Last weekend, I gave a presentation about cross-cultural communication. To my surprise, I found out that a vast majority of the population has a misguided perception that cultures are only about people’s skin colors, different ethnicities or religions, which is very surprising considering the emphasis that is being placed on diversity and the importance therein.
Also, many people didn’t quite grasp the difference between both communication and effective communication; and the concept that there is a difference between hearing and active listening.
Taking all of the above into consideration, I then decided to write this post about the actual definition of effective cross-cultural communication and why it is important to focus on it.
I always like to build a business case around any subject I tackle. When I researched the business case for communication these were the results:
1- The demographics in the United States are rapidly changing: It was perceived that the minorities in the United States will become majorities by 2050; but according to new data, we will see the shift earlier in 2042- 2043.
a- The Hispanic population will increase from 15 to 30 percent within the next 30 years
b- Asians will increase from five to eight percent
c- African Americans will increase only by one percent from 14 to 15 percent.
d- There is at least one million legal immigrants moving to the United States yearly
2- The increased number of female executives where inter-gender communications becomes vital
3- There are four generations communicating at work, where some even consider the presence of 5 generations (dividing generation Y to pre & post 9/11)
4- The buying power of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and trans-gender community is increasing
We spend 70 percent of our daily time communicating with each other. Sustaining productivity and increasing revenues can come down to the point if communication is conducted effectively or not.
Let us go back for a moment to the cross-cultural term: it means communication across different cultures. The world around us especially in the United States is very diverse as demonstrated in the business case.
Diversity includes but is not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation; it also includes other factors like socio-economics, education, titles, job descriptions, geographical locations, and marital status, to the point where the diversity of thought, is also included.
And why do we care about diversity in communication? Because each category of diversity has its own culture and each culture has its own communication style, which should also be taken in consideration for product marketing campaigns to different segments of the market.
Then, we need to consider the individuals’cultures, social cultures and the organizational cultures. So, are we fighting a losing battle? In actuality it is much simpler than it sounds, although some flexibility and sensitivity to the different diversity factors and cultures is needed.
The subject might seem a no-brainer, but I have been surprised by how many people never thought about cross-cultural communication in this way. And most importantly:
Diversity starts at home.
Diversity Consultant – Social Media Strategist
Sahar Consulting, LLC.