Intercultural Communication: The Lines and Barriers
Andre D. Ford II
Ashford COM 200: Interpersonal Communication
August 24, 2009
These days, people are traveling more than ever. Your next-door neighbor is as likely to be from Armenia as Arkansas. And your next business trip may take you anywhere from Mexico to Madagascar. Communicating across cultures begins with the basic understanding that one size does not fit all. Simply because you practice certain cultural habits or patterns does not mean the rest of the world does. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” makes perfect sense in Rome, Romania or Rio de Janeiro.
David A. Ricks, in his book Blunders in International Business, writes: “Cultural differences are the most significant and troublesome variables. The failure of managers to fully comprehend these disparities has led to most international business blunders.” Failing to recognize and adapt to these differences can mean the difference between a done deal and a faceless failure. Robert L. Stevenson, in his book Global Communication in the Twenty-First Century, says “language, more than anything else, is the heart of culture.” Assumptions about culture affect the way people communicate with each other. Culture usually refers to the diverse ways in which people think, act or behave – toward themselves, with their families and with people in their own society. Culture includes customs related to religious, social, political and family values. Various cultures have divergent values for time allocation and use, for family values and conversation, and for “personal space.”
These differences need to be recognized, valued and appreciated before any real communication can take place. The main criterion for understanding other cultures is simply to know your own. Very often, we don’t know what our own culture is, so it’s difficult to understand someone else’s....