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This is by no means a simple question. Different brands of researchers have tried to answer it ina different ways. Perhaps the best way to look at it lies through anthropology. One anthropologist regards it as " the sum total of conventional meanings embodied in artifacts,social structure and symbols." Naturally ,an understanding of the behavior patterns and symbols used by different cultural groups play a crucial role in communication and acquisition of knowledge.
Cross cultural communication in business:
Business is heading in a international direction and this means that there will be some changes in the work culture. Corporations are looking for doing business as easy as they can, but this multi-national business has created a new set of challenges. The most unavoidable of these new business challenges is a barrier in cross-cultural communication. When people do business, they need to be speaking in the same language. Even if two folks are not familiar of a particular language, there must exist a certain consistency in the speech in order to avoid catastrophic circumstances.
In addition, more and more managers are seeing problems within their own workplace because of a lack of understanding of other cultures. This problem is not an international one. It simply involves two people of a different ethnic background who do not understand the other culture well enough to effectively communicate with each other. This occurs most commonly because businesses do not emphasize this portion of their training.
Before a business can take effective action to pre-empt the problems in cross-cultural communication, they must know exactly what these problems are. In general, they seem pretty obvious. On the surface, they seem like things that the businesses should never miss. Time and time again, businesses miss these things though and it contributes to their downfall.
A complete lack of communication is the most common and damaging of all of these problems. This most often occurs when managers and upper level management do not feel the need to communicate with their workers because they do not know how. When your people are left in the dark, they do not perform well. This problem in cross cultural communication has as much to do with a lack of information sharing than it does the inability to get that message across.
Language use oral or written arbitrary symbols to transmit meanings from person to another. Every person has its own language and its own structures. If the sender and receiver both belong to different groups their ignorance of each other's language or the absence of common language will create a barrier in between them. It is not possible to communicate between them unless they some common language which properly understood by both of them. An French speaking boss and Japanese speaking worker wont be able to communicate without a fair knowledge of each other's language. If both know a common language say French,their knowledge of french words,inflections,phrases,clauses and sentence structure be upto mark to express thoughts and feelings.
Recognizing Cultural Diversity.
different cultural background brings new challenges in the work environment.when employees located in different places or offices speak the same language (for example communication between English-speakers in the India and English-speakers in the Bangladesh), there are some cultural differences that should be taken into account in order to make communication effective between them.
In such cases, strategy begins with understanding that the sender and the receiver of the message are from different cultural backgrounds. Of course, this inculcates some amount of unpredictability leading to communications even more complex.
Without getting within cultures and sub-cultures, it is most necessary for person to understand that a basic understanding of cultural diversity is the key to good cross-cultural communications. Without understanding individual's cultural background in detail, we must learn how to better communicate with person and groups whose first language does not match our own.
Developing Awareness regarding Individual Cultures
learning the basics about the culture and at least something about the language of communication of different countries is necessary. This is important even for the basic levels of understanding required to have appropriate greetings and physical contact, which can be a difficult area inter-culturally. For an example, kissing a colleague is not considered appropriate in the United States.whereas in Paris, one peck on each of the cheeks is an acceptable. And, the handshake that is widely accepted in the U.K. is not acceptable in all other countries.
While many companies nowdays offer training in understanding various cultures where the company conducts business, it is necessary that employees communicating across various cultures practice patience and work to enhance their knowledge and understanding about these cultures.
If the team leader that is working across cultures or inculcates individuals who speak various languages, practice different religions, or are members of a society that calls for the new understanding,the person needs to work on this in order to convey this.
Take any special needs of an individual in your team. For an example, they may observe different holidays, or even have different hours of working. Be mindfulll of time zone differencesf and work to keep everyone awareeand respectful of such differences.
Generally speaking, paatience, courtesyy and a bit of curiosity go hand in hand. And, if you are unsure of any differences that may creep in, just ask team members. Again, this may be done in a one-on-one correspondence so that no one feels self-conscious even embarrassed about discussing their needs.
