Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cross-cultural Communication 02

Common Cross-cultural Communication Challenges

Toward a More Perfect Union
in an Age of Diversity--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Working on Common
Cross-cultural Communication Challenges
by Marcelle E. DuPraw, National Institute for Dispute Resolution
and Marya Axner, Consultant in Leadership Development & Diversity Awareness --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
list of 3 items
• Six Fundamental Patterns
of Cultural Difference
list of 6 items nesting level 1
1. Different
Communications Styles
2. Different
Attitudes Toward Conflict
3. Different
Approaches to Completing Tasks
4. Different
Decision-Making Styles
5. Different
Attitudes Toward Disclosure
6. Different
Approaches to Knowing
list end nesting level 1
• Respecting Our Differences and Working Together
• Guidelines for Multicultural Collaboration
list end
block quote

We all have an internal list of those we still don't understand, let alone appreciate. We all have biases, even prejudices, toward specific groups. In our
workshops we ask people to gather in pairs and think about their hopes and fears in relating to people of a group different from their own. Fears usually
include being judged, miscommunication, and patronizing or hurting others unintentionally; hopes are usually the possibility of dialogue, learning something
new, developing friendships, and understanding different points of view. After doing this activity hundreds of times, I'm always amazed how similar the
lists are. At any moment that we're dealing with people different from ourselves, the likelihood is that they carry a similar list of hopes and fears in
their back pocket.

-- From Waging Peace in Our Schools,
by Linda Lantieri and Janet Patti (Beacon Press, 1996)
block quote end

We all communicate with others all the time -- in our homes, in our workplaces, in the groups we belong to, and in the community. No matter how well we
think we understand each other, communication is hard. Just think, for example, how often we hear things like, "He doesn't get it," or "She didn't really
hear what I meant to say." "Culture" is often at the root of communication challenges. Our culture influences how we approach problems, and how we participate
in groups and in communities. When we participate in groups we are often surprised at how differently people approach their work together.

Culture is a complex concept, with many different definitions. But, simply put, "culture" refers to a group or community with which we share common experiences
that shape the way we understand the world. It includes groups that we are born into, such as gender, race, or national origin. It also includes groups
we join or become part of. For example, we can acquire a new culture by moving to a new region, by a change in our economic status, or by becoming disabled.
When we think of culture this broadly, we realize we all belong to many cultures at once.

Our histories are a critical piece of our cultures. Historical experiences -- whether of five years ago or of ten generations back -- shape who we are.
Knowledge of our history can help us understand ourselves and one another better. Exploring the ways in which various groups within our society have related
to each other is key to opening channels for cross-cultural communication.

In a world as complex as ours, each of us is shaped by many factors, and culture is one of the powerful forces that acts on us. Anthropologists Kevin Avruch
and Peter Black explain the importance of culture this way:
block quote

...One's own culture provides the "lens" through which we view the world; the "logic"... by which we order it; the "grammar" ... by which it makes sense.
(Avruch and Black, 1993)
block quote end

In other words, culture is central to what we see, how we make sense of what we see, and how we express ourselves.

As people from different cultural groups take on the exciting challenge of working together, cultural values sometimes conflict. We can misunderstand each
other, and react in ways that can hinder what are otherwise promising partnerships. Oftentimes, we aren't aware that culture is acting upon us. Sometimes,
we are not even aware that we have cultural values or assumptions that are different from others!

Six fundamental patterns of cultural differences -- ways in which cultures, as a whole, tend to vary from one another -- are described below. The descriptions
point out some of the recurring causes of cross-cultural communication difficulties.1 As you enter into multicultural dialogue or collaboration, keep these
generalized differences in mind. Next time you find yourself in a confusing situation, and you suspect that cross-cultural differences are at play, try
reviewing this list. Ask yourself how culture may be shaping your own reactions, and try to see the world from others' points of view.

Six Fundamental Patterns of Cultural Differences
list of 6 items
Different Communication Styles

The way people communicate varies widely between, and even within, cultures. One aspect of communication style is language usage. Across cultures, some
words and phrases are used in different ways. For example, even in countries that share the English language, the meaning of "yes" varies from "maybe,
I'll consider it" to "definitely so," with many shades in between.

