How to Improve Intercultural Communication

By Brooks

A majority of people find it hard to avoid interacting with others outside their own subculture. Our world is multicultural and these multicultural diversities affect our lifestyles. Unique cultures have unique customs, requirements, social norms, or even concept styles. Intercultural communication talents require that you simply accept those variations in culture and adapt to them.

There are a lot of new thoughts and views you will have when you interact with other cultures. Such interaction may be interesting, though difficult. Your intercultural interactions may in addition rise from within the educational or enterprise world, at paintings or via your social community. Improving your intercultural communication capabilities can be based on one or more of the following;

Study and Value People’s culture

Experiencing other people’s culture more often is essential in cross cultural understanding. This improves communication. Traveling is the best way to get inspiration and come to witness other cultural backgrounds. But you can also be exposed to different cultures through their manner of interacting with others, their eating habits and environment. A good example is the African culture which is very diverse.

In order to better understand a country’s culture, one needs to collect the relevant information concerning that culture. This is done by analyzing a country’s wide cultural backgrounds. It starts by studying a country’s historical background, economic situation, geographical distribution, political situation, religion and psychology. This expertise makes it easier to speak with people from different cultural backgrounds.

To improve communication skills, you need to study the attitude of people from different cultural backgrounds that affect cross cultural communication and decision making. It is beneficial to know how to interact with people from different cultural background because you will learn a lot from them and your business deals won’t be compromised. For example, Bernard works on cultural dimension which deals with cultural differences between masculine and female cultures. In masculine cultures like Japan, Germany and Mexico, fathers decide the expected family size. This is unlike female cultures like in Chile and Thailand where mothers make the same decision. Furthermore, in female cultures, ladies and men are both expected to play the same roles; while in masculine cultures, “guys have to be take the lead role and ladies assertive and formidable”.

Be careful with your choice of words

Using slangs or provocative words with friends during normal conversations or even with colleagues isn’t proper and can put up cultural barriers to communication. You need to be of exemplary character to learn the language and culture of others.

However, you need to tread carefully with intercultural communication. For example, when a foreigner learns English, it’s best to teach them the accepted language and pronunciations instead of teaching them slang words. If you use a slang word in front of them, it is possible they could get offended or become confused. Wilburton, a foreigner says when he learned Spanish during his four years in high school, he was taught the proper grammar that is spoken in Spain, but he did not learn the various dialects of other Spanish countries. That handicapped him because couldn’t fully interact with all the Spanish guys in his school.

Be curious

During the communication exercises, you need to be curious and ask questions about the individual’s lifestyle; but, you must always remain genuine. The general public, irrespective of the language barrier, will help especially when you have good intentions. Your aim is to make a sincere reference to every other human being and if your behavior is forced, that connection will be disconnected. One way to prove that you are being truthful is to learn how to master nonverbal conversation techniques, along with posture, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice. Keeping eye contact gives a positive message to the other person and tells them that you are interested in what they are saying.

You should also take note of your tone of voice which is very crucial to intercultural communication. Don’t in any way boast or laugh out loud in public because that’s a sign of disrespect. Some cultures are more reserved and respectful. When you do your research on the unique culture that you’ll be delving into, you need not forget to examine what they consider disrespectful in conversations.

Avoid the use of slangs and idioms

Use specific and relevant words when speaking. Slang and idioms would not be understood by people of other cultures. Try so much not to make it more difficult for others to understand what you say. Don’t assume before communicating. Be clear or rephrase your language to avoid being misunderstood or considered disrespectful.

Be a good listener

If someone doesn’t speak properly, you will be tempted to stop listening. This does more damage than good. Every person loves to be heard and so when you’re speaking to someone from a different culture, keep proper eye contact, ask questions when something does not make sense to you. There’s a possibility that they will repeat themselves especially when you ask a question on something you didn’t get right. So be attentive to listen carefully.

Keep informal communication at a minimal rate

Avoid informal conversations that entail use of slangs. When translated, it may mean something entirely different. Most people use words which might sound acceptable to the ear but in another language might mean something disrespectful, so be very careful with your choice of words. Keeping informal communication at a minimal rate reduces cultural barriers to communication.

 Look professional and ambitious

Physical appearance is very vital and gives a powerful impression about you. From your physical appearance one can tell the type of person you are even though it is not applicable in all cases. So, when you’re speaking or listening to someone, make sure you appear presentable. This improves communication skills. Making people trust or believe in you is one of the most powerful communication methods because you are seen as a source of inspiration and people will have that trust in you.

