Developing Intercultural Communication Efficiency
Spokes of Hope Worldwide wishes that all employees should have the ability to communicate with workers from different cultures effectively. Communication is important to our organization as it will improve our relations and ability to conduct business with other corporations. On the other hand, culture plays a big role in determining how we see the world around us. Understanding cultural competence will enable our company to be more innovative in our interactions and communications with individuals from various backgrounds. As a result, we will learn new ways to handle issues around us.
What is Culture?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.), culture is collection of the ways of life that define a particular group of people or society. It is also a mode of perceiving or transacting things in a particular organization.
What is Cultural Competence?
Cultural competence refers to a combination of harmonious mannerisms that make intercultural relationships to thrive (NCCC, n.d.). It is also the constant awareness by an individual about one’s cultural identity and being able to build on and learning from communal diversity. Additionally, cultural competence is the ability to create realistic perceptions about the various beliefs of people around someone, for instance, family members and friends.
A culturally competent person is the one who can identify and acknowledge all the variations that make everyone unique in a society and at the same time be able to celebrate the differences between groups that make-up a unified community. Besides, such a person is not ethnocentric, as he or she is capable of comprehending people’s dissimilarities based on their communication and behaviors (Dumbravă, 2010). As a result, it is easy for a culturally competent person to respect people’s different opinions and means of communication.
There are always difficulties experienced whenever individuals from distinct cultural backgrounds try to communicate with one another. Often, cultures socialize people differently, thus making them to distinguish the world uniquely through what they experience. When people use different languages or words with a similar implication; for instance in English words can have an opposite or diverse meaning. Indeed, when the need for translation of both lexicon and gesticulation language occurs we create an increased risk of the intended meaning being misconstrued (Gore, 2013). Therefore, it is critical to use linguistic experts whenever there is a necessity for rendition.
Individuals from different cultures and backgrounds may also experience constraints that might hinder their ability to communicate effectively. Cognitive constraints are idiosyncratic problems that prevent a person from being able to decode messages purely because various cultures practice norms and values different from one another (Lingebērziņš, 2011). Essentially, what people learn from their cultures influences the kind of attitude they develop of the world around them, including how they understand other cultural systems. Hence, this is proof that our thoughts are shaped by factors within the cultural environment that we are raised in.
As already discussed, we all have practices within our communities that determine our conduct, dictate what behavior is good or bad, and what is acceptable or unacceptable. Similarly, many sociological factors also shape our verbal and nonverbal communication with others differently. How we react emotionally can either hinder or promote the way we communicate with other individuals. Apparently, various communities have unique ways of expressing their emotions when faced with certain situations. Cultural relativism enables individuals to shed their ethnocentric feelings about others or particular events so that they can become compatible. For a person to achieve this trait, it is imperative to learn all the behavioral patterns that exist within other cultures because there is no society that has perfect knowledge about everything (Zechenter, 1997). Hence, it is prudent to be open-minded at all times.
Comparison studies have already proven that Asian interactions value social harmony over individual gain. Conversely, U.S. and Western European relations tend to place self-fulfillment in front of social harmony. For instance, U.S. nationals have a high probability of expressing their negative emotions such as anger, happiness, or disgust when both alone and in the presence of others, while the Japanese people only do so in isolation (Matsumoto, 2006). Empirical experiments also indicate that societies that promote togetherness and harmony let people suppress their emotions for lengthy periods as they think of the best alternative to execute.
Verbal and Nonverbal Communications
Globalization has in the 21st century brought various communities together. Therefore, knowing how to communicate properly in a multicultural environment is imperative. In fact, it is important to include both verbal and nonverbal language when communicating to people belonging to distinct backgrounds. Nonverbal communication is a mode of interaction that does not involve the use of sound. Instead, it consists of gestures, body language, and any other form of communication that does not entail an exchange of words (Özüorçun, 2013). Understanding various types of nonverbal communication is essential as one may be misunderstood for using specific gestures. Contrary to popular perceptions, these forms of communication are important components of how people communicate with one another, and they are almost as effective as verbal communication.
However, disparities in their efficacy can be seen amongst various cultures. Gestures such as hand waving, arm stretching, touch, and eye contact are a few examples of nonverbal methods that vary in significance across different societies (Özüorçun, 2013). For example, in the U.S. we use our finger or our hands to refer to many things. We may mean “it’s over there”, or sometimes we are indicating for someone to come to us. This gesture can be viewed as offensive amongst other cultures such as Japan. Similarly, we usually think nothing is abnormal about pointing with one finger, yet Asians find it to be rude and offensive. Also, in India when a person nods their head it means no, but in other cultures a nod of the head shows agreement.