Another major aspect of communication style is the degree of importance given to non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication includes not only facial
expressions and gestures; it also involves seating arrangements, personal distance, and sense of time. In addition, different norms regarding the appropriate
degree of assertiveness in communicating can add to cultural misunderstandings. For instance, some white Americans typically consider raised voices to
be a sign that a fight has begun, while some black, Jewish and Italian Americans often feel that an increase in volume is a sign of an exciting conversation
among friends. Thus, some white Americans may react with greater alarm to a loud discussion than would members of some American ethnic or non-white racial

Different Attitudes Toward Conflict

Some cultures view conflict as a positive thing, while others view it as something to be avoided. In the U.S., conflict is not usually desirable; but people
often are encouraged to deal directly with conflicts that do arise. In fact, face-to-face meetings customarily are recommended as the way to work through
whatever problems exist. In contrast, in many Eastern countries, open conflict is experienced as embarrassing or demeaning; as a rule, differences are
best worked out quietly. A written exchange might be the favored means to address the conflict.

Different Approaches to Completing Tasks

From culture to culture, there are different ways that people move toward completing tasks. Some reasons include different access to resources, different
judgments of the rewards associated with task completion, different notions of time, and varied ideas about how relationship-building and task-oriented
work should go together.

When it comes to working together effectively on a task, cultures differ with respect to the importance placed on establishing relationships early on in
the collaboration. A case in point, Asian and Hispanic cultures tend to attach more value to developing relationships at the beginning of a shared project
and more emphasis on task completion toward the end as compared with European-Americans. European-Americans tend to focus immediately on the task at hand,
and let relationships develop as they work on the task. This does not mean that people from any one of these cultural backgrounds are more or less committed
to accomplishing the task, or value relationships more or less; it means they may pursue them differently.

Different Decision-Making Styles

The roles individuals play in decision-making vary widely from culture to culture. For example, in the U.S., decisions are frequently delegated -- that
is, an official assigns responsibility for a particular matter to a subordinate. In many Southern European and Latin American countries, there is a strong
value placed on holding decision-making responsibilities oneself. When decisions are made by groups of people, majority rule is a common approach in the
U.S.; in Japan consensus is the preferred mode. Be aware that individuals' expectations about their own roles in shaping a decision may be influenced by
their cultural frame of reference.

Different Attitudes Toward Disclosure

In some cultures, it is not appropriate to be frank about emotions, about the reasons behind a conflict or a misunderstanding, or about personal information.
Keep this in mind when you are in a dialogue or when you are working with others. When you are dealing with a conflict, be mindful that people may differ
in what they feel comfortable revealing. Questions that may seem natural to you -- What was the conflict about? What was your role in the conflict? What
was the sequence of events? -- may seem intrusive to others. The variation among cultures in attitudes toward disclosure is also something to consider
before you conclude that you have an accurate reading of the views, experiences, and goals of the people with whom you are working.

Different Approaches to Knowing

Notable differences occur among cultural groups when it comes to epistemologies -- that is, the ways people come to know things. European cultures tend
to consider information acquired through cognitive means, such as counting and measuring, more valid than other ways of coming to know things. Compare
that to African cultures' preference for affective ways of knowing, including symbolic imagery and rhythm. Asian cultures' epistemologies tend to emphasize
the validity of knowledge gained through striving toward transcendence. (Nichols, 1976) Recent popular works demonstrate that our own society is paying
more attention to previously overlooked ways of knowing.2

You can see how different approaches to knowing could affect ways of analyzing a community problem or finding ways to resolve it. Some members of your group
may want to do library research to understand a shared problem better and identify possible solutions. Others may prefer to visit places and people who
have experienced challenges like the ones you are facing, and touch, taste and listen to what has worked elsewhere.
list end

Respecting Our Differences and Working Together

In addition to helping us to understand ourselves and our own cultural frames of reference, knowledge of these six patterns of cultural difference can help
us to understand the people who are different from us. An appreciation of patterns of cultural difference can assist us in processing what it means to
be different in ways that are respectful of others, not faultfinding or damaging.

