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Cross Cultural Communication

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Cross-cultural communication is an area of study that entails the attempt to understand how people from different cultural backgrounds communicate. "Communication is culture and culture is communication" (Edward Hall). Communication in a globalised world increasingly encompasses interactions with people of varied cultural backgrounds. As organizations increasingly interact across borders, the need for a firm understanding of differing cultural values is vital. Effective communication has become an essential component enabling a business to conduct its operations successfully as communication involves interactions between employees, customers and even the society at large. Effective cross-cultural communication arises through verbal as well as non-verbal communication. While both forms of communication are vital elements toward effective communication, non-verbal communication, as will be explained in this paper, is the more important issue and aspect of cross-cultural communication.

Every culture has a different ways of saying different things "An individual becomes verbal when the speaker and listener capabilities are joined within him or her" (Greer, R. Douglas 2009). Verbal communication involves communication through spoken words as messages translated from one language to another, from one culture to another. In the context of cross cultural communication, verbal communication may be deemed to have a lesser role to play. However, verbal communication still poses as an obvious barrier when businesses engage in global operations. According to Adler (1991) communication is a vital element to consider when businesses interact with people and entities from a different culture. Problems may arise when a business person relies on personal knowledge and instinct when dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds. They need to understand the linguistic differences present in different languages. A good illustration by Goldsmith (2007) is when people from differing cultures are unable to understand one another due to colloquialisms or slang used in conversations. This can lead to misinterpretation which can create problems in businesses.

Another instance is specified by Charles (2007) when she argues that in the past few decades, English has comprehensively been acknowledged as a standard language which when dealing with business matters globally. English was formerly used as a commercial way of communicating, however, Louhiala-Salminen et al. (2005) sketched some key issues which emerged in the international workplace and the changes in business functions and status of English as a language for international businesses. He interprets that additional things have to be done about communication effectiveness in global business environment. English seems to work well in most situations but still commonly causes miscommunication as some words and phrases are communicated in different way in Britain, America or Australia. Given this reality, business consultants counsel clients have to take the necessary steps to enlist the services of a good interpreter which does not convey awareness, but primarily represents the appearance of individual's character and avoid miscommunication in cross- culture business.

Verbal communication is not only the way to express and communicate our feelings, "with the statistic detail that over 70% of our communication is done nonverbally" (Kinsey Goman, C, 2008). Non-verbal communication plays a very important role in cross cultural communication and is a powerful tool which helps people to build better relations and connect with different cultures. The saying "actions speak louder than words" is true in cross cultural communication. For example, "locked or crossed ankles signifies anxious and tense, a clenched fist denotes high stress levels, touching the nose with the index finger is determined by body language analysts to portray that someone doesn't like what he is hearing and the rubbing of hands together signifies the anticipation of something good that is about to happen, etc" (Liangguang Huang, 2010). These are very common gestures in every custom. Non-verbal communication usually causes greater problems than verbal communication. For instance, "nodding the head up and down in Bulgaria means NO, not YES" which is contrary to the culture of many other countries (Munter, May/Jun93). In cross-cultural business, non-verbal cues such as body posture, eye gaze, and facial expression are the various factors that determine the effectiveness of communication.

In the context of interaction between people of different customs, the first thing people notice is the body posture as this has a high tendency to stimulate first impressions. For instance " walking and standing with, head up, shoulders back, conveys a message of self-confidence and balance, automatically commanding respect, whereas slouching and drooping shoulders clearly mean the opposite, no matter what the verbal message contains" (Gaal, M.Ann, 2009). The body posture is an indirect gesture of status, influence, commitment and ingratiation to the receiver.

Eye contact provides and honesty, confidence, intent and trustworthiness in non-verbal communication. However the use of eye contact contrasts in different customs. For example, "Chinese avoid long direct eye contact as a sign of politeness or respect, while North Americans see eye contact as a sign of honesty and a lack of eye contact or shift in eyes as a sign of untruthfulness"( DUMBRAVÄ‚, GABRIELA; KORONKA, ADRIANA,2009). Also, the British, unlike the Americans, "believe that looking someone directly on the eye to be a mark of rudeness until a more familiar relationship is established" ( DUMBRAVÄ‚,

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