Table of contents
Body of the report
Findings and discussion
Table of Contents
Executive summary. 3
Research process. 2
Findings and discussion.. 3
Inadequacy of oral communication.. 3
Misinterpretation of non-verbal means of communication.. 4
Theories of intercultural communication.. 4
Cross-cultural adaptation theory. 4
Coordinated management of meaning theory. 5
Intercultural communication competence theory. 6
Language socialization theory. 6
Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity. 7
Promoting development of awareness of individual cultures. 7
Exercising tolerance of other cultures. 8
Seeking assistance where necessary. 8
Being simple. 8
Avoid ethnocentrism.. 8
Cross-cultural communication is an aspect that has increasingly developed with the rising activities that are conducted across different cultures. It is a form of communication that involves people from different cultural backgrounds. This report centers on a critical incident that involved me and a host of others from a different cultural set up. There was no common language we would use and attempts to communicate both orally and non-verbally came with challenges. The report analyzes challenges that come with inter-cultural communication, as well as a discussion of conclusions that can be drawn from such obstacles. The paper further illustrates different theories that propound different arguments regarding inter-cultural communication. Possible recommendations are also given, which can help improve cross-cultural communication.
Communication is the act of giving and receiving information either verbally or non-verbally from one party to another. The communication process is complete when the sender of a message gets a response from the receiver. Verbal communication entails the sending of information or a given message orally via a common language that is understood by both parties involved in the communication. The main parties in communication include the sender and receiver. On the other hand, nonverbal communication is communication achieved through signs or body movements. Communication can either be intentional or unintentional. Therefore, objective of communication is meant to create an understanding between two involved parties.
On the other hand, the term “culture” is used in respect of varied knowledge, shared beliefs, and practices of a given society. These practices constitute the day to day lifestyle of a given community and its member’s interaction. It should be noted that culture is an aspect that is passed on from one generation to another. One such aspect of culture is the language or mode of communication (Ting-Toomey, 1999).
With the advent of globalization, inter-cultural interaction has become inevitable. This way, there are numerous activities that involve different groups of people from across the world. For instance, people engage in aspects such as international trade, which cuts across borders. In turn, this has led to the rise and need for cross-cultural communication, which involves communication across one’s culture. Effective inter-cultural communication is emerging as a big determinant of success in organizations and even governments. Cross-cultural communication is essentially concerned with how people from different cultural settings get to communicate with each other. Aspects such as behavior, way of socialization, working, and eating become important when people with different cultural backgrounds come to work together in the same organization. This makes the study of cross-cultural communication important since it has some impacts on the performance of an organization (Rumsey, 2007).
The necessity for inter-cultural communication came with the onset of the Cold War between the Eastern and Western countries trying to promote either capitalism or socialism. In this case, either country would train their nationals on the language and culture of targeted areas. This was done in order for the respective countries to have business openings in the target area. This was meant to enable countries increase their influence. For instance, the United States enacted the 1946 Foreign Service Act through which the government trained its citizens to prepare them to take posts outside their country (Everett, William, & Yoshitaka, 2002).
Inter-cultural communication is not only concerned with the study of language as it may be perceived. However, it also encompasses other aspects too. These aspects include culture, psychology, and other underlying factors of communication as a whole. This study enables us to understand why there are varying communication means, as well as why certain behaviors are exhibited by various cultural groups. It helps in understanding the diversity of people. Thus, the paper promotes working and living harmoniously regardless of differing backgrounds. Understanding cultural diversity is essential since it promotes the management of cultural diversity. The two aspects are critical in modern day organizations. In this case, organizations that embrace cultural diversity are set to achieve great success. Thus, people from different cultural backgrounds are able to learn from one another for the good of the organization. Therefore, the management of such organization should be ready to face the challenges that come with diversity. In the management of cultural diversity, the concept of communication is very critical. Therefore, the management should embrace skills that enhance the management of cultural diversity (Mole, 1998).
The research process involved an in-depth analysis of a critical incident that occurred. I had just arrived in New Zealand. During this time, I was totally unable to speak English. My host initially tried to communicate in English, but that verbal means of communication proved futile. This made my host turn to non-verbal communication as a means through which we could communicate. This included the use of body language, which was a bit better than the verbal communication.
