Intercultural Communication

Intercultural communication (or cross-cultural communication) is a discipline that studies communication across different cultures and social groups, or how culture affects communication. It describes the wide range of communication processes and problems that naturally appear within an organization or social context made up of individuals from different religious, social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. In this sense it seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures act, communicate and perceive the world around them. Many people in intercultural business communication argue that culture determines how individuals encode messages, what medium they choose for transmitting them, and the way messages are interpreted.[1]
With regard to intercultural communication proper, it studies situations where people from different cultural backgrounds interact. Aside from language, intercultural communication focuses on social attributes, thought patterns, and the cultures of different groups of people. It also involves understanding the different cultures, languages and customs of people from other countries. Intercultural communication plays a role in social sciences such as anthropology, cultural studies, linguistics, psychology and communication studies. Intercultural communication is also referred to as the base for international businesses. There are several cross-cultural service providers around who can assist with the development of intercultural communication skills. Research is a major part of the development of intercultural communication skills.[2][3]

Identity and culture are also studied within the discipline of communication to analyze how globalization influences ways of thinking, beliefs, values, and identity, within and between cultural environments. Intercultural communication scholars approach theory with a dynamic outlook and do not believe culture can be measured nor that cultures share universal attributes. Scholars acknowledge that culture and communication shift along with societal changes and theories should consider the constant shifting and nuances of society.

The study of intercultural communication requires intercultural understanding, which is an ability to understand and value cultural differences. Language is an example of an important cultural component that is linked to intercultural understanding.[4]Intercultural communication is in a way the 'interaction with speakers of other languages on equal terms and respecting their identities'.[5]

Areas of Interest

Cross-cultural business communication

Cross-cultural business communication is very helpful in building cultural intelligence through coaching and training in cross-cultural communication management and facilitation, cross-cultural negotiation, multicultural conflict resolution, customer service, business and organizational communication. Cross-cultural understanding is not just for incoming expats. Cross-cultural understanding begins with those responsible for the project and reaches those delivering the service or content. The ability to communicate, negotiate and effectively work with people from other cultures is vital to international business.

Management

Important points to consider:

  • Develop cultural sensitivity
  • Anticipate the meaning the receiver will get.
  • Careful encoding
  • Use words, pictures, and gestures.
  • Avoid slang, idioms, regional sayings.
  • Selective transmission
  • Build relationships, face-to-face if possible.
  • Careful decoding of feedback
  • Get feedback from multiple parties.
  • Improve listening and observation skills.
  • Follow-up actions

Facilitation

There is a connection between a person's personality traits and the ability to adapt to the host-country's environment--including the ability to communicate within that environment.

Two key personality traits are openness and resilience. Openness includes traits such as tolerance for ambiguity, extrovertedness, and open-mindedness. Resilience includes having an internal locus of control, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, and resourcefulness.

These factors, combined with the person's cultural and racial identity and level of preparedness for change, comprise that person's potential for adaptation.

Cultural perceptions

There are common conceptualizations of attributes that define collectivistic and individualistic cultures. Operationalizing the perceptions of cultural identities works under the guise that cultures are static and homogeneous, when in fact cultures within nations are multi-ethnic and individuals show high variation in how cultural differences are internalized and expressed.[4]

Globalization

Globalization plays a central role in theorizing for mass communication, media, and cultural communication studies.[6] Intercultural communication scholars emphasize that globalization emerged from the increasing diversity of cultures throughout the world and thrives with the removal of cultural barriers.[4] The notion of nationality, or the construction of national space, is understood to emerge dialectically through communication and globalization.

The Intercultural Praxis Model by Kathryn Sorrells, PH.D shows us how to navigate through the complexities of cultural differences along with power differences. This model will help you understand who you are as an individual, and how you can better communicate with others that may be different from you. In order to continue in living in globalized society one can use this Praxis model to understand cultural differences (based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, etc.) within the institutional and historical systems of power. Intercultural Communication Praxis Model requires for us to respond to someone who comes from a different culture than us, in the most opening way we can. The media may always want to influence what we think of other cultures and also what we should think about our own selves. However it is important, we educate ourselves, and learn how to communicate with others through Sorrells Praxis Model.[1]

Problems

The problems in intercultural communication usually come from problems in message transmission. In communication between people of the same culture, the person who receives the message interprets it based on values, beliefs, and expectations for behavior similar to those of the person who sent the message. When this happens, the way the message is interpreted by the receiver is likely to be fairly similar to what the speaker intended. However, when the receiver of the message is a person from a different culture, the receiver uses information from his or her culture to interpret the message. The message that the receiver interprets may be very different from what the speaker intended.

Nonverbal communication has been shown to account for between 65% and 93% of interpreted communication.[7] Minor variations in body language, speech rhythms, and punctuality often cause mistrust and misperception of the situation among cross-cultural parties. This is where nonverbal communication can cause problems with intercultural communication. Misunderstandings with nonverbal communication can lead to miscommunication and insults with cultural differences. For example, a handshake in one culture may be recognized as appropriate, whereas another culture may recognize it as rude or inappropriate.[7]

Effective communication depends on the informal understandings among the parties involved that are based on the trust developed between them. When trust exists, there is implicit understanding within communication, cultural differences may be overlooked, and problems can be dealt with more easily. The meaning of trust and how it is developed and communicated vary across societies. Similarly, some cultures have a greater propensity to be trusting than others.

