ТОП 10:

Stumbling blocks in cross-cultural communication



Introduction

"Intercultural" communication and "international" communication are separate areas of research; in brief, intercultural communication researchers focus on the individual as the unit of analysis, whereas international communication researchers work at the macro level using units of analysis such as nations, world systems, and groups. Intercultural business communication is a relatively young field of study compared with intercultural communication or business communication. An often neglected dimension of business is human interaction, and thus, intercultural business communication has grown into a complex disciplinary endeavor: "Of themselves, the fundamental constructs of culture and communication involve an array of well-established and highly developed fields of enquiry, with their distinctive and sometimes overlapping approaches, theories, and methodologies" .

Intercultural communication serves a vital role in that it can forestall miscommunication and misunderstanding. Because of increased intercultural contact and interdependence, people in the world are forced to "rethink" intercultural communication in order to acquire effective intercultural communication competence which, as Arasaratnam (2005) states, is becoming more relevant in the increasingly multicultural communities that people live in today. Although intercultural communication is not new, what is new is the systematic study of exactly what happens when cross-culture contacts and interactions take place—that is, when a message producer and a message receiver are from different cultures . One major area of intercultural communication research is cross-cultural communication, and most current cross-cultural communication research tends to be comparative (e.g., comparing speech convergence in initial interactions in Japan and the U.S.) .

The present paper, therefore, provides a critical discussion of the conceptualization of intercultural communication and the commonly acknowledged challenge of intercultural communication. With a focus on Japan and the U.S. (since both countries have remarkably different forms of communication and are two remarkably different cultures when it comes to nonverbal communication), the author defines culture and then explores the following: (1) origin of intercultural communication research; (2) cultural fluency and willingness to communicate; and (3) words versus haragei (a Japanese concept) in intercultural (business) communication.

What is a Culture?

The intersection of psychology with sociology, anthropology, and organizational studies, is fertile ground for a critical appraisal of the overarching construct of culture; for instance, a survey of recent literature in these disciplines indicates that the debate is still continuing as to whether culture is a mental construct, a social dimension, or a shared, patterned behavior. Although the term "culture" has been defined in a variety of ways, culture is characterized as a "system of beliefs, values, and assumptions about life that guides behavior and is shared by a group of people; and these are transmitted from generation to generation, rarely with explicit instructions" .

Cultural dimensions

Cultures tend to vary along a number of dimensions. The following are among those in which different views and behaviors can lead to misunderstanding and tension:

- Individualism (values the self-reliance, equality, and autonomy of the individual) versus collectivism (values group effort and harmony)

-Mono-chronic time (is tangible and can be saved, wasted, and run out) versus poly-chronic time (stresses involvement of completion of transactions rather than preset schedules)

-Egalitarianism (believing in fairness and equal opportunities for everyone) versus hierarchy (may be valued in more collectivist cultures as a means of acknowledging innate differences and inequalities and of facilitating communication through the recognition of social levels)

-Action (e.g., U.S. culture tends to value action, efficiency, getting to "the bottom line") versus being orientation (may be more important to people coming from a more holistic cultural orientation than the perception of precipitously moving to action steps)

-Change (has become the mantra of dominant U.S. society) versus tradition (values the lessons of history view the past as an important guide to the present and the future)

-Communication styles (depending on cultural variables such as nationality, ethnicity, gender, and race, individuals may have a reference for both sending and receiving messages in styles)

-Power imbalances (i.e., cultures are stratified by inequities in terms of access to political and economical power).

5. Cultural psychologyand its focus on historically situated and interactionally based relationships between individuals provide rich sources of data which benefit both inter- and intra research and, perhaps, a more accessible discipline for business interculturalists is that of linguistic anthropology, most especially in its approach to language is culture: "There is much that linguists and communication scholars can contribute to an understanding of the processes generating and reconstructing the luminal zone of the intercultural community…we now need to extend that analysis further using the tools afforded by multi-disciplinarity" . The inseparability of language and culture using the term "languaculture" and that languaculture awareness is extremely important but extremely difficult to achieve in situations of intercultural context (Roberts 1998): "…one of the most remarkable trends in current thinking about language and culture is a broad consensus on the constructed nature of social reality… the recent literature within cultural studies and anthropology critiques the earlier abstract, homogeneous notion of culture" .

