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Internationalisation of the counties worldwide, demands effective communication flow for better dealings with the people of different culture. However, whenever there is a question of communication across nations, there are some obstacles that come as a threat in the beginning. They are barriers relating to body language, space, etiquette, language, business ethics, practices, lifestyle, thinking pattern etcetera which is discussed thoroughly in the report.
Cross Cultural Communication is a sensitive issue that is gaining attention worldwide because of its importance and pressure to bridge the gap between cultures. That is when the companies capitalize the differences that are present due to culture, nation and focus on the similarities. Once the common ground is established, the company can have a high-morale employees and a healthy multicultural workforce with proper staff cohesion.
This report focuses on the different types of obstacles and the ways in which they can be mitigated. There is no golden rule to completely avoid the cross cultural misunderstandings, but there are practices which have been practiced and proven to be successful. It definitely takes time all parties to completely understand and cherish the cultural diversity, but once they do, they take a further step to improving the company`s profitability and productivity.
Culture is a driving force behind how we perceive the world. It touches human life in every form, it shapes the way we think, speak, live, act in certain situations. It gives individual a sense of identity and a feeling of being included in a group.
As the world is entering into an age of Globalization, the whole world is slowly becoming a global village which demands the need of effective communication even more than what it used to be. The people of different culture and different counties come together in the forms of business partners, do business negotiations, work together in the same offices. When people of different cultures come to work together, they introduce their own learned values and patterns that might not be appreciated by the other staffs. In such a situation, the difference in cultural ideologies is bound to bring about clashes.
Some common forms of misunderstandings are brought about by the differing styles of negotiations of people. The non verbal communication- the way people nod their head, the personal space a person prefers while communicating, eye contact, body gestures, hand movements etc gives both positive and negative vibe while communicating with someone of different culture. One common mistake that is done by people is when they presume the person to behave in the exact way that s/he interacts. One has to make an effort from his/her side to reduce the communication barrier by understanding the cross cultural communication.
Cultural Communication is a widely talked about subject. There has been major research and findings made on this subject. The procedure for finding information for the report was partially based on internet, previous knowledge and personal experience. Since there was no direct approach, of information collection, reading quite some pages of web based notes to get a picture of how cross cultural communication actually worked in real life scenario became very important. Considering the huge amount of information available in the web, it was a tedious task to skim through the unnecessary information to get to the cream.
Communication being a central focal to any kind of task needs to be properly delegated. As the businesses and the governments deal internationally, the emphasis on cross cultural consciousness has grown to new heights.
The High Context cultures rely on the situation that surrounds the text rather than saying the exact words to imply the meaning. Here the non-verbal cues play a very important part than the verbal jargons. We can say that the message that is passed on to the other party is not as direct and which might result to misinterpretation. However, Low context communication style uses the direct approach where by being specific and to the point to avoid any misapprehension. Use of non-verbal cues is lesser than the High context culture. The Western World adheres to the Low context culture, where the speech is as direct as possible to avoid any fine lines in between. Whereas, the Eastern part of the World possess High context Culture.
A common scenario in an office now-a-days is somewhat like this: there are employees from different cultural background, a situation might arise where lack of transparency while communicating leads to disappointment as their work that is not being appreciated as they is not being properly apprehended.
As every city of the world is slowly becoming culturally diverse and multi linguistic, the best one can do is genuinely be interested and do some effort in understanding how the other culture works. The first step here is being interested in the other culture, stepping out of the own comfort box and see how the other culture operates.
4.1 Communication Barriers
The communication process is impeded by some barriers like:
Etiquette: There is a different definition of etiquette in different cultures. For a French man, kissing a lady on her cheeks is a way of greeting her, but if the French man practices the same with a Muslim Lady, she would take it as an insult of her religious values.
Body Language: This is the means of non-verbal communication that we use while we try to put forth our ideas while communicating. It's a very important portion of the whole communication package. Facial expression, nodding our head, waving hands, eye movements, the way we sit or stand are some of the body language that we voluntarily or involuntarily put forth to our audience.
Preferred Space: Space Preference is something that varies among cultures. The Japanese with high- context culture prefer a larger space than Americans or Saudis.
Religious viewpoint: A religious difference can cause major problems as it addresses a wide genre of things Food, living style, dress code, values etcetera are all determined by religious point of view. Offering beef to a Hindu, would be a wrong thing, similarly, a Muslim Lady would always be seen in a Burkha (veil).
Social behaviour: How people mingle around with other differs drastically across cultures. Thus, imposing or expecting the people to behave socially in the same manner would be a wrong thing to do. This would bring about drifts in the relationship.
Difference in Language: English is an international language, still the people whose second language is English, would still have a difficulty in understanding the local colloquial language and slangs.
There are couple of more barriers that cross cultural communication will bring in. Physiological barriers, presentation of information, linguistic ability, their interpretation of "time", are other some common obstacles people face. But these obstacles can be overcome by any one if s/he is sensitive enough. Trainings and exercises could be one of the means to bridge the gap between cultures.
Ways to mitigate communication barriers
The first step in the process of mitigating these hurdles is addressing and acknowledging the presence of cultural difference. When an individual is aware of the cultural difference, then s/he should try to genuinely ready to listen and understand fresh view of other people`s culture. The companies can take advantage of the diversity and exclusiveness of a different culture to increase production rather than creating disputes, low employee morale and downsizing profit for the company. Considering this diversity, (Graen &Wakabayashi, 1994), in a leader- follower rapport, professionals have understood the importance of good communication and they don't let cultural disparity to affect the work process, rather it is used for individual and organization`s growth.
Human beings are social animals and thus, there is a need for Humans to connect to the world. Communications is a medium by which people express themselves. In this Globalized world, a company is comprised of heterogeneous workforce where cultural distinctiveness is bound to be present. The differences in communicating, social behaviour, preferred space, religious viewpoint, language, body language, etiquette are the common distinction found among people of different cultures. These dissimilarities can be mitigated by properly addressing them and finding ways to focus on common viewpoint rather than differences. The ultimate goal should be utter willingness to take risks to cut through the barriers and reach a common perspective. This can be done by letting go off the old mainstream ideas that has been held from generations and trying hands in new ventures with new ideas. The uniqueness that is brought about by the learned and practiced concepts from different countries can take the company further to great new heights. According to me, the company would feel a breath of fresh air with new faces and new ideas that leads to a transparency and connectedness. There are no set rules that can be used to nullify this distinctiveness, acknowledging, and respecting each other's differences is how the peace process begins. As Bernard Baruch, American financier and statesman has stated: "We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat."