Important Components of Cross-Cultural Communication

Topics: Nonverbal communication, Communication, Culture Pages: 5 (1298 words) Published: February 23, 2011
Cross cultural understanding simply refers to the basic ability of people within business to recognize, interpret and correctly react to people, incidences or situations that are open to misunderstanding due to cultural differences. Cross cultural awareness develops from cross cultural knowledge as the learner understands and appreciates a culture internally. This may also be accompanied by changes within the learner's behavior and attitudes such as a greater flexibility and openness. However, cross cultural understanding is based on the basis of comprehending the communication process of the specific culture. The important components of cross cultural communication are verbal, non-verbal and para-language.

1. Verbal Communications
2. Non-Verbal Communications
Eye contact
Facial Expressions
Timing in spoken exchange
Language of space
3. Paralanguage
Vocal qualifiers

Verbal Communication

Spoken language or words enable people to communicate with each other and this structures the way we perceive the world. It is one of the most important characteristics defining culture. Every country has a different language and, in order to develop clear and better understanding of a culture one needs to learn the language of that country. Learning the language of a country yields considerable advantages and not knowing the local language can make major blunders through improper translation. It is necessary to learn the language regardless of the fact that English is the official language and everybody would communicate in English. Whatever country's national language is, one should be familiar with the national language and body language in order to be a part of the group and not to feel left out when others are communicating in their local language.

Non-Verbal Communication

Cross-cultural communication can be difficult in some countries because what is acceptable in one culture may be unacceptable in another. When people are immersed in an environment where facial expressions such as eye contact and body gestures are alien to their own experience, they may suffer from disorientation and frustration. Therefore, it is significant to learn the body language of different cultures. Nonverbal communication is hugely important in any interaction with others; its importance is multiplied across cultures. This is because we tend to look for nonverbal cues when verbal messages are unclear or ambiguous, as they are more likely to be across cultures (especially when different languages are being used). Since nonverbal behavior arises from our cultural common sense -- our ideas about what is appropriate, normal, and effective as communication in relationships -- we use different systems of understanding gestures, posture, silence, spacial relations, emotional expression, touch, physical appearance, and other nonverbal cues. Cultures also attribute different degrees of importance to verbal and nonverbal behavior.

Facial expression is the most important source of nonverbal communication in all cultures. However, sometimes it can be hard to interpret the meaning through facial cues. Since there are many facial expressions, such as those for happiness, sadness, fear, and anger, it may be hard to distinguish which expression the person is trying to convey. According to Carey’s report, “facial expressions are the most obvious ones that can be very misleading, because most people are pretty good at covering a lie”.

Eye contact is a crucial aspect of communication, and it is a valuable source of information in many cultures. Levin and Adelman state, “in conversation too little eye contact may be seen negatively because it conveys lack of interest, inattention, or even mistrust”. For instance, in the United States, eye contact is a basic and expected form of nonverbal communication as is a firm handshake. In France, people do not toast without eye contact because...
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