Introduction to Cross-Cultural Communication
Communication is the bond not only between people but cultures, communities, and mentalities. The key challenge is how to achieve the successful communication between the diverse cultures. Consequently, one can suppose communication a product of culture or bridge between them. As to cross-cultural communication, it is a way of finding understanding with the culturally diverse people. There is no a unique approach to treating and explanation of barriers to cross-cultural communication. As a result, many theories regard intercultural communication that will be analyzed furthermore. The peculiarity of cross-cultural communication is not only to establish the contact between cultures but avoid barriers and challenges between them.
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Cross-cultural communication is strategically important because of the growth of the Internet, technology, and global business. Cross-cultural communication presupposes an understanding how diverse people can perceive the world around, communicate, and speak. Moreover, such communication studies power distance, non-verbal differences, low-context and high-context cultures, and language differences as the factors that influence communication between the diverse people. This type of communication is becoming more and more important due to the increase in the process of globalization and establishing international relations. It means that it is a must for people with the different languages and cultures to find the common understanding. One should say that cross-cultural communication is the most crucial in business while negotiating or making the decisions. It is evident that the cultural context is an important determinant here. As a result, it is a must to know the peculiarities of cross-cultural communication to run the business successfully.
To understand cross-cultural communication characteristics, one should determine its most effective theories. Consequently, this paper analyzes the crucial theories of cross-cultural communication, barriers that prevent this interaction, the ways of overcoming these barriers, and the implications of cross-cultural communication in international business.
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Theory 1: Hall’s Cross-Cultural Communication Theory
Edward Hall introduced his cross-cultural communication theory in 1976. The lack of intercultural communication was a driving force of creation of Hall’s cross-cultural communication theory. Edward Hall analyzed this type of communication according to information, space, time, and context. This theory determines two main types of culture: high context culture and low context culture. Both kinds of cultures are influential for business and its operations. Cross-cultural communication referring to high-context culture regards attitudes, beliefs, nationality, and religious values as the most crucial ones (Congden et al., 2009).
Arab countries and Japanese styles of communication relate to high-context culture. In high-context cultures, there are many implicit messages, and the use of metaphors is very frequent. The discussion of high-context cultures is based on the personal acceptance of failure and inner locus of control. High-context culture prefers much non-verbal communication (De-hua & Hui, 2007). The representatives of high-context cultures have inward and backward reactions. Moreover, high-context cultures have a strong sense of family and distinction of ingroup and outgroup. It is evident that high-context cultures have strong people bonds related to the community and family commitment. For people of high-context cultures, long-term relationships are the most important. Consequently, they do not pay attention to tasks.
Low context culture regards communication as a formal written record what can be seen in the United States and the United Kingdom. In low-context cultures, the messages are clear, explicit, simple, and overt. The communication of low-context cultures presupposes the blame others for failure and outer locus of control. Low-context cultures prefer verbal communication to non-verbal one. The representatives of low-context cultures have outward, external, and visible reactions. Additionally low-context cultures have very changing cohesion and open and flexible grouping that benefit negotiations. Moreover, low-context cultures have fragile bonds between people with a sense of loyalty. It means that such people are sensitive, and one should be very attentive negotiating with them.
Theory 2: Hofstede’s Cross-Cultural Communication Theory
Geert Hofstede introduced his cross-cultural communication theory. According to it, culture is based on the following dimension: power distance (small and large), uncertainty avoidance (strong and weak), individualism vs. collectivism, and masculinity vs. femininity. As to power distance, one should say that large power distance is typical for those who admit the power of companies or organizations. Moreover, it is distributed unequally. Small power distance is distributed fairly. The dimension of power distance expresses and analyzes the intensity degree when less powerful members of society are treated unequally. The most crucial issue is how to handle inequalities among people. Persons with low power distance strive for the equal distribution of authority (Congden et al., 2009).
The degree of uncertainty avoidance depends on the way how people of the diverse cultures feel comfortable or not comfortable in particular situations. Individuals with high uncertainty avoidance can become conformists and do not admit their opinions and beliefs. Persons with low uncertainty avoidance need autonomy and tolerance, but they are tolerant towards other people (De-hua & Hui, 2007).
Individualism is typical for the UK and American cultures. It presupposes the preference for a loosely-knit social model. As to collectivism, it includes a preference for a tightly-knit social model. Individualism presupposes only taking care of them. Collectivism is based on loyalty. Individualists rely upon themselves using “I” pronoun. Collectivists use “We” pronoun.
