Slide 1: Introduce the topic
Slide 2: Introduce the outline of the report
Slide 3: First and foremost we need to start by giving a working definition of the term Intercultural Communication. What are we describing when we utter this term?
We are of course very much familiar with communication. However for this term the concept “Intercultural” is added. Now, we can break down this word into its basic parts: Inter, a Latin prefix, which means between or among and culture, which refers to the different ideas, customs, and social behavior that is unique to different societies or groups. This definition can apply to something as general as the Filipino culture or something as specific as student culture here in San Beda. Grouping these two together, we get a general picture of what Intercultural Communication means. Basically it is communication between different cultures.
Now, why is this relevant for us? Can anybody tell me?
We are here because we want to get a diploma in Business and Public Administration. In Business today, or in any organization, Intercultural Communication has been a very important topic. We are familiar with the term, globalization. In our day and age, people from different cultures are becoming more and more connected. Let us take a more specific example. Imagine that you are working for a government office or a private firm; your colleagues will most likely have different backgrounds. Whether it is their nationality, or their religion, or their social, ethnic, or educational background, there are always differences. For an organization to be successful and to run as smoothly as possible, effective communication between these people is very important. Misunderstandings can easily arise in this kind of environment and of course we do not want that. That is why it is important today to learn as much as we can about Intercultural Communication.
Slide 4: Now that we have defined what Intercultural Communication means and what its importance for us is. I shall now proceed to the next part of my report, which is about the opportunities and challenges in Intercultural Communication. I will first start with some opportunities that I have noted.
Slide 5: I have divided these into opportunities or benefits for the organization and opportunities or benefits for the individual. First for the organization, the reasons are quite obvious to us. The first point being that there would be more efficiency if Intercultural Communication were properly carried out in the interaction of the employees. Obviously, if the working environment is harmonious, business will go more smoothly. Which leads me to the second point, more output. Of course in an organizational or business setting we have to admit that success is measured by the output and the completion of projects and transactions and whatnot. Again, with cooperation and understanding amongst the different staff, this would be easily achievable. The third point is more ideas.
Along with the diversity in their backgrounds, we can expect of course more diversity in the ideas put forward. Of course, we have our own point of views, ideas, and beliefs, which we get from the culture we grew up in. Through Intercultural Communication, employees of different backgrounds have the opportunity to voice out their unique ideas. And this is beneficial to the business as it would have more options and more creativity and in the end it will become more dynamic.
That is more productive than perhaps having people who come from the same culture, everybody will have more or less the same opinion, and same ideas and it will cause the business to grow at a much slower pace. The fourth is being more competitive; imagine a business that has employees with Intercultural Communication capacity versus a business whose employees have none. Which do you think will have a better chance of expanding their business and opening their markets to new countries? Let’s say they want to expand to Japan. The business whose employees can communicate more effectively with the Japanese market will more likely succeed.
Slide 6: Now what are the benefits for us if we have this skill? I have listed some here. We are all familiar with the maxim birds of the same feather flies together. Normally, growing up we tended to stick with people who are like us, who have the same background, the same interest, am I wrong? In that way, these people can understand us. Because of this most of us don’t have the skill of Intercultural Communication while growing up because we didn’t tend to hang out with people who are different from us. But in the workplace this is not the case, as we are forced to interact and work with people who may have different culture and background from us.
Intercultural Communication therefore, can teach us to be more open-minded individuals. We can be more accepting, sensitive, and understanding to their culture, to their habits. And in the end, this will make us a more competent individual and we will become more desirable as employees. Because who would want to hire people who cannot work with their colleagues, and who often misunderstand people who are different from them? If we notice, most of the advertisements for job openings require the applicant to be open-minded and flexible etc. So these are skills and characteristics that are desirable in the workplace.
Slide 7: Of course, those benefits are all very nice to hear and those characteristics are all very nice to have. But in reality, it can be more difficult to carry out Intercultural Communication. Because if we reflect on it, communication itself is very hard to accomplish successfully between people, what more if it is communication between people who have different cultures? Accordingly, the next part of my report is about the challenges of Intercultural Communication. In the discussion, it is not only essential to listen to the challenges but what is more important is to think of solutions to these problems. So I encourage you to think of some.