Value others

This point is very vital for cross cultural understanding. The golden rule of “do unto others as you expect them do unto you” basically applies in any situation, but it’s especially beneficial in a multi-cultural area. Everybody wants to be treated with courtesy and fairness. That’s something present in all cultures and demographics, so ensure that you make it a priority in your workplace.

Cross cultural communication helps you understand how to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds and how to communicate with them. This strengthens you on these different types of cultural backgrounds. Cross cultural communication is a related field of study. Its understanding is a relevant material for any company that wants to obtain a diverse workforce or obtain globalization. From their knowledge of cross cultural communication, organizations can foster globalization, technology, and the Internet interaction with different cultures from different countries. This type of communication gives a clear understanding of how people from different cultures speak, interact, and perceive the world around them.

From an organizational point of view, Cross cultural communication entails the understanding of various types of businesses, their customs, and norms and also how to improve communication within different cultural backgrounds. Language barrier, high-context vs. low-context cultures, nonverbal differences, and distance barriers are major factors that affect cross cultural communication. For example, Richard is a manager at a New British –based company. He has flown to china to meet a certain client and arrange a potential partnership with a local Chinese company. His business contact, LIHUA, is his counterpart within the Chinese company. Richard has never been to china before, and he's not familiar with their cultural norms. So he might lose his potential partnership with LIHUA just because of language barrier and also because he didn’t study their norms.

Furthermore, the concept of high- and low-context culture talks about an employee's way of thinking, his opinions, his feelings, and how his lifestyles will affect him in a given culture. A good example is North America and Western Europe which are generally considered to have low-context cultures. That is, businesses in these places are ambitious and self-confident employees base their decisions on facts. This type of business person wants specifics noted in contracts and may have issues with trust. High-context cultures are the reverse of low-context cultures in terms of trust. Trust is the most relevant element when it comes to business operations. There are areas in the Middle East, Asia and Africa that can be considered high context.

Organizations with high-context cultures are socialist in nature and focus on interpersonal relationships. Individuals from high-context cultures like to know the person they are to do business with in order to get a gut feeling on decision making. People from high-context cultures also prefer business teams and groups to be successful rather than just individual achievement.

Make your words easy to understand.

You should make your words easy to understand because it improves communication skills. Suppose you’re in front of an audience, and you want them to believe what you are saying. Avoid lengthy speeches because they could be boring and make you lose your audience’s attention. Give your audience the time to digest what you have said. Pay attention to them and be a lively speaker and listener. Communication is improved with the use of words easy to understand. This makes discussions very interactive.

Value different cultures

When you appreciate someone’s culture you indirectly communicate with the person, this facilitates communication and reduces tension. For example if you want to do business with a Muslim and you start by appreciating his culture telling him how you love their ways. You have indirectly built a strong relationship with that person which will go a long way to enhance business operations.

Make remarks

Ask your client or audience to open up and interact or ask questions. When you allow interaction, you facilitate understanding and discover talents. This makes interactions very lively.

Be focused

This is a solid point which is very critical and goes hand-in-hand with several points above. To begin with, paying attention to what people say gives them assurance that you are listening to what he/she is saying. It’s difficult of course, but creating an interesting conversation will capture the attention of the person and make them focus on what you are saying. When you are on phone, looking at something not related to the discussion topic, the mood of communication could be affected, creating an atmosphere of tension. And so always be attentive because it helps reduce barriers to communication and improves communication skills.

Watch your body language

Our body language gives non-verbal and non-written cues that frequently reveal more about us than we intend to communicate. You tell your partner you have understood what he/she has said but your head is down, you tell your partner you are listening but all your attention is on your phone. Our body speaks more than our words say. Your partner might say something you don’t like and you still accept the concept but only from your facial look your partner knows you’re telling a lie. Your eye contact or how you hold yourself at a video interview communicates even before you say anything. You need to pay close attention to your body language because it reduces barriers to communication and might improve communication skills if well used.

Beware of unnecessary verbal expressions

This helps to improve communication skills and keeps both parties on guard. Do everything to enhance your speech during normal conversations. Make your expressions seem relevant and meaningful especially when it comes to convincing your client to value your company as profitable. One way to sound professional is by using expressions like “um” or “like.” You may also try taking your fingers out of your pockets or definitely relaxing when discussing with your client giving him the impression that you have mastered the subject matter.