Anthropologists Avruch and Black have noted that, when faced by an interaction that we do not understand, people tend to interpret the others involved as
"abnormal," "weird," or "wrong." (Avruch and Black, 1993) This tendency, if indulged, gives rise on the individual level to prejudice. If this propensity
is either consciously or unconsciously integrated into organizational structures, then prejudice takes root in our institutions -- in the structures, laws,
policies, and procedures that shape our lives. Consequently, it is vital that we learn to control the human tendency to translate "different from me" into
"less than me." We can learn to do this.

We can also learn to collaborate across cultural lines as individuals and as a society. Awareness of cultural differences doesn't have to divide us from
each other. It doesn't have to paralyze us either, for fear of not saying the "right thing." In fact, becoming more aware of our cultural differences,
as well as exploring our similarities, can help us communicate with each other more effectively. Recognizing where cultural differences are at work is
the first step toward understanding and respecting each other.

Learning about different ways that people communicate can enrich our lives. People's different communication styles reflect deeper philosophies and world
views which are the foundation of their culture. Understanding these deeper philosophies gives us a broader picture of what the world has to offer us.

Learning about people's cultures has the potential to give us a mirror image of our own. We have the opportunity to challenge our assumptions about the
"right" way of doing things, and consider a variety of approaches. We have a chance to learn new ways to solve problems that we had previously given up
on, accepting the difficulties as "just the way things are."

Lastly, if we are open to learning about people from other cultures, we become less lonely. Prejudice and stereotypes separate us from whole groups of people
who could be friends and partners in working for change. Many of us long for real contact. Talking with people different from ourselves gives us hope and
energizes us to take on the challenge of improving our communities and worlds.

Guidelines for Multicultural Collaboration

Cultural questions -- about who we are and how we identify ourselves -- are at the heart of Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity, and will
be at the heart of your discussions. As you set to work on multicultural collaboration in your community, keep in mind these additional guidelines:
list of 10 items
• Learn from generalizations about other cultures, but don't use those generalizations to stereotype, "write off," or oversimplify your ideas about another
person. The best use of a generalization is to add it to your storehouse of knowledge so that you better understand and appreciate other interesting, multi-faceted
human beings.

• Practice, practice, practice. That's the first rule, because it's in the doing that we actually get better at cross-cultural communication.

• Don't assume that there is one right way (yours!) to communicate. Keep questioning your assumptions about the "right way" to communicate. For example,
think about your body language; postures that indicate receptivity in one culture might indicate aggressiveness in another.

• Don't assume that breakdowns in communication occur because other people are on the wrong track. Search for ways to make the communication work, rather
than searching for who should receive the blame for the breakdown.

• Listen actively and empathetically. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Especially when another person's perceptions or ideas are very different
from your own, you might need to operate at the edge of your own comfort zone.

• Respect others' choices about whether to engage in communication with you. Honor their opinions about what is going on.

• Stop, suspend judgment, and try to look at the situation as an outsider.

• Be prepared for a discussion of the past. Use this as an opportunity to develop an understanding from "the other's" point of view, rather than getting
defensive or impatient. Acknowledge historical events that have taken place. Be open to learning more about them. Honest acknowledgment of the mistreatment
and oppression that have taken place on the basis of cultural difference is vital for effective communication.

• Awareness of current power imbalances -- and an openness to hearing each other's perceptions of those imbalances -- is also necessary for understanding
each other and working together.

• Remember that cultural norms may not apply to the behavior of any particular individual. We are all shaped by many, many factors -- our ethnic background,
our family, our education, our personalities -- and are more complicated than any cultural norm could suggest. Check your interpretations if you are uncertain
what is meant.

© Copyright Topsfield Foundation and Marci Reaven 1997

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Cross-Cultural Communication Strategies


The key to effective cross-cultural communication is knowledge. First, it is essential that people understand the potential problems of cross-cultural communication,
and make a conscious effort to overcome these problems. Second, it is important to assume that one’s efforts will not always be successful, and adjust
one’s behavior appropriately.

