Intercultural Communication in Business Outline

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InterculturalCommunication in Business


I. Verbalcommunication in business

  1. High and low context forms of communication

  2. Direct and indirect communication and its influence in business transactions and negotiations

  3. Volume, projection, pitch and tone of voice and clarity in business communications.

II. Non-verbalcommunication in business

  1. Role of non-verbal communication in business transactions

  2. Eye contact across cultures in the world and its implication in business communication

  3. Role of body language in business communication and its variations in different cultures.

III. Relationshipbetween Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications

  1. Differences between Verbal and Non-verbal communication

  2. Gender influence in verbal and non-verbal communication and its implications in business

  3. Cultural influence in verbal and non-verbal communication and its implications in business

IV. InterculturalCommunications

  1. Definition of Intercultural Communications

  2. Cultural variations across the world that affect communication

  3. Implication of Cultural variations to the business sector

V. ImprovingCommunication Competence

A. Importance of communication in business

B. Understanding the role of culture in business environments.

C. Strategies to improve communication competence



Intercultural Communication in Business

As more companiesexplore international frontiers, they face numerous challenges andopportunities in the new countries. One of the challenges that theyface is the different cultures and beliefs that each of them holds.The differing cultures often play a significant role in determiningthe success of a business and may lead to the failure of suchbusinesses. It is prudent for firms that seek to access globalmarkets to understand the verbal and non-verbal cues in each hostcountry. A proper understanding of these factors will help improvenegotiations and business transactions in these different cultures.

VerbalCommunication in Business

The verbal cuesthat each culture espouses are entirely different, and successfuloperations will largely depend on how each party accommodates theverbal cues of the other party. Hooker (2008) explicates that theverbal and non-verbal cues of culture will largely depend on thecommunication context that businesses in the region undertake. Inhigh context communication areas, a lot of background information isnecessary for one party to understand the message. Nevertheless, in alow text communication, there is only little background informationneeded to pass across a message. According to Hooker (2008), much ofthe European countries, Canada, The United States, Australia and NewZealand are high context communicators while most of the othercountries are low context communicators.

Other culturesprefer direct communication over indirect communication. Joyce (2012)asserts that direct communication is common in cultures that espouseindependence and individualism. Western countries are generally knownto be direct communicators while other regions tend to avoid directconfrontations and are thus likely to be indirect communicators(Joyce, 2012). Business people should understand some of the verbalcues that people value when making transactions in a differentculture.

The manner inwhich the verbal message is conveyed to the other party will alsoinfluence the effectiveness of verbal communication. The volume, toneand projection are some of the factors that influence communication.In Asian societies, for example, people of a higher social class andthe aged expect to be treated by respect and one is expected tocommunicate with a low voice that shows submission.

Non-verbalCommunication in Business

Kirkegaard (2010)defines non-verbal communication as that which supports and surroundsverbal communication. It consists of paralanguage, eye contact,facial expressions, gestures, silence, touching, time and appearance.Different cultures across the world place their meanings toconventional non-verbal cues. The rule regarding these non-verbalcues vary from culture to culture and may affect a businesstransaction if one person does not understand the other culture. Forexample, many western cultures regard eye contact as a show of poweror honesty while the same is regarded as disrespect and an invasionof privacy in the Japanese context (Kirkegaard, 2010).

The Japaneseperceive looking down as a sign of attentiveness to a speaker whileAmericans believe breaking eye contact is a sign of defeat. Theinability to understand these non-verbal cues in different culturesmay lead to disagreements and even conflict in a business meeting. Acommon misconception in business is that successful communicationarises where one party can use persuasive verbal communication toanother (Zhang &ampZhou, 2008). Despite this being partly right,non-verbal cues such as body language play an even bigger role inpersuading clients. Body language is useful as it also expresses thefeelings and attitudes of a person. A businessperson who expresslystates that they have the best product in the world but whose bodylanguage does not match with the statements is not likely to bebelieved. It may thus negate the verbal message that a person useswhile addressing others.

