06/07/2018 Jamie

Cross-Cultural Communication in Business

In a world that is becoming increasingly more globalized, it is important to know how to effectively communicate with people of other cultures. Whether you work with a diverse group of coworkers or engage in business transactions with people across the world, it is essential to be knowledgeable about the distinct cultures of the people you interact with.

Impact of Technology

As technology continues to grow and develop, great advances are being made in the ways people communicate with one another. As these capabilities have increased, our connectedness to the world has also increased at a rapid rate. It is now possible to communicate instantly with someone across the world through video chat, instant messaging, and social media. These platforms and many others have made it possible for numerous international businesses to emerge. Business transactions can now be completed across the world with nothing more than a laptop and a good connection to the Internet.

When communicating with the use of technology, it is important to identify which communication channel will be best. Some cultures rely heavily on nonverbal cues and body language. For this type of culture, a richer form of communication such as a video conference would be best. In other cultures that communicate directly, a leaner form of communication such as email could be sufficient. If technology is not used properly in business, it can unintentionally become a barrier to cross-cultural communication.

Relationship versus Task Orientation

When doing business cross-culturally, there are certain differences that you should take into account. One major difference that exists between cultures is relationship orientation versus task orientation. Countries that are more relationship-oriented focus on building relationships before doing business. In this context, it is important to spend a significant amount of time getting to know the person you are doing business with over coffee or a shared meal. This allows people to build trust with one another, and it lays the foundation for future business relationships.

Cultures that are more task-oriented place a higher priority on meeting deadlines and adhering to schedules. Oftentimes, people who are task-oriented view time as money. If you are late to a meeting with a task-oriented individual, this conveys to them that you do not value their time. To a task-oriented individual, it may initially seem counterproductive to spend hours getting to know people over coffee or a meal, but it is essential for business professionals to devote time to building relationships. Finding a balance between building relationships and completing business transactions is essential.

Cultural Sensitivity

Interacting with people in a cross-cultural setting brings to light differences in religion, ethnicity, language, communication patterns, and personality types. Researching other cultures prior to doing business with other people can increase your cultural sensitivity. This helps you gain a better understanding of why people respond in certain ways, what is most valuable to them, and how those values affect their day-to-day interactions with others.

When working cross-culturally, it is important not to impose your frame of reference upon other people. Because a person’s culture is linked to their identity, it is important to reserve judgement and try to see things from their perspective. This can bring about unity and mutual understanding. Whenever you truly seek to learn from people of other cultures, it fosters genuine respect and increases your overall effectiveness in doing business.

What are ways you can increase your cultural sensitivity today?