For example, one should always assume that there is a significant possibility that cultural differences are causing communication problems, and be willing
to be patient and forgiving, rather than hostile and aggressive, if problems develop. One should respond slowly and carefully in cross-cultural exchanges,
not jumping to the conclusion that you know what is being thought and said.

William Ury’s suggestion for heated conflicts is to stop, listen, and think, or as he puts it "go to the balcony" when the situation gets tense. By this
he means withdraw from the situation, step back, and reflect on what is going on before you act. This helps in cross cultural communication as well. When
things seem to be going badly, stop or slow down and think. What could be going on here? Is it possible I misinterpreted what they said, or they misinterpreted
me? Often misinterpretation is the source of the problem.

Active listening can sometimes be used to check this out–by repeating what one thinks he or she heard, one can confirm that one understands the communication
accurately. If words are used differently between languages or cultural groups, however, even active listening can overlook misunderstandings.

Often intermediaries who are familiar with both cultures can be helpful in cross-cultural communication situations. They can translate both the substance
and the manner of what is said. For instance, they can tone down strong statements that would be considered appropriate in one culture but not in another,
before they are given to people from a culture that does not talk together in such a strong way. They can also adjust the timing of what is said and done.
Some cultures move quickly to the point; others talk about other things long enough to establish rapport or a relationship with the other person. If discussion
on the primary topic begins too soon, the group that needs a "warm up" first will feel uncomfortable. A mediator or intermediary who understands this can
explain the problem, and make appropriate procedural adjustments.

Yet sometimes intermediaries can make communication even more difficult. If a mediator is the same culture or nationality as one of the disputants, but
not the other, this gives the appearance of bias, even when none exists. Even when bias is not intended, it is common for mediators to be more supportive
or more understanding of the person who is of his or her own culture, simply because they understand them better. Yet when the mediator is of a third cultural
group, the potential for cross-cultural misunderstandings increases further. In this case engaging in extra discussions about the process and the manner
of carrying out the discussions is appropriate, as is extra time for confirming and re-confirming understandings at every step in the dialogue or negotiating

Links to Examples of This Approach:
definition list of 17 items
William Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim -- Communicating With Strangers: An Approach to Intercultural Communication
This article summarizes the problems inherent in intercultural communications and what can be done to reduce those problems.  
Managing Communications
This is a very short article which illustrates that care is necessary in communication between people who work in different settings, even if they are,
ostensibly, from the same "culture."  
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider -- Explore Partisan Perceptions
This is an illustration which shows how preconceptions can change what people see, and how that must be accounted for in cross-cultural communication.  

Elise Boulding -- The Challenge of Imaging Peace in Wartime
This short article describes the need for "cross-cultural imaging" as well as simple cross-cultural communication if international understanding and conflict
resolution is to be achieved.  
Andrea Williams -- Resolving Conflict in a Multicultural Environment
This article discusses the cultural dimension of conflict and conflict resolution in the context of local governments.  
Letty Cottin Pogrebin -- The Same and Different: Crossing Boundaries of Color, Culture, Sexual Preference, Disability and Age
This article explores adjustments that are required to forge cross-cultural friendships.  
Estevan Flores - Leadership Training As a Tool For Confronting Racial and Ethnic Conflicts -
In this article, Flores discusses the importance of leadership training to improve skills in multicultural discourse and problem solving.  
A Beginner's Guide to International Business Negotiation
Effective cross cultural communication is critical in this context and is discussed in this essay.  
Rethinking the Culture-Negotiation Link
This article reviews four different approaches to understanding the impact of culture on negotiation.
list end
Links to examples of Related Approaches


Communication Skills Improvement

Active Listening

Links to examples of Related Problems:

Communication Skills Improvement

Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective

Language Differences

Misinterpretation of Communication


Copyright ©1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact:

Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

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Glossary |
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Effective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking--ways of seeing, hearing,
and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the "same" language. When
the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases.

Stella Ting-Toomey describes three ways in which culture interferes with effective cross-cultural understanding. First is what she calls "cognitive constraints."
These are the frames of reference or world views that provide a backdrop that all new information is compared to or inserted into.