The aspect of femininity and masculinity are not less important when it comes to analysis of the cultural context. Masculinity refers to material success, forcefulness, fierceness heroism, and fulfillment. As of femininity, it refers to caring for weak people and the quality of life, relationships, and modesty. The masculine society is a competitive place. At the same time, males gain more preferences. The feminine society is more consensus-oriented than the masculine one. Consequently, male society is tough, and female society is tender.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Cross-Cultural Communication Theories
It is evident that Hall’s and Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theories are valuable for the explanation of intercultural issues. Consequently, both of them deserve attention. However, both theories have their advantages and disadvantages.
The benefits of Hall’s cross-cultural communication relate to the division of cultures taking into consideration relationships with people, a flexibility of time, expression of reaction, people bonds, and use of verbal and non-verbal communication. Such variety of factors proves that this theory is complex in its structure and gives a full imagination about cultural context. The disadvantages of this theory relate to the accusation of generalizing and stereotyping. Moreover, this theory does not regard people as individuals. According to Hall’s cross-cultural communication theory, one person is a culture. However, people are different. Consequently, one should not regard laziness and disrespectfulness of people as the outcomes of culture. It is wrong to refer personal human traits to cultural peculiarities (Lillis & Tian, 2010).
The advantages of Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theory relate to the dimensions that reveal the peculiarities of cultural context. One should say that it is an extensive analysis of people via their contact with other cultures. Another advantage of this theory is that it distinguishes clearly one culture from another. However, this approach also has its disadvantages that relate to stereotyping. For example, the division of culture in masculine and feminine creates the gender stereotypes and unequal treatment of females during the negotiations. Moreover, all these dimensions are relative as one can not characterize the culture only according these criteria.
Consequently, explaining or analyzing cultural peculiarities one should apply Hall’s and Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theory in the complex to have an adequate picture of the situation. Moreover, one should avoid stereotyping as it is a negative phenomenon for intercultural communication.
The Barriers to Effective Cross-Cultural Communication
Without a doubt, there are the barriers that prevent the efficacy of cross-cultural communication. First, one can refer stereotyping to the factor that is the barrier to the effective communication between people of the diverse cultures. Most stereotypes are offensive and hostile. Therefore, they may lead to the conflicts and misunderstanding. Ethnocentrism is another barrier that is related to supposing of values and beliefs of one culture superior to those that exist in another culture. Only tolerance and respect will help to overcome this barrier. Emotional, cognitive, and behavioral constraints can also form effective cross-cultural communication. It is evident that representatives of any culture should be in harmony with feelings and attitudes (Lillis & Tian, 2010).
Language differences refer to barriers of cross-cultural communication. Consequently, while negotiating, it is better to have a qualified translator to achieve the common agreement. One should not try to communicate oneself if one’s knowledge of the language is not perfect. The behavior difference is another barrier to effective cross-cultural communication that leads to misunderstanding. For example, looking in someone’s eyes is supposed to be normal in ones’ cultures but rude in other ones. Consequently, one should study the cultural peculiarities of behavior to avoid the confusing situations. The emotional display also is a challenge for cross-cultural communication. The control of feelings and emotions is a must when it comes to the interaction of people of the diverse cultures. For example, in some cultures displaying frustration fear and anger are inappropriate in a business setting. However, there are cultures that regard hiding of feelings as the desire to hide something (Okoro, 2013).
As a result, knowledge of barriers and challenges to cross-cultural communication is a way of its overcoming. It is a must to know the similarities and differences between cultures to make them driving forces of negotiation or decision-making. Moreover, it is crucial to understand the peculiarities of verbal and non-verbal communication (He & Liu, 2010).
How to Overcome Cross-Cultural Barriers
One should not regard cross-cultural barriers as something that cannot be overcome. There are many ways of coping with these challenges. First, learning about other cultures’ norms, rules, and language is a must to deal with the emerged issues in a proper way. Second, it is crucial to have the activities to show how language and tolerance to it are valuable. When it comes to cross-cultural barriers in the work environment, one should teach the employees with techniques and tips for communicating effectively. People should be conscious of mediating conflicts related to cultural misunderstandings (Lillis & Tian, 2010).
Another way of overcoming cross-cultural barriers is to learn about the communication and relationship peculiarities of other culture representatives. It is a good chance to create a positive impression and maintain good relationships. The ability to negotiate is another solution to the cross-cultural barriers. Negotiation will help to know more about the opponents or competitors of another culture. Another way of dealing cross-cultural communication is meeting etiquette. This solution will contribute to respect and politeness and reveal the high level of high culture. Moreover, one should learn more about the peculiarities of verbal and non-verbal communication as they vary from culture to culture.
