Intercultural communication is a form of communication that is intended to share information across different cultures and social groups. These groups can be made up of individuals from different social, ethnic, educational, and religious backgrounds. The world is a very large place, and the people inhabiting it are often separated by thousands of miles of land or ocean; this creates exceptionally different cultures and personalities of people who inhabit these countries. Communicating with each other and sharing ideas is needed to broaden our own perception of the world and experience different ways of doing things. With today’s technology, communication with someone from a different country can happen quickly. This enables businesses to talk and work on projects with people from overseas. This also allows friends and family to stay in contact with each other even if they are on the opposite side of the world.
Intercultural communication is essential in today’s workplace for several reasons. America has people from all over the world living here and working with one another. Because of this, employees must know how to work with different cultures. Knowing what holidays different religions have, the clothing preferences of different races, and the many languages that are used in the world can create a successful working environment. Outsourcing is also a common occurrence in today’s workplace. Hiring individuals from another country to work for you can be a beneficial and cost-effective way of getting work done. However, one must have good intercultural communication skills to be able to work with someone like that. It is effortless to offend somebody who is from another country if you don’t know enough about their ways.
Cultural differences impact both verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication is where spoken or written words are used whereas nonverbal communication includes things like hand gestures, body language, and accents. When dealing with a foreigner, even something as simple as the wrong handshake can get you into trouble. A lot of Muslims, for example, don’t shake with certain hands. In Asian cultures, personal space is more important, and a bow is used instead of a handshake. To avoid all of these potential disasters, an individual needs to be adequately educated in the ways of the person from a different country or culture.
Intercultural communication is something I dealt with on a daily basis in the United States Air Force. Having been in Germany, England, and South Korea, I was exposed to many different kinds of people. When you first meet someone from a foreign land, it is a good idea to just be quiet and let them lead the conversation. Most understand that you will have poor intercultural communication skills with them and they are okay with that. However, if you assume you know more than you do and make the wrong hand gesture or say something that offends them, they are less likely to be friendly and forgiving. A simple Google search of a specific race, culture, or religion can do wonders in increasing your intercultural communication skills. As I previously stated in the last paper about stereotypes, it is not recommended to just make an assumption on the way somebody dresses or acts and categorize them in a specific religion or race. Instead, it is recommended you get to know them first. Assuming someone is a particular religion and then treating them as such when they actually follow a different faith can have devastating consequences. This happens more frequently with race as the color of one’s skin can make somebody assume they are a specific race. Don’t be foolish. Instead of assuming and stereotyping, have a conversation with an individual from a different culture and learn more about how to act around them. Interpersonal communication is an important tool needed to achieve any goal in life, and due to technology, this giant world of ours just keeps getting smaller, thus turning intercultural communication into a must-have skill.
LeBaron, Michelle. “Cross-Cultural Communication.” Beyond Intractability. Eds. Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess. Conflict Information Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder. Posted: July 2003 <http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/cross-cultural-communication>.
Categories: Group Theory