Second are "behavior constraints." Each culture has its own rules about proper behavior which affect verbal and nonverbal communication. Whether one looks
the other person in the eye-or not; whether one says what one means overtly or talks around the issue; how close the people stand to each other when they
are talking--all of these and many more are rules of politeness which differ from culture to culture.

Ting-Toomey's third factor is "emotional constraints." Different cultures regulate the display of emotion differently. Some cultures get very emotional
when they are debating an issue.  They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep
their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the "rational" or factual aspects of the situation.

All of these differences tend to lead to communication problems. If the people involved are not aware of the potential for such problems, they are even
more likely to fall victim to them, although it takes more than awareness to overcome these problems and communicate effectively across cultures.

Links to Examples of this Problem:
definition list of 17 items
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy
Cohen examines the effects of cultural differences on international negotiations and diplomacy.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (U.S. - India Diplomacy)
This essay (the three that follow) gives an example of the ideas Cohen discussed in the earlier article.  
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (Cultural Differences)
(see Cohen, above)  
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
(see Cohen, above)
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The Astoria Affair)
(see Cohen, above)
A Beginner's Guide to International Business Negotiation
This is a discussion of the cultural impact in a very different setting--international business negotiations.
Rethinking the Culture-Negotiation Link
This article reviews four different approaches to understanding the impact of culture on negotiation.
Managing Communication
This short piece illustrates that culture is a broader concept than nationality, language, or ethnicity-it can also refer to  professional roles which make
people see the world differently from others.  
**TOUR (Try 1st)**
Andrea Williams - Resolving Conflict in a Multicultural Environment
This is an article which illustrates the way in which cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings.  
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider - Explore Partisan Perceptions
This is a short but effective illustration of how people with different pre-dispositions can be   unaware of the possibility that others might see the same
situation differently.
John Paul Lederach -- Building Peace, Introduction and Framework
This book, by an expert in cross-cultural issues discusses the interplay between culture and conflict.  
Letty Cottin Pogrebin -- The Same and Different: Crossing Boundaries of Color, Culture, Sexual Preference, Disability and Age
This article explores the problems of and the adjustments that are required to forge cross-cultural friendships.
list end
Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:
**TOUR (Try 2nd)**
Cross-Cultural Communication Strategies
Dialogic Listening
Active Listening

Links to Related Problems:
Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective
Language Differences
**TOUR (Try 3rd) **  
Differences in Values --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright ©1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact:

Managing Cross Cultural Conflict Amongst A Growing Hispanic Workforce
by Gus Lopez, Director of Human Resources, Mercury Plastics

While conflict in the workplace will always be a part of our day-to-day life, much of the conflict that managers and supervisors experience when working
with limited or non-English speaking first generation Hispanic workers can be attributed to cross-cultural misunderstandings. 

¹The largest and fastest growing segment of the U.S. workforce continues to be Hispanic immigrants, specifically Mexican immigrants.  The Mexican culture
(similar to those of China, Korea and Japan) relies heavily on contextual communication.  In other words: how words are said.  Tone, intonation, pauses,
emphasis, kinesics, and the location where words are verbalized are just as relevant to the communication process as the spoken words, and in many instances,
can be even more important than the words themselves.  Alternatively, the culture in the United States is very low contextually.  This means that more
meaning is derived out of the spoken word than the delivery context of the message.

The implications for difficulties arising in cross-culture communication in the workplace are clear.  For example, the front-line supervisor has many responsibilities
and often delegates tasks.  He or she usually has little time for collaboration and less time for a highly contextual communications exchange.  When the
line supervisor issues assignments, he or she often appears to receive complete acquiescence and comprehension from the workforce.  However, later and
to much disappointment and frustration, the line supervisor discovers that the worker(s) did not execute their assignments as required.   Upon review,
what really happened during the initial communications exchange is all too common.  In reality, the worker(s) had only vaguely implied that they understood
the supervisor’s request.  The line supervisor accepted a nodding head with an inquisitive look from the worker(s) as affirmation of their instructions. 
Conversely, from the worker(s)’ perspective, this reaction to the communication was stating confusion and the need for better explanation.

