The content of this essay will aim
to portray to the reader the different issues that can arise during
inter-cultural communication, focusing mainly on the limitations of
inter-cultural communication, specifically in the workplace, and how it is
vitally important to overcome these. For example, according to the American
Psychological Association (2010), in today’s globalised world there are lots of
multicultural interaction and international contact, therefore, effective inter-cultural
communication is increasingly a prerequisite for social harmony and organisational
success (Matsumoto, 2013). This essay will also touch upon how inter-cultural
communication has affected myself personally to try and help engage the reader
with an example of a first-hand experience of how to overcome problems which
may arise from inter-cultural communication.

Firstly, to gain a better
understanding of the topic it is vital to have some knowledge of what communication
itself means, however, definitions of communication can sometimes be ambiguous
and broad. Susan M. Heathfield (2017) describes communication as “sharing
information between two or more individuals, the act of conveying information”.
Although this definition is accurate, it does not take into account the
difficulties of inter-cultural barriers like languages, gestures and body
language. This may affect how communication is interpreted between people not
just in the workplace, but in everyday life. Similar to the word communication,
the word ‘culture’ can also be described as being ambiguous and broad and has
been described by R. Williams as “one of the two or three most complicated
words in the English dictionary” (Pillar, 2011). Cultural differences can come
in many different aspects and can include things like a person’s race,
nationality, religious beliefs, gender, location, age and sexuality. (Scollon,
2012). Overall, everybody’s communication skills are the same regardless of
culture, but the main limitation is that their application will differ (Pillar,
2017). This explains why it is key to conduct research on the country’s culture
that you are travelling to, especially if it is a work related trip to ensure
that a positive first impression is made.

Effective inter-cultural
communication is a mandatory skill for anyone working across many countries,
and also crucial for anyone working with people from other cultures around the
world to avoid misunderstandings and to avoid causing any sort of offence.
Therefore, successful inter-cultural communication is becoming more necessary
in the workplace and our need to understand cultural differences in more detail
becomes essential (Piepenburg, 2011). In 1980, Geert Hofstede specifically examined the role of
national culture in work-related values and information system design using
sociological theories from previous years. From this he designed a theory which
gains proportional importance as he proposed four cultural dimensions on which
the differences among national cultures can be understood (Harvey, 1997). The
first dimension is uncertainty avoidance which deals with the fact that the
future is unknown and that future possibilities can be defended against or
accepted. This can lead to ambiguity however, different cultures have developed
ways to deal with this by generally having stricter rules and regulations to
stay clear of insecurity. Additionally, power distance can be described as the
degree of inequality of power between a person at a higher level and a person
at a lower level which can be applied to a business situation. This dimension
backs up the point that all individuals in societies are not equal and expresses
the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities among us. The third
dimension, individualism versus collectivism, outlines the relative importance
of individual goals compared with group or collective goals. In some cultures
individuals are regularly self-sustaining and independent of others. The final
dimension is masculinity versus femininity which varies in different societies.
Masculinity indicates that a culture or society is driven by competition,
achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner or the best.
On the other hand, femininity indicates that the dominant values in a culture are
caring for others and the quality of life (Borker, 2013). Hofstede stresses
that the cultural dimensions are only a framework to help assess a given
culture, therefore in order to fully understand a certain culture, it would be
recommended to study Hofstede’s theory of dimensions in more detail.

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Communication is far from simple or
straightforward as language is always inherently, and necessarily, ambiguous (Scollon,
2012). During inter-cultural communication language is often regarded as a
constraining element and is interpreted by some as an obstacle in the approach
to learning about different cultures. However, it is arguable that language
skills play the most crucial role in intercultural communication, they are in
no way the only requirement, as one needs to have a clear understanding that
different cultures may have completely different patterns and norms to their
own. Therefore, good intercultural communication skills requires a willingness
to accept the differences and to adapt appropriately and respectfully to them. In
modern times coming into direct contact with people from other cultures in the
workplace is an inescapable part of life. Each inter-cultural contact can bring
about low levels of stress and anxiety due to attributes such as an unfamiliar
accent, an unusual way of doing things and other ways of non-verbal expressions
(Ting-Toomey, 2012). It is human instinct to prefer to spend time with people
who are similar to us and who share the same interests, however, it is through
facing up to our discomforts that we learn to grow in stature which is a key
component to being successful in the workplace when working with people from
different cultures. As humans in this situation we learn more from people who
are different from us than those who are similar, because if we practice the
same routines it will lead to the same predictable outcomes. This is one of the
main issues of avoiding cross cultural communication, as it will in turn possibly
damage ones innovation skills as they are not generating new ideas from meeting
new people and in turn are not picking up new concepts of how to do things. 


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