Intercultural communication competence is a global communication tool that describes a wide variety of communication issues that appear within firms that have people from diverse social, religious, and educational backgrounds. Intercultural communication which is also called cross-cultural communication tries to understand how people from different backgrounds carry themselves when they are together, how they communicate, and their perceptions of the world around them (Gudykunst, 2003). This discipline also seeks to understand a situation where people from diverse backgrounds interact with each other and apart from the language it also focuses on social variables, patterns of thought, and the different cultures of the people interacting with each other. This is a multi-disciplinary area of study because it plays a role in anthropological studies, applied linguistics, cultural studies, psychology, and communication studies and has also formed a background for international business.
This paper is therefore going to make a self-evaluation of intercultural communication at the beginning of the course and then apply one of the general content areas to my intercultural experience, competence, and life behaviors (Kennedy, 2003). The areas I will tackle are perceptions and cultural manifestations. Finally, the paper will address how this course has changed my experience and how I will implement the new learning in my life especially in my workplace. Before this course, my intercultural communication competence was not that good and I barely understood culture, society, and models of communication. I did not understand the role of globalization and information on communication between cultures and societies which do not share the same ideals. My understanding of computer-mediated technologies in society was also limited and I was also not aware that intercultural communication would contribute to professional success in the workplace.
At the beginning of the course, I had scant knowledge on how culture influences the excellent dissemination of messages in channels that are radically different from the conventional channels (Kim, 1994). The course, therefore, made me aware that culture significantly influences communication behavior, especially in the modern digital age. The course also helped me to understand how key concepts in intercultural communication can pose problems when applied to emerging communication contexts. At the beginning of the course, I did not know the difference between high context cultures and low context cultures but as the course progressed, I was able to understand high context cultures possess greater social knowledge and the modes of communication in such contexts are not that explicit. This means that people from high context cultures cannot rely on subtle non-verbal cues and situational variables when using contemporary digital forms of communication because, in high context cultures, messages can be transformed in the absence of these non-verbal cues.
At the beginning of the course, my knowledge of communication across cultures using technology was scant but as I progressed with the course, I was able to comprehend how the use of technological channels in intercultural communications renders the ever troublesome conventional non-verbal cues redundant. The course also enlightened me on the issues associated with the convergence of global values that encourage intercultural communication to create a potential for more interaction between people from diverse cultural backgrounds. It has enlightened me on the role of technology in the effective development of new and dynamic political social and cultural movements through new modes of intercultural communication. When I began this course, I had little understanding of the role of intercultural communication skills in personal and professional life and I also did understand the role of knowledge in intercultural communication.
However, the principles learned in this cause have enlightened me on the role of effective intercultural skills in personal and professional life and how they encourage personal and organizational effectiveness. Intercultural communication, as I have understood so far is quite important in the modern workplace which is a radical departure from the traditional heavy economy industries like agriculture and production industries. The modern workplace is built around the principles of the modern-day knowledge economy which is heavily supported by the use of information and data meaning that communication is the pillar of the modern-day workplace. My understanding of communication prior to this course was just about sending and receiving messages but the course has really opened my would of communication by introducing me to communicate across cultures. It has enabled me to understand that effective intercultural communication skills determine how well a person, a firm, or a country acquires and applies knowledge thus boosting its chances of excelling in various aspects of performance.
The second part of this paper will focus on three principles of intercultural communication. These are perception, manifestations of culture, and influences of cultural values and norms. To start with, intercultural communication is affected by perceptions. The perceptions people have about other people from different cultures affect the way these people from diverse cultures relate and communicate with each other, personally or even at the organizational level. Perceptions of communication are often treated as a pointer of the traits of communication in different relationships and these perceptions are usually related to variations in communication behaviors. These communication perceptions include synchrony, difficulty, and getting personal, and to start with, getting personal is a function of the interpersonal distance between two people who are relating or communicating with each other, either in the workplace or at a personal level. How people perceive each other from a personal perspective, therefore, determined the closeness or the distance of the participants in the communication process. When these interlocutors associate in close interpersonal relationships, they actually perceive higher levels of intimacy than those participants whose interpersonal relationships are quite distant.