The challenge of Intercultural Communication mainly arises from the differences in the manner of expression and communication, which of course arises from the different cultures that one grew up in. In this part of my report I will try to give more specific examples that happens in real life. Mostly, in the case of different nationalities because this is where we really see conflicts arise.
Slide 8: Can anybody guess the first obvious challenge?
Of course this is very obvious, if you are communicating with a foreign colleague. Most of the times one encounters someone who learned English as a second language. Take us for example, if we are working with Americans, they can mostly understand us but there will still be instances when there would be miscommunication because Filipino is our mother tongue and we are not native speakers of English.
Does anybody have a similar experience they would like to share, where communication breakdown occurred because of language barriers?
Slide 9: Proxemics. Different cultures have different concepts of personal space. For example, the Japanese are very conscious of their personal space as compared to the Spanish who are touchier and have more body and eye contact even to strangers. There is anecdote of a Spanish and a Japanese trying to talk in business, which resulted in a very funny scene. So the Spanish keeps approaching the Japanese because he is used to being close when talking to someone and the Japanese keeps on retreating and retreating because he is very conscious of his personal space and so we can imagine that they were like doing a tango. For us Filipinos, we may be close with the people we know but for strangers and people of authority we tend to keep our distance much like the Japanese.
Slide 10: Another example, Gestures. Of course this is very obvious too. So this is another example of Body Language. For different countries there are different gestures. For example the way you make count 3 in your hand (index finger and thumb making a circle), means OK or everything’s fine in the USA, but in Turkey it means someone is Gay, and in Australia it means Zero. Another example in India, when they wobble their heads side to side it means yes. And there are many more differences, like eye contact, greetings etc.…
Slide 11: We can see that there are many sources of misunderstandings. That is why the next of part my report is focused on Enhancing Cultural Sensitivity so that we can try to address the problem arising from Intercultural Communication.
Slide 12: But before that, we must define what Cultural Sensitivity is. Cultural Sensitivity for me implies that we are not ethnocentric. Meaning we do not think that our culture, our ways is the only way. We must come to acknowledge that there are different cultures in the world, all of which have equal importance and therefore exacting the same respect from us and from everyone.
Slide 13: So we move on to the points on how cultural sensitivity can be enhanced in the workplace. First, we must have a dedicated leadership that promotes and recognizes diversity, in that way, they can influence and encourage their employees to be more open-minded and eventually engage and become successful in Intercultural Communication. If the initiative does not come from the individuals, then the management must be the one responsible for promoting this type of communication.
What are the ways in which an organization can promote healthy relationships between their diverse employees?
One, they can hold seminars and educate their employees to the concept and study of Intercultural Communication, like what we are doing now. In that case, they can know the principles behind communicating with other people; they can have more knowledge of handling situations in the office, which requires Intercultural Communication etc. The management can also host parties, and team-buildings for the aforementioned purposes.
Slide 14: If enhancing Cultural Sensitivity is more of a duty of the company to its employees then Improving Intercultural Communication Skills is more of a task of the individual, meaning ourselves. It is up to us to practice and consciously improve ourselves and improve our skills.
Therefore here are some points in improving our Intercultural Communication Skills according to an article by Lindsay McMahon from englishandculture.com.
The first one she says is be aware of your own culture. This means that we have to look at ourselves first, how communicate ourselves so that we can better understand how others communicate.
The second she says, is be a learner. What she means by this is that we have to stop and listen to our colleagues, to their ideas, to their opinions while always keeping in mind that they are working from what they have learned in their own culture. This way we can be more accepting of difference and diversity.
The third is to get curious; we have to try to learn for ourselves their culture, how they act, again so we can better understand them and better communicate with them.
The fourth and last one is that we have to expose ourselves to different cultures regularly. But this condition is probably hard for others who cannot travel and go out to different places. So what I suggest to be the simplest way to improve our Intercultural Communication Skills is to be open-minded and listen to others so that when we make decisions in the workplace we can say to ourselves that we have heard out other people’s opinions and therefore we can come to more logical and productive decisions.
Slide 16: So for the conclusion, I reiterate again some important points in my report. Interpersonal Communication is an important topic in the field of organization and business today. There are many challenges but there are also many ways to improve and develop our cultural sensitivity and our Intercultural Communication Skills. As employees or as employers, we can all benefit from a deeper understanding of Intercultural Communication especially in the context of our now interconnected world.