Why Is Cross-Cultural Communication Important?
Cross-cultural communication is arguably more important today than in any other period of human history. One major consequence of this trend is that future success in most careers will increasingly depend upon an individual’s ability to communicate effectively and appropriately across cultural boundaries. Cross-cultural communication is not limited to learning other languages, but also includes understanding how cultural patterns and core values impact the communication process—even when everyone is speaking English.
Acquiring the skills necessary to work with both domestic multicultural groups and in international areas is no longer an option but a necessity. There are few settings where cross-cultural communication does not play a significant role in daily interactions with the public and co-workers. Businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a thousand other occupational settings are all under pressure to recognize and appreciate the role that cross-cultural communication plays in achieving their goals.
Whether it is creating smoothly working project teams; sensitively responding to customers, clients, and markets; or just living and working in a world where everyone has something to say, learning how to communicate cross-culturally is a crucial component that can promote those processes. Realizing that individuals from different cultures will express their thoughts in vastly different ways is a good start. So is developing an awareness of why hearing words alone is not sufficient to discern meaning. Sometimes silence communicates far more than speech. Such things as touching, eye contact, and other kinds of “body language” need to be observed and correctly interpreted because nonverbal communication carries important clues about the message the individual is trying to convey. In this rapidly changing world, where cultures and people circulate and interact at dizzying speeds, those people who know how to communicate effectively across cultures, in both personal and professional contexts, will have a crucial advantage over those who do not.
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