having the gift of the gab. Rather, cross cultural communication is enhanced through positive speech such as encouragement, affirmation, recognition and phrasing requests clearly or expressing opinions sensitively. Cross Cultural Communication needs.

Observation Large amounts of cross cultural information can be read in people’s dress, body language, interaction and behavior. Be aware of differences with your own culture and try to understand the roots of behaviors. Asking questions expands your cross cultural knowledge. Cross Cultural Communication needs. Patience Man has been created differently and we need to recognize and understand that sometimes cross cultural differences are annoying and frustrating. In these situations patience is definitely a virtue. Through patience respect is won and cross cultural understanding is enhanced.

Cross Cultural Communication needs . Flexibility Flexibility, adaptability and open-mindedness are the route to successful cross cultural communication. Understanding, embracing and addressing cross cultural differences leads to the breaking of cultural barriers which results in better lines of communication, mutual trust and creative thinking Having a poor understanding of the influence of cross cultural differences in areas such as management, PR, advertising and negotiations can eventually lead to blunders that can have damaging consequences.It is crucial for today’s business personnel to understand the impact of cross cultural differences on business, trade and internal company organization. The success or failure of a company, venture, merger or acquisition is essentially in the hands of people. If these people are not cross culturally aware then misunderstandings, offence and a break down in communication can occur. The need for greater cross cultural awareness is heightened in our global economies.

Cross cultural differences in matters such as language, etiquette, non-verbal communication, norms and values can, do and will lead to cross cultural blunders.To illustrate this we have provided a few examples of cross cultural blunders that could have been avoided with appropriate cross cultural awareness training: *Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast Asia by emphasizing that it “whitens your teeth. ” They found out that the local natives chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth which they find attractive. * A company advertised eyeglasses in Thailand by featuring a variety of cute animals wearing glasses. The ad was a poor choice since animals are considered to be a form of low life and no self respecting Thai would wear anything worn by animals. The soft drink Fresca was being promoted by a saleswoman in Mexico. She was surprised that her sales pitch was greeted with laughter, and later embarrassed when she learned that fresca is slang for “lesbian.

” * Kellogg had to rename its Bran Buds cereal in Sweden when it discovered that the name roughly translated to “burned farmer. ” * When PepsiCo advertised Pepsi in Taiwan with the ad “Come Alive With Pepsi” they had no idea that it would be translated into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead. “Thus poor cross cultural awareness has many consequences, some serious others comical. It is imperative that in the global economy cross cultural awareness is seen as a necessary investment to avoid such blunders as we have seen above. Cross cultural communication is not the sole reserve of the business world. In fact, all of us in one form or another come across situations that require some kind of cross cultural communication and understanding. One such situation is when communicating with foreigners.

We all encounter people at work, on holiday or elsewhere who do not share the same language as us.Although we consider language the main means of communicating, language only represents 7% of what we communicate. There are many ways of overcoming the language barrier to allow for some cross cultural communication. When faced with a situation in which there is no common language these points may help you to get your message across: Say it without words: use hands, arms, legs, gestures, facial expressions and everything else your charades experience has taught you. Use emotions: even in our own language and culture we do not always use language to express fright, frustration, anger or joy.Emotions transcend linguistic barriers. Try out words: sometimes we share common words and we do not know it.

Additionally people from different cultures will have a passive knowledge of English gained through the media. Try saying the word slowly or with a different pronunciation. Draw it: if you really cannot explain ‘milk’ to the Greek shop owner draw the cow, the udders and the milk. Pictures speak louder than words. Most cultures will be able to spot what you are getting at straight away. Ask for help: if there are others around you do not be shy to ask for their assistance.It is often possible to find a willing translator.

Confirm meanings: if you are unsure whether the message has been understood confirm meanings. When doing so do not ask, ‘Do you understand? ‘ as the answer will often be ‘yes’ even if it is ‘no’. Try re-phrasing what you have agreed or discussed. Be patient: the key to overcoming the language barrier is to exercise patience. It is not your fault or the other person’s that you cannot speak each others language. The above points will help you to overcome cross cultural communication problems and ensure you manage to get your message across in one form or another.Why Is Cross-Cultural Communication Important? Cross-cultural communication is arguably more important today than in any other period of human history.

One major consequence of this trend is that future success in most careers will increasingly depend upon an individual’s ability to communicate effectively and appropriately across cultural boundaries. Cross-cultural communication is not limited to learning other languages, but also includes understanding how cultural patterns and core values impact the communication process—even when everyone is speaking English.Acquiring the skills necessary to work with both domestic multicultural groups and in international areas is no longer an option but a necessity. There are few settings where cross-cultural communication does not play a significant role in daily interactions with the public and co-workers. Businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a thousand other occupational settings are all under pressure to recognize and appreciate the role that cross-cultural communication plays in achieving their goals.Whether it is creating smoothly working project teams; sensitively responding to customers, clients, and markets; or just living and working in a world where everyone has something to say, learning how to communicate cross-culturally is a crucial component that can promote those processes. Realizing that individuals from different cultures will express their thoughts in vastly different ways is a good start.

So is developing an awareness of why hearing words alone is not sufficient to discern meaning.Sometimes silence communicates far more than speech. Such things as touching, eye contact, and other kinds of “body language” need to be observed and correctly interpreted because nonverbal communication carries important clues about the message the individual is trying to convey. In this rapidly changing world, where cultures and people circulate and interact at dizzying speeds, those people who know how to communicate effectively across cultures, in both personal and professional contexts, will have a crucial advantage over those who do not.

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