Relationshipbetween Verbal and Non-Verbal Communications

There are anumber of differences between verbal and non-verbal communication.Verbal communication is seen to be more useful and effective whenconveying information over long distances. Non-verbal communicationis good at conveying emotions, therefore, appropriate in morepersonal interactions. As much as non-verbal messages are used toassist verbal communication, there are inconsistencies which mayalter the message.

There are also gender differences that arise in both verbal andnon-verbal communication. Women are known to better understandnon-verbal communication while men prefer to focus on verbalcommunication (Lustig &amp Koester, 2003). This disparity may affectbusiness communications as women will prefer to focus on thenon-verbal communication and any inconsistencies will alter businessnegotiations (Lustig &amp Koester, 2003).

The differencesin culture will also play a significant role in businesscommunications. There are cultural variations, across the world,which affect negotiations and communication. While western societiesbelieve that people should express emotions as they please, mostAsian countries exhibit restraint in showing emotions. Smiling, forexample, in western societies tends to show a state of happiness andjoy while in the Japanese culture, it can be a sign of embarrassmentor can be used when one does not want to answer a question(Kirkegaard, 2010)


Interculturalcommunication involves the passing of information to people ofdifferent cultures whereby the difference in culture may affect thecommunication process (Lustig &amp Koester, 2003). It is often wisefor businesses to understand the cultures where they operate as itwill affect their performance.

A cultural aspectthat might affect business communication is the acceptable norms insociety. Most western nations, for example, are time conscious andbelieve in the importance of being punctual in a business meeting.However, other cultures such as in Brazil, Asian and Africancountries do not see the need to be overly punctual and may appearfor meetings later than acceptable. Udobong (2008) explicates thathierarchical societies such as China and Japan may also havedifferent beliefs where people in the higher social stratificationexpect rewards or preferential treatment from the other party.Individuals from egalitarian societies such as those in the Westwill, nonetheless, not require any preferential treatment in abusiness deal (Udobong, 2008).

ImprovingCommunication Competence

Interculturalcommunication is inevitable for companies that seek to scale up tothe international scene. Whether it involves dealing with clients,negotiating with other firms or simply networking, it is imperativeto understand the role that culture plays in these interactions.Verbal communication requires one to structure their interactions soas to ensure proper communication and avoid misunderstandings. Thenon-verbal cues will also vary across different cultures, and a goodunderstanding of these signals ensures effective communication.

According toSpitzberg (1988) communication competence is the ability tocommunicate accurately and concisely to others. Culture plays acritical role in these business environments as most clients will notunderstand the culture of the business. Consequently, it is up to thebusiness to invest resources in understanding the culture of the hostcountry and adopt its aspects to their operations. This can be donethrough improving their communication competence in the host culture.

One of the waysthat the company can do this is through investing time and resourcesto teach their employees how to communicate in the host culture andsome of the communication cues that may affect it (Spitzberg, 1988).Participating in the social interactions and events of a host culturewill help improve competence too (Spitzberg, 1988). Learningconversational involvement and ways of communicating emotions in adifferent culture is also a good way to improve communicationcompetence.


Hooker, J. (2008). Cultural Differences in Business Communication,Tepper School of Business. Accessed from

Joyce, C. (2012). The Impact of Direct and Indirect Communication.Journal of the International Ombudsman Association.

Kirkegaard, M. (2010). An Analysis of Non-Verbal Communicationwithin the Organizational Culture of Japan, InterculturalCommunication. Accessed from

Lustig,M. W., &amp Koester, J. (2003). Interculturalcompetence. Interpersonal communication across cultures.

Spitzberg, B. H. (1988). Communication competence: Measures ofperceived effectiveness. A handbook for the study of humancommunication: Methods and instruments for observing, measuring, andassessing communication processes, 67-105.

Udobong, E, (2008). How to deal with cross-cultural problems ininternational business negotiation, International Business LawJournal, Volume 13, pp.4-19.

Zhang, T &amp Zhou, H, (2008). Body Language in BusinessNegotiation, International Journal of Business and Management, 32.

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