Notably, the two means of communication came with challenges since I was in a new cultural setting. At one point, while I was a communication with my host using the non-verbal means, I pretended that I understood what she was saying by putting on a smile and laughing. However, the situation was not calling for a smile since she was telling me of someone who had died. She became furious all because of my mistaken belief that I knew what the signs she was using meant.
I too experienced another aspect of cultural behavior while with my host. She refused all the time I did offer to help her in her work. She also gave me straight answers like “no” when I asked for something. The priority of her consideration, when planning to go for a holiday was amusing. She was more concerned with the places we would visit rather than who will accompany us. This report is premised on the experience I had with my host. Thus, there is a limitation, especially about getting the opportunity to analyze other people’s experiences.
Findings and discussion
Several inferences on cross-cultural communication can be drawn from this incident as highlighted in this paper.
Inadequacy of oral communication
First of all, it portrays a verbal communication as inadequate and a hindrance in cross-cultural communication that needs to be improved. It is one area that is necessary in enhancing the delivery of effective inter-cultural messages. When put into use, verbal communication may incorporate the use of non-verbal cues to relay the meaning of the message. In this critical incident, my oral communication was poor and not supplemented with non-verbal elements of communication. There was no complimentary of oral and non-verbal communication.
Misinterpretation of non-verbal means of communication
Nonverbal communication employs the use of body movements to send a message. For instance, it can be affected through eye contact or facial expression. Eye contact can lay different messages when used in different cultural settings. In one of the cultures, it can be taken as a sign of admiration and confidence. However, in others, it may portray dishonesty, disrespectful, and negative in general. The same applies to facial expression. In the given incident, my facial expression accompanied with laughing when my host was telling me about a sorrowful matter was a clear way of showing how easy misinterpretation can result in a misunderstanding.
Theories of inter-cultural communication
There have been different arguments regarding inter-cultural communication some of which are embodied in the following theories.
Cross-cultural adaptation theory
This is one of the theories explaining inter-cultural communication. According to this theory, as people change residence from one cultural setting to another, they adapt to the host environment. Such movement may be driven by various factors such as search for new opportunities, adventures, studies and the military as a matter of duty. This theory is based on the fact that humans tend to struggle to find stability in an adversarial setting. The theory holds that such adaptive changes may come as a matter of an individual’s strong will to learn and adapt to the host environment. This makes it necessary for the visitor to learn the communication system and culture of the host setting (Gudykunst, 2005). In my given incident, I had to learn to accept some of the practices of my host. However, I found some of the practices somehow weird such as the mode of responding with a straight “no” for an answer which in my culture would be deemed rude.
This theory is also prevalent in psychology where its study of human behavior is explored. Under the study, aspects like cross-cultural communication are examined. The outcome of such a research is well founded arguments and practices that can be employed and see the success of an organization (Moghaddam, Taylor & Wright 1993).
Coordinated management of meaning theory
This theory is based on the fact that people develop meaning out of the exchange of information during communication or socially relating. The social realities that come out during interaction lead the other party to think of a way to handle that reality. It is the party who has learnt some reality to decide what action will be apt in that scenario. The response may be deceitful one or a positive one depending on how that party has conceived it in his or her mind. The theory uses constitutive and regulative rules. While the former helps the communicator interpret the message, the latter determines the response of the communicator (Pearce & Cronen, 1980).
In the critical incident, which I stated earlier, the reaction of my host to my smiling when she was telling me of someone who had died can be argued to have been guided by this theory. When I realized she was acting rather unusual, I too changed by stopping to laugh.
Intercultural communication competence theory
This theory is concerned with competent cross-cultural communication. Therefore, this theory labels one who can affirm the identities of other people’s culture a competent communicator. This is an individual who can communicate in various cultural setups with ease. Aspects such as proficiency of that person in the host culture’s language; the ability to know when to use polite terms and as a better understanding of non-verbal communication are used to assess if a person is a competent communicator (Wiseman, 2003). Inter-cultural communication competence is said to be effective when the communicator overcomes the tendency to think that the host culture’s shortcomings are natural, and that his own cultural aspects are the correct and complete ones.
For instance, in my critical incident, when my host would give me a “no” for a response whenever I asked to use something in the household, I would perceive it as negative. I was greatly influenced by my home setting where a plain “no” for a response is tagged as negative. The same applied to when my host was concentrating on which places we should visit over the holidays. Instead of concentrating on those who were to accompany us as it is done in my culture, she focussed on places where we were to visit. The inter-cultural competence theory is to the effect that a competent communicator should be able to overcome issues like these.
