man and happy woman greeting each other with fist bump

Cultural Barriers To Communication

Before we begin about the Cultural barriers to communication, below is a short 1 minute HSBC “Eels” ad, a must watch to understand the topic.

“The English believe it’s a slur on your host’s food if you don’t clear your plate. Whereas the Chinese feel you’re questioning their generosity if you do”.

– A perfect example of cultural misunderstanding, creating cultural barriers to communication.

What is culture?

Culture can be defined in many ways. Culture is :

  • Social behaviour of the human race towards others and themselves.
  • Knowledge that is being followed years together by a group of people.
  • Symbolic representation of caste, creed, and the human race.
  • Traditional ideas and system that everyone has to follow.
  • Adaption that everyone has to adapt.

What are Cultural Barriers?

Nowadays as we know we are working internationally and we have to talk or deal with too many people across the world. Today our I.T sector and business are Globally spreading and doing their best for growth. So, we have to deal with people across the world. There can be cultural barriers every time as different people are born, brought up, and followed different cultures according to the places they lived or had to spend several years together. Sometimes this may lead to cultural barriers to communication, thoughts, knowledge, etc in day-to-day life. As people from a different region or globally have a different language, food, environment, festivals, etc which can lead to cultural barriers in the workplace quite often and on which we have to work.

Types of Cultural Barriers to Communication

Globally there are different Languages, Festivals, Food and Religion are being followed. That leads to a barrier when we talk about it globally. Because everyone thinks that they are the best and won’t be able to cope up or understand others’ emotions. Hence this can lead to a cultural barriers to communication and in the workplace. There are many types of cultural barriers to communication that can take place. Let’s read in detail about each.

  1. Linguistics Barriers
  2. Stereotype barriers
  3. Emotional Barriers
  4. Psychological barriers
  5. Attitude barriers
  6. Religious barriers

Linguistics Barriers

Linguistic barriers can be defined as language barriers. We know different people in the region speak a different language. If we don’t talk globally and talk only about India then there are more than 15K languages spoken only in India and hence India is named Unity in Diversity.

So, it is really difficult when we are traveling or working with people from different languages, Though the common global language is English and the mother tongue Hindi is being followed in many regions but though it can create a lot of language barriers in the workplaces. With different languages, people also have different Accents of speaking.  We can take it globally too as we know the way of speaking English can be different in different places like in India, the USA, UK, and other Arab countries. So, the language barrier is the most common everyone faces in their day-to-day life and the workplace.

Stereotypes Barrier

The stereotype barrier is the assumption we have for a certain group of people irrespective of their religion, place, name, etc. the assumption has led to the belief that people have for certain people around the world. Although we know that people are not the same everywhere and each one is different. But people have the belief and they take it for granted every time they face it. People will not wait for the chance but they will assume things without any conversation or communication.

Emotional Barriers

Emotional barriers are the barriers related to emotions. The emotional attitude of every people globally is different. Emotionally is related to the mentality. Mentally when people are too much expressive like anger, pain, tears’, anxiousness all these things can lead to emotional barriers. Different people across the world have the different emotional capacity and they handle the work accordingly.

Psychological Barriers

Psychological barriers are related to mental health. These barriers include lack of interest, loss of memory, Attentiveness, emotions, etc. Every human being has a different mindset but some cultural barriers give rise to psychological barriers as they have to think twice before any steps which degrade and bring a lack of interest and consciousness in the person.

Attitude Barriers

Attitude is the perception or behaviour towards handling certain things. This type of barrier can be caused in the workplace due to many reasons like positions, education, nature, personality, etc. People may often get into attitude problems when they are negatively proud of themselves that they are the ones doing the best. Everyone should respect each other without showing any proudness towards anything.

Religious Barrier

The religious barrier is one of the most strong and dangerous barriers of all. Religious means the belief in God and everyone prays to God in different manners hence to conclude religion is a very debatable topic that should be avoided in the workplace. Religious barriers can lead to great protest so It is very important to respect every religion without getting into many conversations.  Every religion has its uniqueness and importance in everyone’s life.

Causes of Cultural Barriers to Communication

There can be different reasons for cultural barriers to communication. Every workplace has some barriers and those barriers for sure will exist. But everyone should work hard to void those barriers and try to work smoothly and stress-free as they can. Let us read in detail about the causes of the barriers.

  1. Accent of languages
  2. Attitude
  3. Gestures
  4. Belief
  5. A different way of handling
  6. Different ways of concept
  7. Punctuality
  8. Social values

Accent of language

These are the very common barriers everyone has to face in the workplace. Because the workplace is a place where people from a different region are appointed to show their best for the growth of the organization. So, people are normally from different areas, hence they speak the same words in different manners. People will normally start laughing if the accent is changed or if they are not speaking properly. This may raise the problem of accent language barriers.

Attitude

Attitude is also a very common barrier one has to face in the workplace. It can come through many reasons some of the common reasons are Positions, Personality, Education background, Experience in the workplace, etc all this led to an attitude problem in a person which can be easily reflected in the person’s behaviour. But such a barrier is not much appreciated in the workplace.

