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Identifying the Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication
Owing to cultural differences between people, communication is not always effective. Cultural barriers in communication ought to be dealt with efficiently, in order to enable healthy communication.
Stephen Rampur
Last Updated: Mar 2, 2018
Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. - Margaret Millar

It is a fact that effective communication is the key to success in both personal and business relationships. In the absence of proper communication between two people, actions will not be in tandem with the actual motive. Many a time, the reason behind the lack of effective communication between two individuals is, the cultural differences between them. Be it an informal or a corporate setting, a gap is created in the communication between individuals coming from different cultures, as a result of which the message to be conveyed is misinterpreted or not understood.
Social and Economic Conditions
Social and Economic Conditions
Individuals may not communicate with each other due to a difference in the status they hold in society. For example people holding higher ranks or posts or those with a higher position in society may experience difficulty in communicating with individuals holding lesser ranks or those on a lower social status.
Those in a good economic condition may not communicate openly with people in a relatively lower financial status. This is observed at both personal and professional levels. For example, people from rich families may find a communication gap in interacting with people from the middle or lower middle class. A poor economic condition or lower status in society can make one feel inferior. Similarly, a very good economic condition or higher social status can make one feel superior, thus creating a communication gap between these two groups.
Cultural Background
Cultural Background
People coming from different countries may not find comfort in communicating or coordinating easily with one another. When people from different countries come together, their way of thinking varies. Some might be shy to communicate, while others open for communication.
Owing to the difference in their cultural backgrounds, there is a difference in their upbringing, due to which there's a difference in their views and beliefs. Even the communication etiquette differs across the different countries, thus making it difficult for communication to even start.
Language and Accent
Language and Accent
Language is one cultural barrier that is observed in people coming from different parts of the world. Many of us hesitate to communicate with a foreigner because we are unable to understand his language or accent. For example, An Asian may not feel comfortable talking to an Australian, owing to his/her heavy English accent.
Behavior and Nature
Behavior and Nature
Behavior and human nature can be barriers in communication. Culture influences one's personality and the persona in turn impacts the way one thinks, behaves and communicates. For example, egoistic people may keep themselves away from communicating with the others around.
Similarly, people with an inferiority complex may find it difficult to communicate freely. Also, a difference in personalities can lead to a communication gap in people. Extroverts can initiate communicate with no difficulty while introverts cannot. Good communication is possible only if both parties are ready to communicate, are able to understand the differences in their personalities and keep their personal differences aside.
Being from different religions or castes can act as a barrier to communicate on a personal or professional level. Sometimes, a person may feel uncomfortable communicating with people from other religions. This is mainly because of the difference in the beliefs they share. Religious views impact the way one thinks and can lead to differences of opinion.
But one must understand the reasons behind these differences and tackle them carefully. If this is done, religion would no longer remain a cultural barrier to communication. However, due to globalization and spread of education, the negative impact of this kind of barrier seems to be decreasing.
Apart from the cultural barriers discussed above, differences in political views, living values, priorities in life, trust levels, age difference and moods are some of the other factors that hinder effective communication.
Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Communication
~ While communicating with an individual or a group, use a language they are familiar with.
~ Have respect for people from other cultures and their values and beliefs.
~ While communicating, do not include terms or references which are exclusively related to a specific culture.
~ A knowledge of different cultures and traditions helps you get along with people from other cultures.
~ With regards to corporate communication, the management can arrange for cross-cultural training sessions, which contribute to clear communication in people from different cultures.
~ Be it a hobby class or workplace training, make sure the training material has an easy-to-understand language for any group of individuals.
~ Having the working knowledge of an additional language is also an effective way to reduce the impact of cultural barriers in communication.
~ Treat people from other cultures with respect; doing so will enable healthy communication between you.

The whole idea of communication is based on transfer of information from a sender to a receiver and communication is said to be complete only when the recipient understands what the sender had to say. Thus, it's obvious that communication cannot take place in the presence of any kind of barriers that hinder healthy interaction between the communicators. Cultural barriers hamper effective communication at both personal and professional levels. Removing these barriers would certainly encourage healthy and effective communication.
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