Effective Cross Cultural Communication Skills creating Peace, Love and Understanding right around the world
My goal here is to transform and improve 1,000,000 cross cultural relationships right around the world. Whether they be in the home or in the workplace or in the school playground.
What is Culture? Culture is about human expression. It involves the behaviour, beliefs and practices of individuals and their communities. Culture takes many forms and can be expressed in many different ways such as art, music, sport, entertainment, religion, ceremonies, and of course through our verbal and non-verbal communication.
Cross Cultural communication requires some understanding of every Culture in the world and if you don’t have an understanding of the different cultures than how do you communicate to someone who understands and relates to the world differently to you. This is what I am getting to, so keep reading please.
The main and most prominent key to effective cross-cultural communication is knowledge. It is absolutely essential that people understand the potential problems of cross-cultural communication, and make a huge conscious effort to overcome these problems. It is also very important to know that your efforts will not always be successful, and to be prepared to adjust your behaviour accordingly.
A lot of people always assume that there is a significant possibility that cultural differences are the cause of communication problems. And to some extent they are correct. 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.
Please, you need to remember, that even in your own culture, the verbal and non-verbal communications have different meanings to different people. And just like in your own culture there are miss-understandings happening all the time, and just over simple things where both of you speak the same language. So it is fairly safe to assume that there are going to be miss-understandings in cross-cultural communications as well due to verbal and non-verbal communication having different meanings to different people.
Always 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 miss-understood what they said, or they have miss-understood me? Often misinterpretation or miss-understanding is the source of the problem.
Reflective Listening is one of the key ingredients in cross-cultural communication. Reflective Listening is used a lot to check out the meaning of what someone says – by repeating back what you think you have heard. You are then able to confirm that you understand what has been said accurately. This is so helpful as many times words and even gestures are used differently between languages or cultural groups.
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 “behaviour constraints.” Each culture has its own rules about proper behaviour 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.
Often a mediator or intermediary who is familiar with both cultures can be helpful in cross-cultural communication situations, and diffuse any conflicts before they arise. They can translate both the substance and the manner of what is being 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.
In these cases, 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 process.