Theories

The following types of theories can be distinguished in different strands: focus on effective outcomes, on accommodation or adaption, on identity negotiation and management, on communication networks, on acculturation and adjustment.[8]

Social engineering effective outcomes

  • Cultural convergence
    • In a relatively closed social system in which communication among members is unrestricted, the system as a whole will tend to converge over time toward a state of greater cultural uniformity. The system will tend to diverge toward diversity when communication is restricted.[9]
  • Communication accommodation theory
    • This theory focuses on linguistic strategies to decrease or increase communicative distances.Communication accommodation theory seeks to explain and predict why, when, and how people adjust their communicative behavior during social interaction, and what social consequences result from these adjustments.[10]
  • Intercultural adaption
    • Intercultural adaptation involves learned communicative competence. Communicative competence is defined as thinking, feeling, and pragmatically behaving in ways defined as appropriate by the dominant mainstream culture. Communication competence is an outcomes based measure conceptualized as functional/operational conformity to environmental criteria such as working conditions. Beyond this, adaptation means "the need to conform" to mainstream "objective reality" and "accepted modes of experience".[11]
  • Co-cultural theory
    • In its most general form, co-cultural communication refers to interactions among underrepresented and dominant group members.[12] Co-cultures include but are not limited to people of color, women, people with disabilities, gay men and lesbians, and those in the lower social classes. Co-cultural theory, as developed by Mark P. Orbe, looks at the strategic ways in which co-cultural group members communicate with others. In addition, a co-cultural framework provides an explanation for how different persons communicate based on six factors.

Identity negotiation or management

Communication networks

  • Networks and outgroup communication competence
  • Intracultural versus intercultural networks
  • Networks and acculturation

Acculturation and adjustment

  • Communication acculturation
    • This theory attempts to portray "cross-cultural adaptation as a collaborative effort in which a stranger and the receiving environment are engaged in a joint effort."[13]
  • Anxiety/Uncertainty management
    • When strangers communicate with hosts, they experience uncertainty and anxiety. Strangers need to manage their uncertainty as well as their anxiety in order to be able to communicate effectively with hosts and then to try to develop accurate predictions and explanations for hosts' behaviors.
  • Assimilation, deviance, and alienation states
    • Assimilation and adaption are not permanent outcomes of the adaption process; rather, they are temporary outcomes of the communication process between hosts and immigrants. "Alienation or assimilation, therefore, of a group or an individual, is an outcome of the relationship between deviant behavior and neglectful communication."[14]
  • Assimilation
    • Assimilation is the process of absorbing the traits of the dominant culture to the point where the group that was assimilated becomes indistinguishable from the host culture. Assimilation can be either forced or done voluntarily depending on situations and conditions. Regardless of the situation or the condition it is very rare to see a minority group replace and or even forget their previous cultural practices.[15]
  • Alienation
    • Alienation frequently refers to someone who is ostracized or withdrawn from other people with whom they would ordinarily be expected to associate with. Hajda, a representative theorist and researcher of social alienation says: " alienation is an individuals feeling of uneasiness or discomfort which reflects his exclusion or self-exclusion from social and cultural participation."[16]

The 4 Distances Model

The model is based on the concept of relational distance: how people from different cultures can interact effectively or instead generate interactions based on conflict, incommunicability and misunderstandings, is strictly dependent from the feeling of "closeness" or "distance" that emerges in the interaction patterns between intercultural communicators. The 4 Distances Model, originally developed by the European Fulbright scholar Daniele Trevisani.[17] defines the four main variables that can determine relational distance. Each variable has a subset of more specific hard-type (more tangible) and soft-type (more intangible) sub-variables:

  • D1 - Distance of the Self. Defined by D1A - Hard Distances: biological differences, chronemics-timing differences between communicators emissions/decoding/feedbacks; D1B - Intangible Distances: identity/role/archetype/personality differences;
  • D2 - Communication Codes Distances (Semiolinguistic Distance). Defined by D2A: communication content (hard variables); - D2B: codes, subcodes, signs, symbols, language communication styles (soft variables)
  • D3 - Ideological and value distance: differences in: D3A core values, core beliefs, ideologies, world-views (hard variables) and D3B peripheral attitudes and beliefs (soft variables)
  • D4 - Referential distance (personal history); D4A - experience with external world objects, physical experiences (hard variables); D4B internal sensations world, emotional past and present (soft variables)

Each of these "Distances Factor" can be determined by means of observation, psychometric measurements, non verbal content-analysis and verbal content-analysis. The model has proven to be effective in the analysis of intercultural communication critical incidents, incidents due to intercultural communications misunderstanding, as in the International Space Station crew,[18] and in reducing misunderstanding in Intercultural Research & Development Engineering Teams.[19] The model enables emirical research and monitoring on how intercultural interactions can shift in time from "distance" to "closeness", or vice-versa, from empathy to conflict, from entropy to clarity, on which specific variables, and with which effects, in order to prepare specific interventions that reduce unwanted distances and prepare interventions on the factors that can generate conflict, misunderstanding, and disagreement.

