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LOGO for Workforce Enhancement Program  / Coaching, Evaluating and Delivering Constructive Feedback – Learning Series Cross-cultural communication: When a member of one culture sends a message to a member of another culture. Culture not only dictates how the communication proceeds, it also helps to determine how people encode messages, the meanings they have for messages, and the conditions and circumstances under which various messages may or may not be sent, noticed, or interpreted. Our entire set of communicative behaviors is dependent largely on the culture in which we have been raised. And when cultures vary, communication practices also vary.


Type: Nonverbal Communication

Cultural Impacts: Behavior that communicates without words (such as eye contact, facial expressions, body posture) differs across cultures

Example of Cultural Implications

  • Personal space zones vary
  • Direct eye contact can be considered disrespectful
  • Gestures vary widely across cultures and can be misinterpreted


Type: Time                  

Cultural Impacts: The way people regard and use time is influenced by culture

Example of Cultural Implications: The Western sense of time is logical, sequential, and present-focused. Other cultures may see time as less regimented


Type: Language                      

Cultural Impacts: Spoken or written language is a frequent cause of miscommunication, stemming from a person’s inability to speak the local language, a poor or too-literal translation, or a person missing the subtext or certain symbols

Example of Cultural Implications: Non-native English speakers face particular challenges when working in an English-speaking environment. Even in cultures that share the English language, the meaning of "yes" varies from "maybe, I'll consider it" to "definitely so," with many shades in between


Type: Attitudes            

Cultural Impacts: Attitudes underlie the way we behave, communicate, and interpret messages from other people; our own attitudes can influence how we regard the behaviors of those from other cultures       

Example of Cultural Implications:

  • Different cultures have different expectations regarding appropriate levels of assertive behavior at work—what seems aggressive to some is acceptable to others
  • Cultures differ in their regard to individual versus team work efforts-some may feel uncomfortable being singled out for their contribution


Type: Role                   

Cultural Impacts: Societies differ considerably in their perception of a Manager’s or supervisor’s role

Example of Cultural Implications: In the U.S. a Manager or supervisor may delegate decision-making responsibility for a particular matter to a subordinate. In other cultures, there is a strong value placed on holding decision-making responsibilities to oneself


Type: Social Organization                   

Cultural Impacts: Our perceptions can be influenced by differences in values, approach, or priorities relative to the kind of social organizations (e.g., Agency, job, or group) to which we belong

Example of Cultural Implications: Some cultures prioritize family obligations before work obligations while others place more emphasis on work


Type: Thought Patterns             

Cultural Impacts: The logical progression of reasoning varies widely around the world

Example of Cultural Implications: Some cultures are trained to think logically and present material in a linear framework; people from cultures that emphasize a more fluid or circular approach may experience frustration with the same framework