Language socialization theory
This theory takes into account the process of language socialization in cross-cultural settings. The theory acknowledges that a person experiences both primary language socialization when young and continues to experience secondary language socialization as he or she grows up. The secondary language socialization comes as one grows and interacts with other people with different cultural backgrounds like in schools, workplace, or change of residential areas (Lave & Wagner 1991). Lave & Wagner (1991) asserted that the secondary language socialization is a process of inter-cultural language socialization since language learning amounts to a study of a new culture. In this case, language is acquired through a process of inter-cultural interaction in a given social or political arena. Thus, it views interactive routines as important tenets of language socialization and inter-cultural communication at large. The theory holds that the social-cultural settings such as the home, workplace, school and community among others do contribute to a large extent secondary language development (Watson-Gegeo & Nielson 2003).
In my critical incident, arguments of this theory can be illustrated. I was in a new cultural setting and the host language to me was a secondary language. This can be explained by the language socialization theory. Such inter-cultural interaction is what leads to the development of inter-cultural communication. This is necessary to enable effective communication between different cultural groups.
Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity
This is necessary especially in an organization since the sender and receiver of a given message do not necessarily come from the same cultural background. However, despite coming from different cultural backgrounds, effective communication is necessary in the organization (Triandis, 2000). If the parties communicating do appreciate their cultural diversity, some offensive behaviors to another culture will be taken lightly by the other party. In this case, it will lead to minimal disagreements and conflicts in an organization. This is necessary for effective functioning of the organization. This will in turn promote effective cross-cultural communication (Jude & Associated Management Services, 1996).
Promoting the development of awareness of individual cultures
This is another important aspect that needs to be encouraged. Increased awareness of another person’s culture will significantly help one in choosing the manner of handling the other person. This depends on if the parties that are meeting for a social or office function. It will be particularly detrimental if the parties communicating for business purpose and a misunderstanding arises due to unawareness of each other’s culture. It is true that the difference in the cultural background of the parties communicating can be a hindrance to communication. Thus, an organization should educate its staff on the cultural expectations on a new area in which they want to enter (Pieper, 1990).
Exercising tolerance of other cultures
In a cross-cultural communication set up, it is paramount for the parties being tolerant to each other. This is critical to enhance effective communication. This is important because some practices may be offensive to another. This is especially in the case where the subject matter may appear normal in one culture and not in the other. Therefore, cultural relativism is highly encouraged. For instance, the slowness of working or grasping of things should be tolerated if the trainee comes from a culture that embraces the sluggish way of doing things. This way, the trainee will feel appreciated within the organization (Carbaugh, 1990).
Seeking assistance where necessary
This is important since it will help one to know more about the new culture thus avoiding unnecessary conflicts. It is important to seek the services of a translator if need be. It will save time and the strain of getting to understand each other. When assistance is sought, it can help to clarify a simple matter and thus avoid unnecessary conflicts (Carbaugh, 1990).
When communicating with a party from a different cultural set up, use simple terms and words. Avoid complex phrases that may make the other party more confused. This will help make communication effective. It should be noted that people from different cultures do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the new language. Therefore, using complex terminologies will easily lead to miscommunication between the parties from two different cultural settings.
Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s culture is better that another one’s culture. This makes the one who feels dominant to look down upon the other whom he or she perceives to be inferior. This can be a great hindrance to inter-cultural communication. In this case, one party may not pay close attention to the other from a different culture. However, appreciating other people’s culture is critical in understanding one another. Therefore, if ethnocentricism is avoided, it may lead to improved inter-cultural communication (Dima, 1990).
Inter-cultural communication has emerged as a crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked in the current setting of any organization and even governments. Inter-cultural communication concerns itself with communication between one cultural set up and another. It has developed as a result of issues like globalization and inter-cultural trading, change of workplace, and studying in a different cultural setup among other reasons as discussed in this report. Several theories have come up with various arguments that try to explain the origin and how inter cultural communication has evolved. Such include the cross-cultural adaptation theory, coordinated management of meaning theory, inter-cultural communication competence theory and Language socialization theory. Inter-cultural communication entails both verbal and non-verbal communication means across the different cultural set ups. There are a number of challenges that come as a result of intercultural communication barriers as illustrated from the critical incident given in the report. Such challenges can be overcome by putting in consideration a number of factors like development of a positive attitude towards new cultural behaviors.
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