This situation is further complicated by another cultural difference:  the need to save face and maintain an identity with the group.  In order to avoid
embarrassment, the worker(s) may not say that they don't understand or don't comprehend.  Culturally, the requirement of the worker’s social organization
relegates him or her to the same level of understanding as the majority of the group. 

Yet another dynamic to this communications process may be the worker’s unwillingness to question the supervisor’s authority, especially those workers who
come from the Mexican culture.  Even if the workers understood and the instructions were flawed, it would be unlikely that they question the supervisor. 
Mexicans have a term, “igualado (a)”, that is used in a castigating fashion to point out when someone is acting in a manner outside of their social class
ranking.  Even though the line supervisor might expect a worker to point out a flaw in their assignment, the employee may assume (incorrectly or not) that
the facts have changed and the supervisor must know of something that the employee does not.  The ensuing conflict can sometimes be viewed as a deliberate
attempt to either undermine the supervisor’s authority or an attempt to avoid a more complex assignment.  This is most likely not the case; instead it
is a pseudo-conflict due to the cultural gap in communication. 

The following are a few suggestions to help bridge this cultural communication gap:
list of 9 items
• Take a moment to examine the skill set and background of the person or group being addressed.
• Understand that a word-to-word literal translation is rarely the correct method of communicating with non-English speakers.
• Determine if visual aids or other non-verbal tools may get your point across better.
• Keep your eyes and ears wide open for both verbal and non-verbal cues.  Scan the employee(s) for receptiveness and understanding. 
• Ask for feedback from them or to paraphrase what you said.
• Understand that as the communicator, it remains your responsibility to be clear and understood.  It is not the receivers’ role to interpret what you are
trying to explain.  Therefore, remain patient and open to hearing your listeners’ input.  Even if it's not close to what you were trying to describe, at
least you know how much the employee(s) does understand.
• Try not to show your frustration or exasperation over any communication difficulties.  This may convey a sense of displeasure or anger with the employee(s)
and may provoke them to acknowledge understanding when they don't.  This is what you are trying to avoid.
• Summarize the instructions.  Look as well as listen for any clues that their thought process was not in sync with yours.
• Remember:  more often, how things are communicated is just as important as the words being spoken.  When you find a style that works for you, try duplicating
this approach each time.
list end

Not all workplaces have the luxury of several multi-lingual, multi-cultural employees on hand every day and easily accessible.  For front-line supervisors,
an accurate and timely information flow to and from the workforce is essential to efficient and productive work processes.  Until the current immigrant
workforce becomes more accustomed to the U.S. style of communicating, decreasing conflict in the workplace utilizing improved communications will help
employees at all levels.    


 ¹ U.S. Census Bureau, 2004, “U.S. Interim Projections by Age, Sex, Race and Hispanic Origin,”

Internet Release Date: March 18, 2004

March 28, 2005
Business and Industry Services

Cross-cultural communication
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cross-cultural communication (also frequently referred to as intercultural communication) is a field of study that looks at how people from differing
cultural backgrounds endeavour to communicate.


1 Interdisciplinary orientation
2 Theories
3 Organizations
4 Free online journals

Interdisciplinary orientation

Cross-cultural communication tries to bring together such relatively unrelated areas as
cultural anthropology
and established areas of
. Its core is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. Its charge is to also produce some guidelines
with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.

For example, how does a person from China communicate with a person from America? Furthermore, what underlying mental constructs appear from both parties
that allows for constructive communication?

Cross-cultural communication, as many scholarly fields, is a combination of many other fields. These fields include
cultural studies,
. The field has also moved both toward the treatment of interethnic relations, and toward the study of communication strategies used by co-cultural populations,
i.e., communication strategies used to deal with majority or mainstream populations. The introduction of power as a cultural communication variable leads
to a body of critical scholarship (e.g., Mark Orbe and Ronald Jackson II).


The main theories for cross-cultural communication are based on the work done looking at value differences (or
Cultural dimensions
) among cultures, especially the works of
Edward T. Hall,
Geert Hofstede,
Harry C. Triandis,
Fons Trompenaars
and more recently
Shalom Schwartz.
Clifford Geertz
was also a major contributor to this field. The first Ph.D. in intercultural communication was awarded to William J. Starosta (Indiana University, 1973).