Culture is (1) an important idea as it deals with the way people live and approach problem solving in a social and organizational context, (2) the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another, and (3) the result of a complex interaction of values, attitudes, and behaviors of the members of a group; "values" influence attitudes, "attitudes" affect behaviors, and "behaviors" in turn have an impact on "cultures"—thus forming a reinforcing or self adjusting, circular phenomenon.

Time and space: Time is one of the most central differences that separate cultures and cultural ways of doing things. Robert’s Rules of Order (rules for meetings), observed in many Western meetings, enforce a mono-chronic idea of time. In the East, time feels like it has unlimited continuity, an unraveling rather than a strict boundary.

Fate and personal responsibility: This refers to the degree to which people feel themselves the masters of their lives, versus the degree to which people see themselves as subject to things outside their control.

Face and face-saving: In the broader definition, face includes ideas of status, power, courtesy, insider and outsider relations, humor, and respect. In many cultures, maintaining face is of great importance, though ideas of how to do this vary.

Nonverbal communication: Research has shown that the emotions of anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and surprise are expressed in similar ways by people around the world.

As people’s familiarities with the above four different starting points increase, they are cultivating cultural fluency—cultural fluency is awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

Culturally unique concepts

Communication is a process involving multiple messages sent via multiple signal systems; and culture has a "pervasive influence on the encoding of both verbal and nonverbal signals and on the decoding of those signals. Because of this influence, misunderstanding and conflict is inevitable in intercultural communication" .

Cultural groups are often characterized by distinct languages, and subcultures often have dialects within a language. Each is a unique symbol system that denotes what a culture deems important in its world. That words exist in some languages and not others reflects the fact that different cultures symbolize their worlds differently…. The German word "schadenfreude" and the Japanese word "amae," [which do not have counterparts in English, provide examples]. (p. 15)

Asian constructs—such as amae (a Japanese concept that describes dependence upon another’s benevolence) and woori (an inclusive group in Korea)—reflect the relational nature of human existence; that is, a relational analysis requires consideration of how relationships are culturally defined before attempting to interpret the behavior of individuals, and it entails making explicit the normative expectations and behavioral rules implicit in social relations : "The strategic units of analysis are not the individual or the situation alone but person-in-relations (focusing on a person in different relational contexts) and person-in-relations (focusing on persons interacting within a relational context)" .

 

7. Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication is hugely important in any interaction with others because people tend to look for nonverbal cues when verbal messages are unclear or ambiguous (especially when different languages are being used) (LeBaron 2003): "Since nonverbal behavior arises from our cultural common sense (our ideas about what is appropriate, normal, and effective as communication in relationships), we use different systems of understanding gestures, posture, silence, emotional expression, touch, physical appearance, and other nonverbal cues" .

Low-context cultures (the U.S., Canada, and northern European countries) tend to give less emphasis to nonverbal communication, whereas in high-context settings such as Japan (and most Asian counties) or Colombia, understanding the nonverbal components of communication is relatively more important to receiving the intended meaning of the communication as a whole (LeBaron 2003). Hall originally identified the concepts of high-context and low-context in the 1960s to categorize differences in communication styles; the concepts were stated in Beyond Culture (published in 1976 by Anchor Press) as follows (WIN Advisory Group n.d.): "High-context transactions feature pre-programmed information that is in the receiver and in the setting, with only minimal information in the transmitted message. Low-context transactions are the reverse" (¶ 3). When the culture context is high general communication does not require a lot of background information to pass from one person to the other as a lot is already known, but when the culture context is low general communication requires a lot of background information.

 

Speaking is in most cases valued higher than silence because silence makes us feel as if we are not communicating very well with other partner. There is a saying in Japanese: "Talking is silver, but silence is gold." This refers to the fact that by speaking, you often make matters worse. This has not kept the Western cultures from attributing a bad "vibe" to silence in a room. Overall, not enough attention is paid to the nonverbal message in the American culture. One of the factors responsible for this could be the fact that Americans generally overuse facial expressions and gestures, thus diminishing their importance.

The U.S. and Japan are two vastly different cultures in almost every respect of life and the cultural differences in communication can make international business between the two countries very difficult; perhaps, the biggest nonverbal difference between Japan and the U.S. is kinesics (such as gestures, body movements, and posture): (1) when the U.S. business men meet it is customary to shake hands, whereas bowing is customary in Japan; and (2) establishing eye contact during conversation shows interest, honesty and sincerity in the U.S., but in Japan the opposite is true and eye contact shows that you are being suggestive, insistent to be equal or belligerent. Moreover, in Japan, constant eye contact with a superior is considered rude because it may be seen as defiance or a challenge .