Ask questions

The main aim behind the word “conversation” is transferring information and gaining credibility from two or more parties. If questions are not asked one can’t really tell if both parties are satisfied or clearly understand each other. When you ask questions, it makes you understand the subject matter better. When a client says something you do not understand please do not be scared to ask questions because it might be assumed you understand the subject matter. Make it a habit to ask questions. The more you ask questions the more you understand and this will help improve communication skills across cultures.

Create a reaction agenda

Creating a reaction agenda is vital for the company because when you react positively or negatively to your client’s proposal, he will appreciate those gestures. This clearly indicates you are with him at all levels and his proposal is meaningful especially when it is positive. But when it’s negative, you better react to save time and money. It is frustrating to spend time explaining something and you are being ignored. From an online point of view, you can remedy this trouble with a simple rule of thumb. Generally, when you’re available, respond to texts within 20 minutes, cell phone messages within an hour, and e-mails within 24 hours. You can set your personal appropriate time frame, but as soon as you have an agenda you can better control a while.

Recall the scenario before taking any action

Our emotions tempt us to make selections primarily based on superficial proof which may not reflect the proper nature of the problem. For example a supervisor assumed that the negative look of the store was due to the employees’ loss of effort or attention. He did not bear in mind that several employees were terminated due to the financial scenario, at the same time as the store’s work load remained identical.


Ineffective communication however, can offend, confuse or send a misconstrued message which could lead to broken relationships with customers, partners, vendors, and employees.  As such mastering cultural barriers to communication between two different cultures will be of great help. Below are some cultural barriers to communication that can hinder your intercultural communication.

Cultural Barriers to Communication

Language problem

A common cross cultural barrier to communication in a business world is of course language. Although English is perceived as the accepted international language for business, not every business globally adopts it on daily basis. Employees will face so many difficulties when interacting in English, which will lead to confusion and conflict within the organization.  This is because there would not be a flow of information due to communication problems. So choice of language really matters when it comes to communication. Never assume that your subordinates clearly understand your instructions. Always check if they really understood what you said by asking them to summarize what they just heard you say.

Cultural diversity

People from different cultural backgrounds and from different countries find it very difficult to socialize or communicate. When people from different countries come together, their ways are different. A few might be shy to communicate, even if others open up for interaction. Because of these differences in their cultural backgrounds, there is a big distinction in their lifestyles, beliefs and their perception of life. Understanding people’s cultural diversity is a positive step in overcoming the barriers to communication.

Manner of Presentation

How to improve communication is directly proportional to your manner of presentation. Culture is a powerful tool because it influences people’s mentality in different countries. For example, your presentation depends on the type of people you want to impress. In general, English speaking people like both lively and interactive presentations. However, Eastern Europeans are acquainted with presentations which are formal, special and with few interruptions. Questions are answered at the end of a presentation. For example, eastern audiences love more technical information. Canadians, like Americans, love brisk pace; and Latin American audiences prefer a speech with a high degree of emotional appeal. The key in understanding foreign culture is to do your assignment, and not rely on a single source of information when addressing an audience with a different culture or an audience of diverse cultures. By focusing on their own frames of reference, you will understand their norms and customs. This will teach you how to improve communication with people from that cultural background.

Stereotypes and Prejudices

Stereotyping is the process of creating a picture of a cultural lifestyles, over generalizing all people belonging to the particular cultural lifestyles with similar characteristics and categorizing them accordingly. Stereotyping is usually related to a negative believe or wide spread idea about a specific person or group of people.

Stereotyping can be done based on so many things like nationality, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, age, etc. Negative stereotyping creates prejudices as it provokes judgmental attitudes. People look at those cultures as evil and treat the people following the religion wickedly. And so understanding stereotyping teaches you how to improve communication or guides you on what to do when confronted with such a culture. Media is a tool of mass communication which promotes stereotypes and prejudices and creates more communication barriers.


Similar to ethnocentrism and stereotyping, religion also disrupts communication as it creates a specific image of people who follow other religions. People find it difficult to talk to people who follow different religions. Religious views influence how people think about others. It creates differences in opinions. For example, in Pakistan, the Christians have to speak up for their rights as the majority is Islam and the Christians are discriminated. There is also a lack of communication between these religious groups. Considering the obstacles posed by these cultural factors, the question to be addressed at this juncture is what can global leaders do to improve communication skills across cultures?

Whether on a national or international level, we all have intercultural issues to manage. Success in the management of these issues determines the level of success in economy, politics, and conflict resolution. Therefore, intercultural communication is a powerful governmental tool that should be fostered across populations at different levels.


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