Gestures

Gestures are related to your eyes and hand moments. For example, standing too close, Handshake or touching a woman, eyes moments all this can be considered as rude in many countries. And on the other side Handshake or greeting and eye contact etc are considered must and appropriate in some countries. So, these things lead to barriers and they take place when the businesses are internationally involved.

Belief

Some people believe what they have learned. Or you can say misconception about something. People have misconceptions or stereotypes about people. They believe that in some regions people are rude in their behaviour, some are soft, some have attitude, etc, etc. So, the belief that you have does not allow you to accept anything else but that will always be a barrier in you.

A different way of Handling

People across the world have a different way of handling the situation. Some people get anxious and panic easily. And their way of handling the situation changes easily. Some people are very strong and don’t panic or don’t be stressed under stressful conditions. Moreover, working policies are different in different places so people are used to the way they are working hence it may create a barrier in the workplace.

A different way of Concepts

People have their concepts of handling things. In simple cough and cold everyone has their way of suiting or healing them. Some use lemon as a remedy and some stay away from the lemon. Similarly, everyone handles the situation from a different point of view. Everyone’s priority is different as per their concepts. Which can lead to the barrier.

Punctuality

People across the world are very punctual. But there are some countries which are considered as least punctual. So, when there is international business going on and if the people don’t come on time, it can be considered as a wrong against the work ethics. People across the world follow punctuality as their first Work ethic. Punctuality is the most important and common barrier everyone faces in the workplace.

Social Values

Everyone has different social values and cultures. Social values are related to social status, class, etc. Some people always are conscious of their social status and don’t want to let it down. Some people are always active on their social platforms and they post photos of different places they travel to, and the one who does not post anything is considered lazy or count as poor. This can bring barriers within the workplace.

How to Overcome Cultural Barriers to Communication

Cultural barriers can be overcome where there is the political will.

There are different ways to overcome the cultural barriers to communication. Let us go through each one in details:

  1. Show Respect
  2. Don’t let Negativity come
  3. Try to understand other cultures and norms
  4. Ask before actions
  5. Avoid stereotypes
  6. Ensure clear communication
  7. Learn audience before Meeting
  8. Training
  9. Open-minded
  10.  Feedback

Show Respect

It is very important to show respect to all the culture. Don’t try to keep your culture and religion up and neglect others’ culture. Have respect and try to understand their culture and try to follow them when you are having meetings with them. Don’t take things into a laugh but understand and be sorry if you have hurt their culture.

Don’t let negativity come

Don’t think negatively about others, when negativity comes into your mind think three positivity and try to flip your thoughts. When you’re positive everything around you will be positive and good and you will not feel any barriers in your communication. Try to stop the negativity and take things lightly and in positive ways.

Try to understand others culture and norms

It is very important to understand others’ feelings and culture when you all are working together. If you show respect and understand them, they will give you the same in return and work will be done smoothly. Try to participate in their culture if the participation is not an offense in your culture. This way you can show your respect towards them.

Ask before Actions

Sometimes it is very normal to handshake with the members around you irrespective of gender when you are arranging a meeting. Or maybe you have spoken certain words in the conversation so ask their permission before doing so. It will help you to understand what you are allowed and you will be appreciated for trying to understand them.

Avoid Stereotypes

It is very important to avoid being stereotyped. The stereotype is the way of thinking or custom of thinking you already have in your mind and it keeps on passing from generation to generation. E.g., thinking this region people are always selfish, this region people are sarcastic, this region people are extrovert or mannerless, etc etc. Stop thinking in the stereotype format and deal with every individual according to their nature and show respect.

Ensure Clear Communication

You should have clear and transparent communication when you are having a conversation. Because sometimes when the sentences are not clear or you don’t clear your doubts it can result in misunderstanding and misconception that leads to the barrier in the communication.

Learn audience before the meeting

It is very important to have or gain some knowledge about the audience with whom you will be heading a meet. Try to understand their culture before and try to avoid them in your conversation to have a smooth and perfect conversation.

Training

Training the employee is very necessary. Train employees who are handling customers from other regions and cultures. Make employees aware of their customs and tradition so that they know how to take forward the meeting and barriers can be avoided.

Open-minded

Have open-minded when you are having a conversation. Don’t think narrow about the person, place, and customs.

Feedback

It is very important to get feedback once you finish your meeting. Because Constructive feedback will always help you to grow and understand more.

Conclusion

Once you understand and appreciate other people’s cultural backgrounds, then you can also connect with them more.

Recommended books for Cultural barriers to communication

Article Credit: Cultural barriers to Communication

This article is contributed by Ms. Pragya Delhiwala. Experienced as a quality engineer after completing her education: 2nd rank BE in Electronics & Communications; 1st rank MBA in TQM. She is passionate about management, writing and painting.

More articles from Ms. Pragya Delhiwala:

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