Conclusion

Cultural communication research tends to focus on understanding communication within one culture from the insiders’ points of view (Gudykunst and Mody 2002). Understanding cross-cultural communication should be a prerequisite to understanding intercultural communication because cross-cultural communication looks at how people from differing cultural backgrounds endeavor to communicate, and thus, the core of cross-cultural communication is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. A new challenge for cultural fluency as a guide to effective intercultural communication is to generate approaches of investigation on how people from different cultures and speaking different languages actually influence each other in specific intercultural contexts.

Critics argue that the dominance of English influences the Japanese language and Japanese people's views of language, culture, and identity, which are affected by the world view of native English speakers (Kubota 1998). Both critical consciousness and practical skills in English are necessary for Japanese people to appreciate English for social transformation.

Finally, including nonverbal communication in Japanese communication behavior, "a holistic analysis of Japanese interpersonal communication is necessary…social, political, and economic surrounds of the Japanese society that influence people’s perceptions of norms, rules, and competence must be taken into account for a more meaningful and useful approach to theorizing interpersonal communication competence for Japanese" .

 

 

Bibliography

1. Arasaratnam, L. A. (2005). Intercultural communication competence: Identifying key components from multicultural perspectives. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29(2), 137-163.

2. Bargiela-Chlappini, F., and Nickerson, C. (2003). Intercultural business communication: A rich field of studies. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 24(1), 3-15.

3. Brightman, J. D. (2005). Asian culture brief: Japan. NTAC-AAPI Information Brief Series, 2(6). Retrieved August 10, 2006, from http://www.ntac.hawaii.edu

4. Brislin, R. W. (1994). Working cooperatively with people from different cultures. In R. W. Brislin & T. Yoshida (Eds.). Improving intercultural interactions (pp. 17-33).

5. Chen, L., et al. (1996). Our communication with North Americans: A study of intercultural experience of Japanese visiting students. ERIC Database #ED406700

6. CILT, the National Center for Language. (2005). Intercultural skills: A guide to working with other cultures. Retrieved August 12, 2006, from http://www.cilt.org.uk

7. "Curiosity." (2006, August 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 26, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Curiosity&oldid=71500492

 

Concept

1. Intercultural communication

2. Introduction

3. Notion of culture

4. Cultural dimensions

5. Cultural psychology

6. Culturally unique concepts

7. Nonverbal communication

8. Cultural Fluency and Willingness to Communicate

9. Words and ‘Haragei’ in Intercultural Communication

10. Negotiation styles and business communication

11. Conclusion

 

 

The ministry of education and science youth and sport of Ukraine

Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University

 

Stukach Viktoriia

 

 

Lutsk- 2013

Introduction

"Intercultural" communication and "international" communication are separate areas of research; in brief, intercultural communication researchers focus on the individual as the unit of analysis, whereas international communication researchers work at the macro level using units of analysis such as nations, world systems, and groups. Intercultural business communication is a relatively young field of study compared with intercultural communication or business communication. An often neglected dimension of business is human interaction, and thus, intercultural business communication has grown into a complex disciplinary endeavor: "Of themselves, the fundamental constructs of culture and communication involve an array of well-established and highly developed fields of enquiry, with their distinctive and sometimes overlapping approaches, theories, and methodologies" .

Intercultural communication serves a vital role in that it can forestall miscommunication and misunderstanding. Because of increased intercultural contact and interdependence, people in the world are forced to "rethink" intercultural communication in order to acquire effective intercultural communication competence which, as Arasaratnam (2005) states, is becoming more relevant in the increasingly multicultural communities that people live in today. Although intercultural communication is not new, what is new is the systematic study of exactly what happens when cross-culture contacts and interactions take place—that is, when a message producer and a message receiver are from different cultures . One major area of intercultural communication research is cross-cultural communication, and most current cross-cultural communication research tends to be comparative (e.g., comparing speech convergence in initial interactions in Japan and the U.S.) .