If your are facing any communication barrier then its better to have a language translator as English is not their first language, their usage may be dominated by their own cultural specific phrases which can hamper the process of communication. The translator can help in recognizing the cultural differences and help in bringing together parties of different geographical locations.
One of the biggest issues for people coming to Japan is understanding Japanese etiquettes. It's a mistake to typecast Japan as a polite country where all social interactions are dominated by complicated rules.Japan is highly mannered. Many Japanese people do not have the same level of expectations from outsiders as they do from other Japanese people, but learningg simple Japanese etiquette will help you to survive within such culture. Some simple techniques such as bowing, treating your superiors with utmost respect and learning a simple Japanese introduction, will surely help you in Japan.
Communication through gestures or postures is often used as a means to supplement verbal communication. If there is a face to face communication between two persons ,they can better understand the feelings,attitudes and emotions of each other.gestural communication is very much helpful to motivate the subordinates for an example hand shake with the subordinate or a pat on the back. Similarly gestures taken by the listeners can be made use by the communicator to know their reactions.
Make it ok to ask questions.Â
Some people think that if they will ask question then it will lead to some offence. Beacouse of this fear they don't communicate with others,this indirectly affects the team work and even friendship taking place. Most of the time miscommunication takes place because of lack of communication therefore it becomes very important to express ourself and let others know what is going in our mind.
Learn about each other's cultures.Â
One should encourage healthy interaction amongst people of different groups. Put a map on a board and put images of employees on the countries from where they belong to. Let people share their experiences with others related to food clothings etc.
Be respectful and open-minded.Â
Be considerate towards the culture of others and understand their diversity. Learn to accept others point of view with open mind. One shouldn't put "I am always right " kind of an attitude. Apologise in case you feel you have offended somebody and ask them how you can behave more appropriately next time.
Celebrate holidays of other cultures.Â
Try to celebrate festivals of each others. This will not only inculcate feeling of brotherhood but will also give a feeling of belongingness to the workforce. Employees will recognize this gesture and will in return give their best towards the achievement of goals.
Treat people as individuals.Â
Treat every person as an individual. Do not have any preconceive notions about them before you have interacted with them. This will prevent you from having good rapport with them. Do not relate them with their cultures. Learn to know people as individuals regardless of their cultural background.
Identify gaps in your knowledge
Never hesitate to learn something new even from the subordinates as there is no age to learn. On should never let ego creep in. Identify what you don't know about your colleagues and their culture. Make an effort to learn something new from their culture and habbits.
Communication is primarily concerned with transmission of meaning the systematic study of which is Semantics. That is what any problems arising from the expression of meaning are called semantic problems or barriers. Most of the communication is based on words and words are liable to be used in myriad different ways. The number of words howsoever large is limited but the context,intended meanings and interpretation,their combination and usages are many times more. The meaning is in the mind of the communicator and also in that of a receiver. It is,therefore important for the sender too encode hiss message in such a way that the receiver decodes it to get intended meaning. And very often that does not happen. An adverstisement for example says, "we give you much more". It is a ambiguous statement. There are many different interpretations of every other word. One must aim at simplicity of the message,clarity of the message and brevity so as to minimize the chance of different interpretation.
Cultural barrier often cause miscommunication. The same category of words ,phraseses ,symbols, actions ,colours mean different things to people of different countries /cultural background. For example in western countries black color is associated with death and mourning while in the far east white is the colur of mourning. In the united states people loved to be called by their first name while in Britain people are more formal and like to be addressed by their title or their last name.
Socio psychological barrier
The attitudes and opinion,place in society and status-consciousness arising from one's position in the hierchical structure of the organsation,the state of one's relation with peers,seniors,juniors,family background-all these factors deeply influence one's ability to communicate both in encoding and decoding of the message. Status consciousness is widely known to be a serious communicayion barrier in organizations. It creates psychological distance leading to breakdown of communication or miscommunication. A man high up in the organization often builds up a wall around himself that the people below find it difficult to break through. Thus it is seen that power-centres restrict participation of the less powerful in decision making.