Intercultural Communication

Increased and improved communication in today’s internet age has led to intercultural communication. People talk and communicate across states, cultures, and / or religion. While technology has made communication faster and easier, it is important that intercultural communication is handled with a lot of sensitivity.

What can possibly go wrong ?

People encode and decode or interpret messages basis their values, beliefs, culture, and assumptions. This could lead to greater misunderstanding.

How to improve Intercultural Communication ?

  • While conversing / communicating with an audience that is not of a similar culture, one must thoroughly research about the culture of the other party. This will reduce the chances of making sensitive remarks and hence can avoid confusion.

  • Slangs and idioms should be avoided. Choose specific and relevant words.

  • Be an attentive listener. Check for understanding. Ask questions if there is a doubt.

  • Understand the importance of intonation while communicating. Stress on a specific word can change the entire meaning of a sentence. For e.g.: I never said HE stole the money lays stress on “HE” while “I never said he STOLE the money” lays stress on “STOLE” and hence it focuses on how was the money taken [not by stealing but by any other means].

  • Check your body language / gestures. Some countries might find a particular gesture as offensive as compared to other countries / cultures. Level of eye contact, distance between two people while making a formal vs. Informal communication are such examples of situations one must study about before starting an intercultural communication.

    In China while exchanging visiting card, one must accept it with both hands and have a good look at the card. One should not keep it in his / her pocket immediately. Also, if you are visiting China and are having a meal with a Chinese host, make sure you leave some food in the plate. It implies that you are full and can’t have more. If you eat all ingredients on the plate it could mean you are still hungry and want more.

To understand various cultures is interesting and could go a long way in making intercultural communication fruitful and worthwhile.


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