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The key to effective cross-cultural communication is knowledge. First, it is essential that people understand the potential problems of cross-cultural communication and make a conscious effort to overcome these problems. Second, it is important to assume that one’s efforts will not always be successful, and adjust one’s behaviour appropriately.

For example, one should always assume that there is a significant possibility that cultural differences are causing communication problems, and be willing to be patient and forgiving, rather than hostile and aggressive, if problems develop. One should respond slowly and carefully in cross-cultural exchanges, not jumping to the conclusion that you know what is being thought and said.

William Ury’s (Senior Fellow of the Harvard Negotiation Project) suggestion for heated conflicts is to stop, listen, and think, or as he puts it "go to the balcony" when the situation gets tense. By this he means withdraw from the situation, step back, and reflect on what is going on before you act. This helps in cross-cultural communication as well. When things seem to be going badly, stop or slow down and think. What could be going on here? Is it possible I misinterpreted what they said, or they misinterpreted me? Often misinterpretation is the source of the problem.

Active listening can sometimes be used to check this out–by repeating what one thinks he or she heard, one can confirm that one understands the communication accurately. If words are used differently between languages or cultural groups, however, even active listening can overlook misunderstandings.

Miscommunication between people happens all the time, especially when one of the parties is using a second language. Misunderstandings lead to doubt about the real intent of others.

Every country has its own communication style and habits. English speakers have the habit of using sport and military metaphors. They even use mixed metaphors and dead metaphors*. For example, they talk about “leveling the playing field” before they “charge straight in” to the “front line of operations”. They can “step up to the plate and grab the bull by the horns”. Americans like to use slang words and phrases that even other Americans don’t always understand. Japanese people do not like to refuse something, so they say that it will be discussed “later”. Later means never. French people can get easily offended. For example, every word has to have a French translation – e-mail, mail are too English, and so the word “courriel” was created. Germans love details and Italians don’t. And the list of generalized differences can go on and on.

English speakers can rapidly create bad impression by being inappropriately informal. Many cultures have a different concept of respect and formality. In many cultures people will only address others using personal names after several months – or not at all. Native English speakers from all countries generally address acquaintances on the first name basis faster than in some cultures. Americans are the champions with the general use of nick names. Beginning your conversation informally in many countries can be insulting.


* dead metaphors – стертые метафоры

Ответьте на вопросы.

1. What should people know for committing effective cross-cultural communication?

2. What can cultural differences cause?

3. What is the best recommendation to avoid a cross-cultural conflict?

4. What is the main reason of a cross-cultural conflict?

5. What is the most common type of situation when miscommunication between people happens? Why?

6. What new information have you learned about habits of English speakers?

Закончите предложения в соответствии с содержанием текста.

1. There is a significant possibility that ______________.

2. The suggestion for heated conflicts is _____________.

3. If words are used differently between languages or cultural groups ________________.

4. Misunderstandings lead to ________________.

5. English speakers have the habit of ________________.

6. Americans like ______________.

7. Japanese people do not like ______________.

8. French people can ______________.

9. Many cultures have _____________.

10. Beginning your conversation informally ________________.



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