To overcome cross-cultural barriers, one should avoid generalizing and stereotyping. Both processes are offensive and impolite. Moreover, one should not refer personal traits of character to the cultural peculiarities as it is related to abstractions ad generalizations. Additionally, it is obligatory to determine cultural empathy realistically. People confuse cultural empathy with identification, agreement, and sympathy. There should not be an extreme individualism and collectivism as they create many challenges. As a result, all cross-cultural barriers can be overcome. One should only to have the special techniques and tips to cope with them and be culturally conscious, sensitive, and knowledgeable.
The Barriers of Global Companies
The cross-cultural communication barriers are typical mostly for the global companies as they operate worldwide. The first obstacle relates to the employment and communication with the diverse employees (Okoro, 2013). For example, McDonald’s prefer work of people from other countries. Consequently, it avoids diversity issues to reinforce its positive image and respectful reputation in the world. It means that that McDonald’s does not have issues with the unequal treatment of employees with the diverse cultures, genders, and ethnicities. Another barrier relates to the relationships of the company with other cultures (He & Liu, 2010). As McDonald’s operates in many countries, it is a must for it to know culture’s language, values, and beliefs to run the business efficiently.
Language is a key barrier the global company faces. As a result, McDonald’s employees should know at least one foreign language as it is a way to new contracts, agreements, and negotiations with new partners. Not without reason, McDonald’s employs the diverse people as they are the driving forces of the establishing international relations. Moreover, being a global company McDonald’s implements international marketing and management to be sensitive to any cultural peculiarities in business. Management style within this organization also relates globalization and modernization. It is evident that the company competes across borders as it deals not only with the domestic competitors but with the global ones. Consequently, McDonald’s incorporates cross-cultural communication within the organization to make the employees more competent and culturally sensitive. One should say that intercultural barriers can become the challenges. However, the current state of the global economy and business makes these obstacles the driving forces for the development and growth. Cross-cultural communication has become critical especially when it comes to the financial success of the company. As a result, inadequate cross-cultural communication can cause the problem with market share, revenues, and profits (Lillis & Tian, 2010).
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The Implications of the Insights for Cross-Cultural Communicationin International Business
It is evident that international business has achieved the perfection in cross-cultural communication as there are many implications for further studying and implementation in practice. The rapid economic development and globalization of business demand the incorporation of intercultural communication in all areas. One should mention that cross-cultural communication remains the challenge for the business. The insights into cross-cultural communication will be related to further internalization and globalization of businesses becoming more practical. The increase of trade operations in international business demands involvement the specialists in culture and employment of more diverse employees (Okoro, 2013).
Moreover, intercultural communication should be analyzed not only with the help of Hall’s cross-cultural communication theory and Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theory. One needs such communication theory that will avoid generalization and stereotyping as these processes can reinforce intercultural challenges and issues related to inequality and discrimination. It is evident that cross-cultural communication implies self-control and self-confidence in the international experience. Moreover, it is a way of avoiding the military conflicts as this type of communication presupposes awareness and respect of another culture, as well as self-awareness of own culture and identity. Cross-cultural communication has deeper implication than one used to think as it can solve the variety of conflicts (economic, political, and military) (Okoro, 2013).
In conclusion, one should say that Hall’s and Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theories are the best ones for the explanation of strengths, weaknesses, and barriers to intercultural communication in business. According to Hall’s cross-cultural communication theory, this type of communication should be analyzed according to information, space, time, and context. This theory defines two main types of culture: high-context culture and low-context culture. According to Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theory, culture is based on the following dimension: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism vs. collectivism, and masculinity vs. femininity.
The advantages of Hall’s cross-cultural communication are the following: the division of cultures taking into consideration relationships with people, flexibility of time, expression of reaction, people bonds, and use of verbal and non-verbal communication. The disadvantages of this theory relate to the accusation of generalizing and stereotyping. The advantages of Hofstede’s cross-cultural communication theory are the following: the dimensions that reveal the peculiarities of cultural context, determination of on culture from another. The disadvantages of this theory relate to stereotyping.
The key barriers to cross-cultural communication are next: the employment and communication with the diverse employees, the relationships of the company with other cultures, language, and lack of necessary knowledge and skills. One recommends such ways of overcoming cross-cultural challenges:
- (1) learning about other cultures’ norms, rules, and language,
- (2) showing respect and tolerance,
- (3) teaching the employees with techniques and tips for communicating effectively,
- (4) negotiation,
- (5) meeting etiquette.
The cross-cultural communication barriers are the employment and communication, language, management style, and global economy. Cross-cultural communication has deeper implications related to conflict solutions, the globalization of business, and achieving the global status.