Грабельська О. В.
Львівський національний університет імені І. Франка, Україна
EFFECTIVE CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNICATION
These days cross-boarder travel is commonplace, and we know so much more about other countries. We are therefore expected to understand how our counterparts in other countries think and behave. In communicating with other cultures, cultural adaptability is more important than language skills. You need a strong willingness to understand what it is that causes the people of another culture to think and behave the way they do. Cultural adaptability is about switching your communication style to facilitate understanding or to make it easier to work together. You may need to accept that other cultures need time to consider what you say before agreeing or accepting. It may strike you as resistance or even discourtesy, but it may only be the normal response in their culture.
There are ten essential elements that form the right approach to communicating with people whose own language patterns are very different from your own, and whose command of your language is formal rather than colloquial. For effective cross-cultural communication, a person needs to:
- acknowledge own assumptions, i.e. what drives his or her attitudes;
- recognise ‘invisible differences that exist;
- welcome change ;
- consider alternatives ;
- avoid generalisations ;
- respect the individual ;
- be patient and tolerant ;
- be sensitive to non-verbal cues;
- remember face ;
- listen [1, с. 7].
Be aware that people from some countries might not respond the way you expect them to. We should avoid imposing our expectations on others and watch for their way of responding.
Invisible differences. Good manners may prevent others from letting you know when you have transgressed, so it is not always easy to recognize when you are on the wrong track. A good approach is to adopt an attitude of wanting to learn about another person’s cultural expectations, and ask. Always be sensitive to ‘seniority’, which could be based on age, status or gender. And observe basic courtesy such as not interrupting when they are in mid sentence. Equally, be prepared to accept their difference if you are the senior person.
Welcome change. You need to be prepared to set aside your habitual way of doing or saying things, and look for the advantages of emulating the style of the other person.
Consider alternatives. The communication process involves much more than language alone. In a dialogue there are expectations on both sides, some of which are met, others not. For example, it may be your style to settle things over the telephone, but the other person may be used to agreeing things in writing. The question to ask yourself is, ‘What will get the result I want?’ Be pragmatic and do what works.
Stereotypes and generalizations.
Accent and vocabulary betray foreigners who are therefore judged according to stereotypes. Unfortunately that simply raise barriers to proper communication.
Respect and the individual.
If your objective is to connect with the other person and communicate well with him, it would be useful to think of him as an individual, not as a representative of his company or his country. The key word is respect. Build a relationship based on that.
Patience and tolerance.
First impressions linger forever. A person whose first language is not the same as yours may have difficulty in understanding what you are saying, and that may make them seem slow. The way you handle that will colour your relationship for all time. Remember that everyone has something to offer, and those from a different culture can help you to refine your communication skills.
Each nation has its own communication style. Vocal tone and volume should be adjusted to suit the norms of the people you are talking to.
‘Face’. In simple terms, you should always avoid making the other person feel uncomfortable, in front of others. Causing someone to lose face is the ultimate insult.
Hearing is not the same as listening. You need to listen, not only for what is being said but for what lies behind what is being said. Listen for the clues in the speech pattern, in particular for how direct the other person is [2, с. 32].
Cultural understanding is something we can all develop. The first step is to understand that others think, believe and feel differently from ourselves, and it will enable us to understand ourselves better. Whether we are talking about business and management, work or education, the foreigners we encounter will have a set of values that will differ from our own. To express ourselves effectively, we need to gain an insight into the cultural patterns of our listeners, because good communication is much more than the fluent expression of our own ideas : it is about connecting with the understanding of our listeners, at their level. This insight goes far beyond mere linguistic differences.It leads to cultural sensitivity and respect. And it can be learned.
There are keys to unlocking the gates of cultural understanding. These are focused on people’s attitudes to:
- status, respect and equality ;
- time, rules and regulations ;
- individuality, family and community ;
- learning, knowledge and sharing ;
- the environment.
If you understand these issues and learn how other cultures perceive them, your communication will be much more effective.
Language differences are hugely significant. Language isn’t just how people speak – it is who they are. Knowing the language gives you an insight into the people. When you learn the language of another people, you notice differences in structure, vocabulary and shades of meaning, and that helps you to understand their outlook.
The list of references :
1. Block D. Globalization and language teaching / D. Block, D. Cameron. – Routledge, 2002 . – 196 p.
2. Khan-Panni P. Communicating across cultures / P. Khan-Panni, D. Swallow. – Howtobooks, 2003 . – 244 p.