Synchrony as an aspect of perception in intercultural communication refers to the texture of the coordination of interaction between the participants. There is smooth coordination of interaction where the participants in the communication process are familiar with each other’s pattern of communication and without this familiarity; the coordination of interaction will be quite rough. People who have been communicating with each other across cultures for a long period of time tend to perceive a higher degree of synchrony in their communication, interactions, and relationships while people who are not used to communicating with each other record a lower degree of synchrony in their communications.
Difficulty in intercultural communications perceptions refers to obstacles to communication that make communication lacking in terms of basic information exchange. In my case, one of the elements that really affect my intercultural communication in the workplace is the personal aspect where I easily relate with people whose personal ideals are related to mine and find it hard relating with people whose personal ideals are not in tandem with mine (Geertz, 1973). Concerning synchrony, as explained in the literature review above, I communicate easily with people of diverse backgrounds whom I have a history of communicating with and sometimes find it hard connecting with people with whom we share a background but we have a little history of communicating with each other.
Culture and its manifestations create world views and values that affect intercultural communication. When people from more than one culture interact, the cultural conflict may affect how they communicate with each other because of the conflicting values and world views they hold. However, this is a traditional concept because the traditional cultural barriers have been broken by technology. People are nowadays getting a huge amount of information from all over the world and few people are relying on the traditional village set up for to affirm their ideas. This traditional village setup used to inculcate values and world views that hindered communication with people from different cultures. For example, there are some African cultures that believe that women are not supposed to be heard and their opinion is not considered important (Geertz, 1983). A person with such a world view will definitely clash with another one from a different culture where the voice of women is respected.
Some people allow their religious beliefs to dictate how they relate with other people who may not share the same religious ideals. Simply put, cultural and social changes that have been brought by globalisation and digital revolution have really watered down the influence of manifestations of culture on intercultural communication (Chen, 2000). The conception of culture and the dynamic trends in the cultural realm provide important basis for the interpretation of the process of intercultural communication. In my case, I do not belong to the traditional cultural set up that is highly likely to be affected by cultural manifestations meaning that values and world views cannot affect the way I communicate with people form diverse backgrounds. I belong to the information age where the digital revolution has broken the cultural barriers that used to impede intercultural communication. This digital age has opened my world and I am able to understand people I don’t share a background with way before I meet them because of the avenues of intercultural understanding provided by the easy access to information.
There are certain changes that I have experienced as I undertook this course. Initially, I used to form negative perceptions and prejudices that used to affect the way I related and communicated with people from different backgrounds. I used to allow my cultural values and norms to control my communication patterns and this used to affect my effectiveness at the personal level and in the workplace. However, this course has opened my world view and I have learnt some basic things that will really improve my intercultural interactions in the workplace. I have learnt to be tolerant to people whom I may not share the same ideals and try to understand their perspectives. I have learnt that understanding cultural differences and accommodating them can lead to a rich workplace culture where people learn and benefit from the cultural diversities that exist. Finally, I have learnt that negative perceptions, prejudices and basic assumptions are only subjective variables that hinder intercultural communication and hamper organisational and personal effectiveness that emanate from synchronised interactions in the workplace. This course has therefore enabled me to form meaningful relationships by applying the principles of intercultural communication.
Chen, G. (2000). Communication and global society. New York: Peter Lang.
Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Geertz, C. (1983). Essays in interpretive anthropology. New York: Basic Books.
Gudykunst, B. (2003). Intercultural Communication Theories. NY: Sage.
Kennedy, P. (1993). Preparing for the twenty-first century. New York: Random House.
Kim Y.Y. (1995). Intercultural Communication Theory. CA: Sage.