In the movie Made In China, the very talented Rajkumar Rao plays the role of an entrepreneur who’s a Chinese soup manufacturer. He starts learning the language because he wants to impress potential investors and set up his business. The movie shows how you need to adapt and adjust to your cultural environment for successful persuasion.

In the real world, employees often travel to other countries as part of their job requirements. One of the most challenging yet important aspects of adjusting to a cultural shift is communication. Read on to explore what cross-cultural communication entails and how to effectively tackle cultural barriers to communication. 

  1. Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication

  2. Why Overcome Cultural Differences In Communication?

  3. Improving Cross-Cultural Communication in Business

Understanding Cross-Cultural Communication

Before we fast-forward to the definition of cross-cultural communication, let’s first understand what cross-culture means. In the business world, cross-culture refers to the interaction between professionals from different backgrounds. In an organization, employees come from multiple walks of life and there’s a difference in their educational background, professional experiences, and skills and knowledge. Additionally, there’s a difference in socio-cultural beliefs, attitudes, norms and values.

Cross-cultural communication highlights how different individuals communicate within a workplace setting. It’s the process of recognizing cultural similarities and differences to help people engage in various situations. A better understanding of someone’s cultural background helps you adjust and improve communication, leading to better interpersonal relationships. Developing strong cross-cultural communication skills is the first step in establishing a healthy work environment. 

Why Overcome Cultural Differences In Communication?

Technological advancements have made it easy for businesses to expand their operations globally. Cultural differences are inevitable when you tap into new market segments. You should be flexible and open-minded as you connect and establish new networks. Effective communication forms the bedrock of successful collaboration and efficiency. Moreover, culture is the fabric of thoughts and it’s impossible to separate ourselves from it. It influences the way we speak and connect with others. You can work harmoniously only when you identify and overcome cultural differences in communication.

Here’s a list of factors that add to the cultural barriers to communication. Be mindful of these factors as you embrace cultural differences in professional settings:

  1. Language

It’s one of the most important cross-cultural communication barriers. People can easily misinterpret things when you speak different languages. You’re unable to communicate complex concepts and emotions and things get easily lost in translation.

  1. Body Language

Non-verbal cues are important for effective interaction and relationship-building. Body language, facial expressions and gestures matter as they provide meaning and justification for communication. For example, a friendly hug might be acceptable at an informal gathering, not a business meeting.

  1. Stereotypes

Beware of biased thoughts and actions and challenge your stereotypes for creating a truly inclusive workplace. Negative preconceived notions (i.e., stereotypes) prevent you from embracing diverse perspectives. It further limits opportunities for your organization.

Improving Cross-Cultural Communication In Business

Multiple cultural perspectives help you understand the communication patterns of coworkers, customers, clients, investors and other audiences. The willingness to adjust to different cultural norms and values will help you find creative solutions to problems. Here are some simple yet effective strategies that’ll teach you how to enhance cross-cultural communication in business settings.

  1. Be Aware

Make an effort to identify and overcome implicit biases and assumptions that may affect your interpersonal relationships. Start by empathizing with others, listening actively and respectfully and gain a better understanding of their viewpoints. For example, ask employees what they think about the organization’s mission, vision and values.

  1. Facilitate Meaningful Conversations

If you want to build a healthy workplace culture, you must encourage strong social relationships. Appreciating another person’s perspective is a good starting point. More often than not, people aren’t comfortable being vocal about their opinions. Encourage them to speak up in meetings by actively asking for their feedback.

  1. Embrace Agility

People are often reluctant to change because it pushes them to step outside their comfort zone. When you’re aware of your personal biases, it’s easier to adapt and embrace change. Start challenging your comfort zone by trying out new things and methods of problem-solving.

Cross-cultural communication is just one (albeit important) aspect of an organization’s overall communication strategy, and improving in this area can be a great first step in maximizing employee and business performance overall.

Harappa Education’s Building Presence course will teach you how to make people want to engage, trust and connect with you. You’ll learn to build a personal brand for yourself that commands attention and inspires others. The TEA (Trust, Authenticity and Emotional Intelligence) Skills will help you connect with your audience better. The Non-Verbal Cues framework will help you exhibit confidence in your body language. Master the art of communication and learn to navigate cultural differences! 


Explore topics such as What is CommunicationTypes of CommunicationWhat is Mirroring & How to Start a Conversation from Harappa Diaries and learn to effectively perceive, respond and interact with others.

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