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Importance of Cross Cultural Communication in Business

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As the business world becomes increasingly global, the need for effective cross cultural communication is essential. Cross cultural communication in business plays a vital role in building international customers, employee relations and business partnerships. Cross cultural communication in business requires effort, technique and the addressing of different hurdles that commonly prevent communication from being effective.

Importance. Cross cultural communication in business plays a vital role in successfully establishing the product or service in a different area of the globe. When the communication is effective, the product or service is appropriately tailored to the cultural norms and expectations resulting in the use or purchase of the product. Ineffective communication cross culturally can offend, confuse or send a misunderstood message which could lead to broken relations with investors or employees.

Barriers – Language. A common cross cultural barrier in business communication is the use of language. Not every business globally does business in English. Even if they do, there can be different meanings for the same English word. According to the website of business communication group Kwintessential, language barriers come in the form of either the use of inappropriate language or the use of foreign languages.

Barriers – Culture. Each culture has a different set of values, business ethics, languages, behavior, expected etiquette and expression. Not knowing the differences in the country that the company is doing business in can lead to communication barriers that prohibit the messages from being effective.

Barriers – Company culture. A company culture is the norms and expectations within a company. This can be the organizational structure, policies and specific procedures that create a unique culture within the company. Expanding business communication cross culturally requires the business to assess its current culture and identify any possible hindrances that the company culture may present in a different country.


Intercultural communication is of importance to international businesses as it examines how people from different cultures, beliefs and religions come together to work and communicate with each other.

Demands for intercultural communication skills are increasing as more and more businesses go global or international. They realize that there are barriers and limitations when entering a foreign territory. Without the help of intercultural communication they can unknowingly cause confusion and misunderstandings. For these intercultural businesses to breach the cultural barriers encountered when stepping into foreign grounds it is vital for them to fully understand the cultural differences that exist so as to prevent damaging business relations due to intercultural communication gaps.

There are many theories that set principles to help interpret the basis of intercultural communication. These theories help to iron out possible ripples of misunderstanding by giving a basic guideline on how to address situations. These guidelines help prevent clashes between different cultures groups caused by misperceptions.

The basic skills of intercultural communication are fundamentally general communication skills that can be used universally by all cultures and races. These skills are simply tweaked in a direction that takes the cultural limitation into consideration. An example of such communication skills in the intercultural environment is to listen without judging, repeat what you understand, confirm meanings, give suggestions and acknowledge a mutual understanding.

In a nutshell the main purpose of following such theories is to earn respect from others. Respect in all cultures in the world is a common language and by earning it through respecting other peoples culture and religion; the favor is returned.

According to the University of Colorado, knowledge is the key to effective cross cultural business communication. Knowledge takes a step back and observes the differences between the two cultures and makes adjustments based on the observation. One approach to ensuring the cross cultural communication is being effective is to implement active listening that uses questions to clarify the message.


Few successful businesses are now mono-cultural in their make-up. Even if a business or organization is not dealing internationally the chances are that they employ people from foreign countries. At a higher level globalisation has meant companies are having to look further a field for new revenue streams, products, services, etc. This requires working and dealing with people from different cultures.

The leaders of today’s organisations and businesses need to be adept at managing people of different cultures. They need to be able to grasp the essence of each culture quickly, because culture is so important in shaping customer or employee behaviour. Leaders must also learn to shape culture (at least that in their own organisations) so that it is positive, and aligned with the direction the organization is taking.

For those looking to the subject and wanting some quick tips on how to improve their intercultural leadership qualities, the following simple tips can get you on your way.

1. Learn about the cultures of people that you work and interact with. Start from scratch and forget your assumptions and stereotypes. There are many free online resources.

2. Get a book about intercultural communication and learn about the subject from an academic level. Noted academics such as Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars and David Hall have all published books that will go a long way in unravelling the intricacies of cultural differences.

3. Take some formal training from intercultural experts. For very little outlay a day course can go a long way in helping you understand how culture impacts you and your work.

4. Try and attend events or occasions where you can submerge yourself in another culture. Use the opportunity to observe how people communicate and interact with one another. If you get the chance to travel abroad do the same when there.

5. Start listening and paying more attention when dealing with someone from another culture. You will be surprised how much you pick up by slowing down. Don’t jump to conclusions and think actions and behaviours through.

6. Temper your own communication style. Pay attention to the rate at which you speak, what non-verbal messages you may be sending, ask for confirmation of understanding, avoid using slang and idioms.

7. Learn to tolerate uncertainty. There will be a great deal of unknowns when doing business across cultures. Definitive, concrete answers may not always be given. Focus on what you can determine and try to let go of minor details that are unclear.

8. Be patient with others and yourself. Don’t give-up. A proper intercultural library of knowledge only comes with time.

9. Keep on top of your own development. Continually assess your advancement and make adjustments.

10. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to apologise for mistakes. People generally are appreciative that you are trying to understand them.

The path to effective intercultural leadership is long but not hard. Essentially it is about opening your mind with which comes greater flexibility and creativity. You will soon see results in your new leadership approach as you become able to communicate naturally with all manner of cultures in your sphere of work.



The theories developed by the researchers and academics can and has been applied to many fields such as business, management, marketing, advertising and website design. As business becomes more and more international, many companies need to know how best to structure their companies, manage staff and communicate with customers. Intercultural communication gives them an insight into the areas they need to address or understand. Intercultural communication theories are now also used within the education, health care and other public services due to growing multicultural populations.



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