The present paper, therefore, provides a critical discussion of the conceptualization of intercultural communication and the commonly acknowledged challenge of intercultural communication. With a focus on Japan and the U.S. (since both countries have remarkably different forms of communication and are two remarkably different cultures when it comes to nonverbal communication), the author defines culture and then explores the following: (1) origin of intercultural communication research; (2) cultural fluency and willingness to communicate; and (3) words versus haragei (a Japanese concept) in intercultural (business) communication.

What is a Culture?

The intersection of psychology with sociology, anthropology, and organizational studies, is fertile ground for a critical appraisal of the overarching construct of culture; for instance, a survey of recent literature in these disciplines indicates that the debate is still continuing as to whether culture is a mental construct, a social dimension, or a shared, patterned behavior. Although the term "culture" has been defined in a variety of ways, culture is characterized as a "system of beliefs, values, and assumptions about life that guides behavior and is shared by a group of people; and these are transmitted from generation to generation, rarely with explicit instructions" .

Cultural dimensions

Cultures tend to vary along a number of dimensions. The following are among those in which different views and behaviors can lead to misunderstanding and tension:

- Individualism (values the self-reliance, equality, and autonomy of the individual) versus collectivism (values group effort and harmony)

-Mono-chronic time (is tangible and can be saved, wasted, and run out) versus poly-chronic time (stresses involvement of completion of transactions rather than preset schedules)

-Egalitarianism (believing in fairness and equal opportunities for everyone) versus hierarchy (may be valued in more collectivist cultures as a means of acknowledging innate differences and inequalities and of facilitating communication through the recognition of social levels)

-Action (e.g., U.S. culture tends to value action, efficiency, getting to "the bottom line") versus being orientation (may be more important to people coming from a more holistic cultural orientation than the perception of precipitously moving to action steps)

-Change (has become the mantra of dominant U.S. society) versus tradition (values the lessons of history view the past as an important guide to the present and the future)

-Communication styles (depending on cultural variables such as nationality, ethnicity, gender, and race, individuals may have a reference for both sending and receiving messages in styles)

-Power imbalances (i.e., cultures are stratified by inequities in terms of access to political and economical power).

5. Cultural psychologyand its focus on historically situated and interactionally based relationships between individuals provide rich sources of data which benefit both inter- and intra research and, perhaps, a more accessible discipline for business interculturalists is that of linguistic anthropology, most especially in its approach to language is culture: "There is much that linguists and communication scholars can contribute to an understanding of the processes generating and reconstructing the luminal zone of the intercultural community…we now need to extend that analysis further using the tools afforded by multi-disciplinarity" . The inseparability of language and culture using the term "languaculture" and that languaculture awareness is extremely important but extremely difficult to achieve in situations of intercultural context (Roberts 1998): "…one of the most remarkable trends in current thinking about language and culture is a broad consensus on the constructed nature of social reality… the recent literature within cultural studies and anthropology critiques the earlier abstract, homogeneous notion of culture" .

Culture is (1) an important idea as it deals with the way people live and approach problem solving in a social and organizational context, (2) the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another, and (3) the result of a complex interaction of values, attitudes, and behaviors of the members of a group; "values" influence attitudes, "attitudes" affect behaviors, and "behaviors" in turn have an impact on "cultures"—thus forming a reinforcing or self adjusting, circular phenomenon.

Time and space: Time is one of the most central differences that separate cultures and cultural ways of doing things. Robert’s Rules of Order (rules for meetings), observed in many Western meetings, enforce a mono-chronic idea of time. In the East, time feels like it has unlimited continuity, an unraveling rather than a strict boundary.

Fate and personal responsibility: This refers to the degree to which people feel themselves the masters of their lives, versus the degree to which people see themselves as subject to things outside their control.

Face and face-saving: In the broader definition, face includes ideas of status, power, courtesy, insider and outsider relations, humor, and respect. In many cultures, maintaining face is of great importance, though ideas of how to do this vary.

Nonverbal communication: Research has shown that the emotions of anger, fear, sadness, disgust, and surprise are expressed in similar ways by people around the world.

As people’s familiarities with the above four different starting points increase, they are cultivating cultural fluency—cultural fluency is awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

Stumbling blocks in cross-cultural communication

Regarding the researchers/interviewers in intercultural context, Shah (2004) identifies the following six stumbling blocks in cross-cultural communications and understanding:

Assumption of similarities: This might temporarily ease the discomfort of ‘walking on thin ice,’ but it can be seriously misleading, with implications for data interpretation and the research itself (Holstein and Gubrium as cited in Shah 2004).

