Why Cross-Cultural Communication Skills are Vital in Business

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The modern business professional works with individuals from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and cultures. To communicate in a culturally diverse environment, it’s important for business professionals to develop cultural intelligence (CQ).

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Rider University’s Online Master of Business Communication program.

How cross-cultural awareness can improve your communication skills.

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An Increasingly Multicultural Business Environment

As diversity continues to increase in the United States, business seek employees with cross-cultural communication skills.

Importance of Cross-Cultural Communication

Cross-cultural communication is crucial in business today for a wide range of reasons. Firstly, people conduct business differently across cultures. Business relations strengthen when employees are trained to communicate and handle conflict across cultures. Additionally, international communication improves when businesspeople can anticipate differences and similarities. Finally, business benefits when individuals across cultures can work together to develop new approaches to problems.

In 2019, 77.7% of U.S. employees were white, 17.6% were Hispanic or Latino, 12.3% were black or African American, and 6.5% were Asian.

Demand for Multilingual Employees

Studies indicate 9 in 10 U.S. employees rely on domestic employees with language skills other than English. 32% of employers have a high dependence on language skills other than English, and 34% of employers reliant on languages other than English say their language needs are not being met by their employees. Furthermore, 1 in 4 American employers have lost or been unable to pursue a business opportunity due to their inability to speak a language other than English. The language in highest demand among employees are Spanish, Chinese, and English.

When Actions and Words Don’t Translate

Simply learning how to speak another language doesn’t necessarily give individuals the ability to communicate cross-culturally. Developing effective cross-cultural communication skills requires a commitment to learning about a culture’s beliefs, values, and customs.

Challenges in Cross-Cultural Communication

There are numerous potential stumbling blocks to cross-cultural communication. Some of these directly involve forms of communication, such as nonverbal communication and differing interpretations of words and concepts across cultures that speak the same language. Other challenges involve certain business practices, such as cultural interpretations of common concepts like initial meetings, approaches to collaborations, and ways of gaining knowledge. There can also be cultural differences in attitudes toward conflict, decision-making, and disclosure.

Tips for Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

Cultural intelligence (CQ) is the ability to communicate with others and work effectively in multicultural environments.

The Building Blocks of Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

One of the foundational elements of cultural intelligence is CQ drive, which is a desire or motivation to acquire knowledge about a new culture. Another key concept is CQ knowledge, which is an ability to understand a culture’s beliefs, behaviors, values, and philosophies. A third building block, CQ action, is defined as an ability to act appropriately in culturally diverse environments. Finally, CQ strategy is a foundational element marked by implementing knowledge about a culture into a communication strategy.

The benefits of putting these CQ building blocks into practice are numerous. They include improved performance, greater employee satisfaction, stronger culturally diverse networks, improved results in cross-cultural negotiations, and better decision-making in cross-cultural situation.

9 Tips for Cross-Cultural Communication

There are numerous items to bear in mind when you integrate cross-cultural communication into your business strategy. For example, you’ll want to avoid labeling interactions that you don’t understand as “abnormal,” “weird,” or “wrong.” Secondly, it can be vital to explore cultural differences and similarities to increase your understanding and respect of other cultures. Another key component is to learn from generalizations about other cultures without using them to create stereotypes. It’s also important to understand that cultural norms don’t always apply to an individual’s behavior. In addition, you should always strive to treat others according to their cultural standards instead of yours. You should also refrain from assuming your way of communicating is the right way to communicate and question your assumptions about communication instead. Another prime strategy is to not let your knowledge of cultural differences prevent you from recognizing the unifying similarities. Additionally, you should rethink the idea of “common sense,” as what’s common sense in one culture may not be the case in another. Finally, you should always look for ways to improve communication, rather than trying to find someone to blame for any miscommunication that may arise.

Bringing the World of Business Together

Learning how to communicate with diverse individuals will require a deeper awareness of one’s own beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors. The rewards of effective cross-cultural communication – stronger relationships, improved performance, and greater employee satisfaction – will be well worth the effort.