Break Down Barriers to Cross-Cultural Communication

In the first part of the post: The business case of cross-cultural communication, the meaning of culture and the different aspects of diversity have been clarified.

Communication is a crucial element in relationships either personal or business. Effective communication is one of the foundations of leadership, diverse team building and cooperation. Effective communication can be the difference between a successful organization and a failing organization. It is directly tight to the bottom line revenues, to employee morale, retention, loyalty, and increased productivity which is directly related to increased profits.

Ineffective or lack of communication results in high turnover, inability to recruit or retain diverse talents, absenteeism, low morale and most importantly low productivity that leads to low revenues.

The real causes of ineffective or weak communication are excuses. In other words, the only things holding people back from great communication are themselves or their perceptions.

Any interruption or noise during the communication process causes a disconnect, or results in miscommunication. The communication process consists of 8 main items:

  1. The message: What is being communicated
  2. The source or the sender: Starts the decision to send a message, and define its purpose.
  3. Encoding: The message is generated through the source’s past experiences, perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
  4. The channel: The means, pathways or devices by which the messages are communicated. Channels can be verbal or non-verbal.
  5. The receiver: The person (persons) who attend to the source’s message
  6. Decoding: Interpreting the message by the receiver based on their past experiences, perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
  7. Feedback: Receiver responds to sender showing understanding or not. Feedback can also be total silence.
  8. Noise: Any interference with the transmission of the message that will inhibit the proper understanding of the message and can act as a barrier.

Knowing the common barriers to effective communication, makes it easier to either avoid them or even better find a solution to these barriers. The most common barriers are:

  1. Physical: Can be an actual physical structure or distance: Walls, desks, cubicles, doors, or being located in different buildings or rooms. Physical barriers are also anything that causes distractions or breaks concentration as background noises in case of continuous phone ringing and loud music, or the room temperature either too low or too high
  2. Perceptual: No two people view the world the same way; we all have our own assumptions and perceptions tinted by our own past experiences, values and beliefs which can get in the way of productive dialogue
  3. Psychological: Being emotionally disconnected: Emotions or personal feelings that cause misunderstandings that hinder effective communication. A person’s emotion at the time the message is communicated can impact how it is sent or received. Fear, mistrust, happiness, sadness, anxiety, or anger are all strong emotions that can directly influence communication
  4. Gender: As it is said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Men and women think, speak and decide differently. Men approach the subjects from facts, wanting bottom line. Women have nurturing natures, love details as they need to build relationships and they hint in their communication where men are just direct to the point
  5. Generational: We have four generations interacting together at the workplace. Every generation has its own style of communication. To bridge the generational gap, we need to know the different times, and conditions surrounding each generation that influenced their lives a great deal.
  6. Language: Miscommunication occurs when people from different areas or companies are communicating and assign different meanings to words or are unfamiliar with the different terminology. Using slang as: slam dunk, throw me under the bus, stop on a dime, kick the bucket especially while communicating with people to whom English is a second language; using jargon (medical terms, IT people); dialects; or semantics all hinder effective communication.
  7. Cultural, racial and religious: We are all products of our environment. Our culture, race or religion are the lens through which we view the world and code or decode the messages we receive.

The communication continues in the next post

Diversity starts at home.

Sahar Andrade
Diversity Consultant – Social Media Strategist
Sahar Consulting, LLC.
(818)861 9434

My profiles: LinkedIn Facebook Twitter SlideShare WordPress YouTube Flickr
Contact me: Skype/ saharconsulting


5 thoughts on “Break Down Barriers to Cross-Cultural Communication

  1. As a cross culture communications educator and facilitator, I agree with the majority of your points except for #7, which seems overly cliched.

    While men and women do, in fact, exhibit differences in communication, one has to analyze these differences from a culturally relative perspective, not a biology-based one. Culture-based socialization is largely responsible for how individuals learn to express themselves. Therefore, you may have an extroverted woman from a direct communicating context (e.g.: lawyer from the east coast USA, NYC) engage with an introverted man from a context that is more indirect communicating (an Elder from an Amish community in Pennsylvania for example); each are from the same country, same regional proximal location, same over-arching or umbrella culture, but completely different personalities and communication styles.

    While there are some things that are innately correlated with “gender” (I think you really mean sex here, since gender is a socially constructed cultural expectation about role behaviors and their assignation to a specific sex) communication style is not one of them.

    • Thank you for your comment appreciate your comments, I respectfully disagree and stand by what I believe- If you have a different point of view I would love to read it on your blog. I never write anything without doing my research and then marry it with my own experience in the cross cultural field, and as a facilitator – We can always agree to disagree
      Appreciate you reading the blog -)

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