These theories have been applied to a variety of different communication theories and settings, including general business and management (
Fons Trompenaars
Charles Hampden-Turner
) and marketing (
Marieke de Mooij,
Stephan Dahl
). There have also been several successful educational projects which concentrate on the practical applications of these theories in cross-cultural situations.
Notably the European-funded research project
which illustrates ways in which virtual communities can be established to achieve an understanding of how people from different cultures communicate with
each other.


• Intercultural Communication Institute
• CICB Center of Intercultural Competence
• Centre for Intercultural Training and Research
• ITIM Culture & Management Consultancy
• Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research
• Intermundo Culture Network
• Delta Intercultural Academy
• Intercultural Resources India
• Business and Culture
• Intercultural Resources

Free online journals

• The Edge: The E-Journal of Intercultural Relations
• Inter-Cultural Studies
• Journal of Intercultural Communication
• TRANS: Internet journal for cultural sciences

Breaking the Barriers of Intercultural Communication

Neil Payne

We live in an increasingly complex world. One element of this complexity is the mixing of different cultures, languages and faiths. Within the business
world intercultural communication is vital for success. Effective communication between colleagues from different cultural backgrounds ensures a team is
working harmoniously.

The six steps to intercultural communication are basic pointers that all working in intercultural teams should be aware of to ensure culture becomes a vehicle
for positive advancement rather than a barrier.

1. Break Assumptions
Everyone makes or has assumptions about others. Assumptions are beliefs rather than objective truth and are usually influenced by a number of subjective

For intercultural communication to truly work, people need to assess their assumptions and ask themselves why they hold those ideas or beliefs. By doing
so and even openly examining them with others, the initial barrier to intercultural communication is overcome.

2. Empathise
In order to come to appreciate and understand people from different cultures, empathy is vital. Through putting yourself in someone else's shoes you come
to see or appreciate their point of view.

3. Involve
Involving others in tasks or decision making empowers and builds strong relationships. Using intercultural diversity is in essence a more creative approach
to problem solving as it incorporates different points of view.

4. Discourage Herd Mentality
Herd mentality refers to a closed and one dimensional approach. Such a way of thinking curbs creativity, innovation and advancement as people are restricted
in how to think, approach and engage with people or challenges.

Intercultural communication can only flourish and therefore contribute if people are encouraged to think as individuals, bring their cultural influences
to the table and share ideas that may be outside the box.

5. Shun Insensitive Behaviour
People can and do behave in culturally insensitive ways. By attacking someone's person, you attack their culture and therefore their dignity. This can
only be divisive.

Intercultural communication is based upon people thinking through words and actions to ensure they do not act inappropriately. When insensitive behaviour
is witnessed it is the responsibility of all to shun it and ensure it remains unacceptable.

6. Be Wise
Wisdom is not called wisdom for nothing. People need to be aware how to interact with people with respect and knowledge. Intercultural communication is
essentially founded upon wisdom, i.e. showing maturity of thought and action in dealing with people. Through thinking things out and have background knowledge
to intercultural differences much of the communication problems witnessed within business could be avoided.

Cross Cultural Communication: Basic Tips

Neil Payne

Here are some simple tips to help you improve your cross cultural communication skills:

Slow Down
Even when English is the common language in a cross cultural situation, this does not mean you should speak at normal speed. Slow down, speak clearly and
ensure your pronunciation is intelligible.

Separate Questions
Try not to ask double questions such as, "Do you want to carry on or shall we stop here?" In a cross cultural situation only the first or second question
may have been comprehended. Let your listener answer one question at a time.

Avoid Negative Questions
Many cross cultural communication misunderstandings have been caused by the use of negative questions and answers. In English we answer 'yes' if the answer
is affirmative and 'no' if it is negative. In other cultures a 'yes' or 'no' may only be indicating whether the questioner is right or wrong. For example,
the response to "Are you not coming?" may be 'yes', meaning 'Yes, I am not coming.'

Take Turns
Cross cultural communication is enhanced through taking turns to talk, making a point and then listening to the response.


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