Language differences: Communication competence studies insist that knowing the language is not enough unless and until it is supported by cultural knowledge.

Nonverbal misinterpretations: Nonverbal messages and signals are located within cultures and patterns of behavior and, therefore, cannot be learned through mere language acquisition (e.g., a nodding implies ‘Yes’ in many cultures but means ‘No’ in parts of Greece).

Preconceptions and stereotypes: Intercultural communication takes place in the backdrop of preconceptions and stereotypes deriving from initial contacts with other cultures.

Tendency to evaluate: Evaluations are made in comparison with the known value systems and patterns of behavior, derived from one’s own cultural background.

High anxiety: In intercultural interaction, the participants might experience both stress and anxiety at the prospect of dealing with the "unknown."

Culturally unique concepts

Communication is a process involving multiple messages sent via multiple signal systems; and culture has a "pervasive influence on the encoding of both verbal and nonverbal signals and on the decoding of those signals. Because of this influence, misunderstanding and conflict is inevitable in intercultural communication" .

Cultural groups are often characterized by distinct languages, and subcultures often have dialects within a language. Each is a unique symbol system that denotes what a culture deems important in its world. That words exist in some languages and not others reflects the fact that different cultures symbolize their worlds differently…. The German word "schadenfreude" and the Japanese word "amae," [which do not have counterparts in English, provide examples]. (p. 15)

Asian constructs—such as amae (a Japanese concept that describes dependence upon another’s benevolence) and woori (an inclusive group in Korea)—reflect the relational nature of human existence; that is, a relational analysis requires consideration of how relationships are culturally defined before attempting to interpret the behavior of individuals, and it entails making explicit the normative expectations and behavioral rules implicit in social relations : "The strategic units of analysis are not the individual or the situation alone but person-in-relations (focusing on a person in different relational contexts) and person-in-relations (focusing on persons interacting within a relational context)" .

 

7. Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication is hugely important in any interaction with others because people tend to look for nonverbal cues when verbal messages are unclear or ambiguous (especially when different languages are being used) (LeBaron 2003): "Since nonverbal behavior arises from our cultural common sense (our ideas about what is appropriate, normal, and effective as communication in relationships), we use different systems of understanding gestures, posture, silence, emotional expression, touch, physical appearance, and other nonverbal cues" .

Low-context cultures (the U.S., Canada, and northern European countries) tend to give less emphasis to nonverbal communication, whereas in high-context settings such as Japan (and most Asian counties) or Colombia, understanding the nonverbal components of communication is relatively more important to receiving the intended meaning of the communication as a whole (LeBaron 2003). Hall originally identified the concepts of high-context and low-context in the 1960s to categorize differences in communication styles; the concepts were stated in Beyond Culture (published in 1976 by Anchor Press) as follows (WIN Advisory Group n.d.): "High-context transactions feature pre-programmed information that is in the receiver and in the setting, with only minimal information in the transmitted message. Low-context transactions are the reverse" (¶ 3). When the culture context is high general communication does not require a lot of background information to pass from one person to the other as a lot is already known, but when the culture context is low general communication requires a lot of background information.

 

Speaking is in most cases valued higher than silence because silence makes us feel as if we are not communicating very well with other partner. There is a saying in Japanese: "Talking is silver, but silence is gold." This refers to the fact that by speaking, you often make matters worse. This has not kept the Western cultures from attributing a bad "vibe" to silence in a room. Overall, not enough attention is paid to the nonverbal message in the American culture. One of the factors responsible for this could be the fact that Americans generally overuse facial expressions and gestures, thus diminishing their importance.

The U.S. and Japan are two vastly different cultures in almost every respect of life and the cultural differences in communication can make international business between the two countries very difficult; perhaps, the biggest nonverbal difference between Japan and the U.S. is kinesics (such as gestures, body movements, and posture): (1) when the U.S. business men meet it is customary to shake hands, whereas bowing is customary in Japan; and (2) establishing eye contact during conversation shows interest, honesty and sincerity in the U.S., but in Japan the opposite is true and eye contact shows that you are being suggestive, insistent to be equal or belligerent. Moreover, in Japan, constant eye contact with a superior is considered rude because it may be seen as defiance or a challenge .




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