Communication is a fundamental aspect of human societies guaranteeing their functioning and evolution. Cooperation and interaction between individuals it impossible without information sharing. Under these conditions, the given unique tool remains fundamental for coordinating efforts and ensuring goal achievement. In the modern world, the high level of globalization increases the importance of cross-cultural communication. The rise of global corporations, tourism, and politics promote the close relations between representatives of different nations and their close interaction. However, achieving consensus and effective collaboration might be complicated by significant barriers emerging between representatives of various cultures. For this reason, it becomes critical to investigate the most common communication barriers and understand their nature. It will help to avoid possible failures and create the ground for meaningful interaction and goal achievement.
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Cross-cultural communication is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon. It can be determined as the process of recognizing differences and similarities existing within specific groups to engage within a given context and attain current goals (Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, 2020). From the definition, one can see that it implies the interaction between representatives of different mentalities and groups having different values and attitudes to particular aspects. It means that the barriers to an agreement might emerge because of these divergencies and the inability to manage them (Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, 2020). The significant challenges are linked to the impossibility of understanding other people’s mentalities, their cultures, religion, body language, and avoiding stereotypic thinking when trying to negotiate. Under these conditions, the enhanced understanding of these factors might help to resolve possible problems and create the basis for better cooperation and decision-making during cross-cultural communication.
The differences in mentalities might be viewed as one of the major barriers to cross-cultural communication. The term indicates the specific way of thinking of a person or a group influencing their decision-making and evaluation processes (Rockson, 2019). A person’s mentality is a complex issue formed under the influence of numerous factors, including family, local culture, religion, and dominant values (Rockson, 2019). Different cultures have their own unique mentalities, meaning that at the global level, this aspect becomes crucial. The way of thinking impacts expectations from interactions and methods that can be used to attain particular goals (Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, 2020). However, the divergence in mentalities might create the basis for the conflict as parties might fail to negotiate because of the false representations and attitudes. For this reason, cross-cultural communication demands focusing on partners’ mentalities to avoid misunderstandings.
Culture is another fundamental aspect influencing all global interactions. It is determined as the ideas, customers, code of ethics, and behavior shared by representatives of a particular group or community (Rockson, 2019). Culture is also closely connected to mentality as both these factors are interdependent and influence each other. Representatives of a specific culture have their own unique mentality affecting their behaviors and decision-making (Compoint, 2018). Regarding cross-cultural communication, culture plays a central role as it is essential to consider differences between parties coming from their origin. Numerous examples show that the interactions between representatives of some cultures might be too complex because of the radical differences existing between them, which increases the risk of failure. For this reason, culture can be viewed as the critical barrier to global communication and interactions.
Religion could be viewed as a significant issue influencing people’s interaction at different levels. Religion is a system of faith and beliefs influencing all spheres of believers’ lives and their conduct (Rockson, 2019). It is also closely linked to culture and mentality as these three factors form a person’s worldview, his/her motifs, and responses to different events (Rockson, 2019). Religious conflicts have always been a source of instability in the world and have given rise to multiple wars and military conflicts. In terms of cross-cultural communication, religious aspects play fundamental roles in the negotiating process and collaboration. The disregard of specific rituals, events, or objects of worship might deteriorate trust between parties and promote a negative attitude. For this reason, it is critical to view religion as one of the central aspects influencing interactions at global levels.
Speaking about difficulties that might influence interactions between people representing various cultures, it is vital to mention body language. It is the use of gestures, movements, expressions, and physical behavior to communicate nonverbally and deliver a particular message to an interlocutor (Rockson, 2019). The problem is that in most cases, all these actions are performed instinctively, and a person supports his/her statements with specific gestures or poses (Compoint, 2018). However, body language is not universal, meaning that representatives of various cultures assign different meanings to the same physical behavior. The gesture symbolizing trust and readiness to interact might be viewed as a threatening movement because of the divergencies in cultures and mentalities. For this reason, body language is often viewed as a barrier to cross-cultural communication reducing the effectiveness of attempts to find common ground and engage in mutually beneficial relations.
The differences in perspectives can also become a serious challenge to people engaged in cross-cultural communication and interaction. Initially, both parties have their own perspectives on the negotiating process, its outcomes, and possible methods and approaches that can be used (Rockson, 2019). The lack of flexibility and refusal to negotiate key positions might result in failure in all attempts and create the basis for the conflict. Additionally, parties might have perspectives initially contradicting each other, which reduces the effectiveness of such interactions and minimizes the chances for successful outcomes. Perspectives on communication and cooperation also depend on culture and mentality, meaning that it is a complex concept depending on numerous factors and having several layers. It also means that high flexibility levels and readiness to compromise become a critical aspect of cross-cultural communication.
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Another problem related to the issue is the exitance of stereotypes influencing people’s attitudes and behavioral patterns. These are fixed images of a particular idea existing in people’s minds and used to formulate special views on a phenomenon (Rockson, 2019). However, in numerous cases, stereotypes might be irrelevant and do not represent the existing reality correctly (Compoint, 2018). Additionally, stereotypic thinking might result in the emergence of discriminative patterns and attitudes towards a person or a group (Compoint, 2018). Under these conditions, using these fixed constructs during the cross-cultural interaction, a person or a party might face a negative reaction or unreadiness to continue cooperation because of the adherence to abusive or offensive judgments. The diversity peculiar to the modern world introduces the need to eliminate old stereotypes and think by using new categories free from biased and irrelevant attitudes.
Finally, conflicting values might also impact cross-cultural communication and its results. This type of clash emerges when individuals’ behaviors compromise the other party’s expectations (Compoint, 2018). In other words, the impossibility to understand the views or decision-making of a certain group implies the existence of conflicting values (Rockson, 2019). For instance, the preference of formal or informal styles might be a serious barrier to communication as parties might fail to select the most appropriate mode and use it (Rockson, 2019). Furthermore, cultures might be task or relationship-oriented, meaning they can expect various reactions and actions (Compoint, 2018). In such a way, conflicting values might become a critical barrier to cross-cultural communication as they can create the basis for the clash of attitudes and interests. Consideration of the culture and mentality of potential interlocutors might help to understand this aspect better and avoid misunderstandings.
Altogether, cross-cultural communication is a complex issue as its success depends on numerous factors. People’s mentalities, culture, and religion affect behavior during the interaction and parties’ expectations, which might result in the emergence of a conflict. Moreover, the inappropriate use of body language, different perspectives on the communication process, or stereotypes might also give rise to problematic issues and deteriorate outcomes. Under these conditions, it becomes critical to consider the existing globalization levels and diversity peculiar to the current society. It will help to reduce the risks and create the basis for mutually beneficial interaction characterized by respect, correct behaviors, and observation of the code of ethics typical for a certain culture. In such a way, the mentioned aspects are vital for cross-cultural communication and can be seen as possible barriers that should be given much attention.
Compoint, T. (2018). Six barriers to cross-cultural communications. Declic International. Web.
Nguyen-Phuong-Mai, M. (2020). Fear-free cross-cultural communication: Toward a more balanced approach with insight from neuroscience. Frontiers in Communication. Web.
Rockson, T. (2019). Use your difference to make a difference: How to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world. Wiley.