7 ways of Effective Cross-cultural Communication

Seven ways of effective communication between East and Western Cultures.

Nowadays, we still leak cross-cultural communication skills which resolves in miscommunication in business and personal life. Therefore, many conflicts occur and relations are not being build or maintained. As we all live in different countries we all communicate differently. To gain more skills about effective communication between various cultures this article is made. In seven clear steps you will be provided with more information which resolves in better understanding of effective communication between individuals around the world. To simplify, we describe two different styles of communication which is High-context communication and Low-context communication. In low context communication people are direct in their communication and prefer clear instructions. For example, while a Dutch person gives feedback to another Dutch person they are not afraid to give this feedback in public and in a direct way. Moreover, even when this feedback is negative or constructive they are not offended by each other. However, in high-context communication cultures they focus on what is not being said. To clarify, in high context communication there is less verbally said and there is a more adopted understanding of what is communicated. For example, when the situation of the two Dutch persons with giving feedback would occur with a Chinese person they would feel offended by this way of communication. Therefore, seven steps of good communication between east and western cultures are described below.


Step 1, have general knowledge

While working in a multi-cultural company, going overseas for your study or working for a different nation you have to provide yourself with general knowledge about the culture. Having cross-cultural understanding provides you ith skills in cross-cultural communication. Therefore, read books, academic articles and do research! Be aware that different cultures have different thoughts and believes than the ones your are raised with. Having general knowledge creates effective communication and reduces misunderstanding.


Step 2, do not make assumptions

Making assumptions or judging is something what occurs many times in business and in personal life between different cultures. This can lead to conflict. For instance, as Germany and France are both in low-context countries a French men can assume that they communicate on the same level. Nevertheless, nothing is less true! Germans prefer a more of a direct approach of talking and could see the way of communication of the French as arrogant. When creating effective communication you should carefully listen to each other and not assume when people are coming from same kind of area that they will communicate the same.

Step 3, Read between the lines

Encode and decode messages between different cultures. For instance, A Dutch men who lives in a low-context communicative country would be very direct in his communication. While communication they have a rather ‘’straight-forward’’ approach. The communication will be very specific, no word will be forgotten. However, in a high context communicative country as Japan they will focus way more on what is not being said. To clarify, many words could have been fallen. But, if the Japanese will see that there are many pauses in the conversation and the body language shows different coding than what is actually been said. The Japanese person will probably interpret the conversation wrongly.


Step 4, Make clear rules

Whether you have to communicate for your business, for your studies or in your personal life it can be very helpful to set clear rules before you start your conversation to increase effective communication and get the preferred outcome of your conversation. For instance, an American person can be very complementary and positive in a conversation. Americans are very expressive in their communication and love to highlight the positivity in their conversations. However, this can lead to misinterpretations. For instance, someone from Belgium. They both live in a low-context culture. Nevertheless, when an American is only see as positive in the eyes of the Belgium important communication can be missed. For example, while a American manager gives feedback to a general employee and the Belgium person is only seeing the bright parts because of the communicative way of the manager they will miss the improvement points. This kind of insufficient communication can even make the general member lose his job. By setting clear rules beforehand and to understand cross-cultural management this kind of misinterpretations can be prevented.


Step 5, Adapt your communication style to the culture you are talking with

As we are globalizing and having these low and high context communicative cultures, we have to adapt to our communication styles. Tensions can run high when communicating with different cultures. Next to that, by communication with others you want the receiver to get your message to receive it in the way you want the receiver to understand it. Especially when the language barrier is big and people can misunderstand you quickly it is valuable to do more research into someone’s culture. For example, while you want to have effective communication with a Thai person take in consideration to take pauses while you talk. In high context cultures people are learned to listen carefully and wait longer before they react to another. If you do not take pauses you will have a one-sided conversation and you mis critical input from the other.

Step 6, keep it simple

As mentioned in step 5, language barrier is a error that can disturb effective communication. Therefore, try to keep it simple. Pick your words carefully and make sure it is understandable for the other. Simplifying makes sure that others will understand you better and less repetition will be needed. Moreover, while working in a business with different cultures writing particular subjects down and sent it via email later can help clarifying.

Step 7,  always be kind

This seems modest. However, while communication between different cultures people can get frustrated quickly and then emotions get high. This is the part, where people really go to misunderstand each other. By being your ‘’own-boss’’ of your emotions and act modest and kind this will always be beneficial in effective communication. Whether you are in China, Russia, the Netherlands or Japan.

Are u Ready to know how effective your cross-culture communicative skills are?

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Meyer, E. (2014). Culture Map. ingram services US.


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