The nature of verbal communication also varies from one culture to another. Notably, the U.S. society widely expects individuals to be straightforward and honest in their conversation; yet Africans believe that being straightforward is a show of being rude (Bennett, 1998). Moreover, Americans actively seek for promotion while most Africans prefer someone to notice them and suggest the promotion. The last thing we need to pay attention to is the pronunciation of words in our vocabulary. Hong (2012) postulated that for individuals to learn and appreciate different cultural cues, they have to avoid ethnocentric or stereotypic perceptions and be willing learn from others. Rather than pay attention to dramatic variations in spoken language, people should be more concerned with the content of conversations because differently spoken words can lead to misunderstandings.
(Source: themodernman.com, 2016)
How do we respond to nonverbal communications?
Emotional awareness or emotional intelligence allows people to recognize the emotions of others while also teaching them how to decode the meaning of nonverbal cues used during communication (Jorfi, Jorfi, Fauzy, Yaccob, & Nor, 2014). Likewise, to adequately respond to the unspoken cues, we need to be aware of our emotions and how they influence our interactions and perceptions of others.
In brief, emotional awareness enables a person to:
- Read the unspoken messages of other individuals while communicating.
- Create trust by matching nonverbal cues with the words being used
- Respond in a way that allows others to see he or she understands and cares that they are listening.
- Know if a relationship is working or if it is not.
Why is this important for us?
Cultural universal is an important feature of culture and its diversity. It holds that there is something common to humans and their cultures around the world (Boundless.com n.d.). Some of the most notable universals are myths, legends, rules, and daily routines among many others (Brown, 2004). Definitely, our culture resembles the customs and concepts of life we practice every day. Therefore, it shares the knowledge of methods people use in interacting with others in the world. As an example, culture makes it possible for us to recognize our available resources, practice best methods for our business and to strategize on how to use this information.
Culture also allows us to understand things and determine our knowledge in particular areas. Our ability to understand what we can and cannot do is important as it will help us to interrelate and learn from each other. The interactions are essential for personal and business growth. Moreover, culture helps an individual to understand and determine what he or she would like to be.
Three Examples of Cultural Differences that are Real in the World Today
(Source: buzzle.com, 2016)
When we think of McDonald’s, we assume that the restaurant is everywhere around the world. Everybody loves cheeseburgers, right? However, because of the cultural beliefs in India, there are no beef burgers on the menu there. On the contrary, one could order the Maharaja Mac made with chicken patties or the Veg Maharaja Mac that comprises of corn and cheese. Cows are considered sacred in India and are a forbidden meal.
(Source: businessinsider.com, 2016)
The U.S, Iran, Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia are all countries whose cultures accept a head nod as a gesture of agreement or approval. It is also common to nod back in mutual agreement. However, if you are traveling in Greece or Bulgaria, a head nod would be an indication of something negative. As a business, it is imperative to know the cultural differences when reaching out to different markets for new customers.
Retrieved from: https://sielearning.tafensw.edu.au/MCS/HLTHIR403B/12054/hlthir403b/lo/11980/graphics/4181_f01.JPG
One of the things we commonly do in the U.S is to touch people’s hair, clothing, or bodies as a means of are complimenting them. Interestingly, in many cultures, it is not okay to touch somebody without consent. A case in point is the Black women who feel that the touching of their hair is a microaggression that comes from the days of slavery. Given the history of slavery, most of them prefer that their hair is not touched as it is an invasion of their freedom.
Spokes of Hope Worldwide is geared towards achieving cultural competence in individuals so that we can accomplish the ability to develop and maintain cross-cultural skills. According to Gore (2013), intercultural skills create positive impacts on people’s lives because they make them capable of interacting with others. Consequently, this equips them with better perspectives to make rational decisions about problematic situations. Similarly, Spokes will achieve good working and personal relationships amongst persons of diverse cultures by being appreciative of their various cultural practices. By becoming familiar with different cultures, our company will successfully transform itself into being a culturally competent entity devoid of cultural biases. As a result, most of our interactions with people from diverse backgrounds will be achieved without creating fictional presumptions. Finally, the acquired intercultural relational skills and tools will enable Spokes to understand different people and help us to make the world a better place for everyone.
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