Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication (or cross-cultural communication) is a discipline that studies communication across different cultures and social groups, or how culture affects communication. It describes the wide range of communication processes and problems that naturally appear within an organization or social context made up of individuals from different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. In this sense it seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures act, communicate and perceive the world around them. Many people in intercultural business communication argue that culture determines how individuals encode messages, what medium they choose for transmitting them, and the way messages are interpreted.[1]
With regard to intercultural communication proper, it studies situations where people from different cultural backgrounds interact. Aside from language, intercultural communication focuses on social attributes, thought patterns, and the cultures of different groups of people. It also involves understanding the different cultures, languages and customs of people from other countries. Intercultural communication plays a role in social sciences such as anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology and communication studies. Intercultural communication is also referred to as the base for international businesses. There are several cross-cultural service providers around who can assist with the development of intercultural communication skills. Research is a major part of the development of intercultural communication skills.[2][3]

Identity and culture are also studied within the discipline of communication to analyze how globalization influences ways of thinking, beliefs, values, and identity, within and between cultural environments. Intercultural communication scholars approach theory with a dynamic outlook and do not believe culture can be measured nor that cultures share universal attributes. Scholars acknowledge that culture and communication shift along with societal changes and theories should consider the constant shifting and nuances of society.

The study of intercultural communication requires intercultural understanding, which is an ability to understand and value cultural differences. Language is an example of an important cultural component that is linked to intercultural understanding.[4] Intercultural communication is in a way the 'interaction with speakers of other languages on equal terms and respecting their identities'.[5]

Areas of Interest

Cross-cultural business communication

Cross-cultural business communication is very helpful in building cultural intelligence through coaching and training in cross-cultural communication management and facilitation, cross-cultural negotiation, multicultural conflict resolution, customer service, business and organizational communication. Cross-cultural understanding is not just for incoming expats. Cross-cultural understanding begins with those responsible for the project and reaches those delivering the service or content. The ability to communicate, negotiate and effectively work with people from other cultures is vital to international business.

Management

Important points to consider:

  • Develop cultural sensitivity
  • Anticipate the meaning the receiver will get.
  • Careful encoding
  • Use words, pictures, and gestures.
  • Avoid slang, idioms, regional sayings.
  • Selective transmission
  • Build relationships, face-to-face if possible.
  • Careful decoding of feedback
  • Get feedback from multiple parties.
  • Improve listening and observation skills.
  • Follow-up actions

Facilitation

There is a connection between a person's personality traits and the ability to adapt to the host-country's environment—including the ability to communicate within that environment.

Two key personality traits are openness and resilience. Openness includes traits such as tolerance for ambiguity, extrovertedness, and open-mindedness. Resilience includes having an internal locus of control, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, and resourcefulness.

These factors, combined with the person's cultural and racial identity and level of preparedness for change, comprise that person's potential for adaptation.

Cultural perceptions

There are common conceptualizations of attributes that define collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Operationalizing the perceptions of cultural identities works under the guise that cultures are static and homogeneous, when in fact cultures within nations are multi-ethnic and individuals show high variation in how cultural differences are internalized and expressed.[4]

Globalization

Globalization plays a central role in theorizing for mass communication, media, and cultural communication studies.[6] Intercultural communication scholars emphasize that globalization emerged from the increasing diversity of cultures throughout the world and thrives with the removal of cultural barriers.[4] The notion of nationality, or the construction of national space, is understood to emerge dialectically through communication and globalization.

The Intercultural Praxis Model by Kathryn Sorrells, PH.D shows us how to navigate through the complexities of cultural differences along with power differences. This model will help you understand who you are as an individual, and how you can better communicate with others that may be different from you. In order to continue in living in globalized society one can use this Praxis model to understand cultural differences (based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc.) within the institutional and historical systems of power. Intercultural Communication Praxis Model requires for us to respond to someone who comes from a different culture than us, in the most opening way we can. The media may always want to influence what we think of other cultures and also what we should think about our own selves. However it is important, we educate ourselves, and learn how to communicate with others through Sorrells Praxis Model.[1]