Other theories

  • Meaning of meanings theory - "A misunderstanding takes place when people assume a word has a direct connection with its referent. A common past reduces misunderstanding. Definition, metaphor, feedforward, and Basic English are partial linguistic remedies for a lack of shared experience."[20]
  • Face negotiation theory - "Members of collectivistic, high-context cultures have concerns for mutual face and inclusion that lead them to manage conflict with another person by avoiding, obliging, or compromising. Because of concerns for self-face and autonomy, people from individualistic, low-context cultures manage conflict by dominating or through problem solving"[21]
  • Standpoint theory - An individual's experiences, knowledge, and communication behaviors are shaped in large part by the social groups to which they belong. Individuals sometimes view things similarly, but other times have very different views in which they see the world. The ways in which they view the world are shaped by the experiences they have and through the social group they identify themselves to be a part of.[22][23] "Feminist standpoint theory claims that the social groups to which we belong shape what we know and how we communicate.[24] The theory is derived from the Marxist position that economically oppressed classes can access knowledge unavailable to the socially privileged and can generate distinctive accounts, particularly knowledge about social relations."[25]
  • Stranger theory - At least one of the persons in an intercultural encounter is a stranger. Strangers are a 'hyperaware' of cultural differences and tend to overestimate the effect of cultural identity on the behavior of people in an alien society, while blurring individual distinctions.
  • Feminist genre theory - Evaluates communication by identifying feminist speakers and reframing their speaking qualities as models for women's liberation.
  • Genderlect theory - "Male-female conversation is cross-cultural communication. Masculine and feminine styles of discourse are best viewed as two distinct cultural dialects rather than as inferior or superior ways of speaking. Men's report talk focuses on status and independence. Women's support talk seeks human connection."[26]
  • Cultural critical studies theory - The theory states that the mass media impose the dominant ideology on the rest of society, and the connotations of words and images are fragments of ideology that perform an unwitting service for the ruling elite.
  • Marxism - aims to explain class struggle and the basis of social relations through economics.

History of assimilation

  • Forced assimilation was very common in the European colonial empires the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. colonial policies regarding religion conversion, the removal of children, the division of community property, and the shifting of gender roles primarily impacted North and South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia.

Voluntary assimilation has also been a part of history dating back to the Spanish Inquisition of the late 14th and 15th centuries, when many Muslims and Jews voluntarily converted to Roman Catholicism as a response to religious prosecution while secretly continuing their original practices. Another example is when the Europeans moved to the United States.[15]

Intercultural competence

Intercultural communication is competent when it accomplishes the objectives in a manner that is appropriate to the context and relationship. Intercultural communication thus needs to bridge the dichotomy between appropriateness and effectiveness:[27] Proper means of intercultural communication leads to a 15% decrease in miscommunication.[28]

  • Appropriateness: Valued rules, norms, and expectations of the relationship are not violated significantly.
  • Effectiveness: Valued goals or rewards (relative to costs and alternatives) are accomplished.

Competent communication is an interaction that is seen as effective in achieving certain rewarding objectives in a way that is also related to the context in which the situation occurs. In other words, it is a conversation with an achievable goal that is used at an appropriate time/location.[27]

Components

Intercultural communication can be linked with identity, which means the competent communicator is the person who can affirm others' avowed identities. As well as goal attainment is also a focus within intercultural competence and it involves the communicator to convey a sense of communication appropriateness and effectiveness in diverse cultural contexts.[27]

Ethnocentrism plays a role in intercultural communication. The capacity to avoid ethnocentrism is the foundation of intercultural communication competence. Ethnocentrism is the inclination to view one's own group as natural and correct, and all others as aberrant.

People must be aware that to engage and fix intercultural communication there is no easy solution and there is not only one way to do so. Listed below are some of the components of intercultural competence.[27]

  • Context: A judgment that a person is competent is made in both a relational and situational context.This means that competence is not defined as a single attribute, meaning someone could be very strong in one section and only moderately good in another. Situationally speaking competence can be defined differently for different cultures. For example, eye contact shows competence in western cultures whereas, Asian cultures find too much eye contact disrespectful.
  • Appropriateness: This means that one's behaviours are acceptable and proper for the expectations of any given culture.
  • Effectiveness: The behaviours that lead to the desired outcome being achieved.
  • Motivations:This has to do with emotional associations as they communicate interculturally. Feelings which are one's reactions to thoughts and experiences have to do with motivation. Intentions are thoughts that guide one's choices, it is a goal or plan that directs one's behaviour. These two things play a part in motivation.[27]

Basic tools for improvement

The following are ways to improve communication competence:

  • Display of interest: showing respect and positive regard for the other person.
  • Orientation to knowledge: Terms people use to explain themselves and their perception of the world.
  • Empathy: Behaving in ways that shows one understands the point of view of others
  • Task role behaviour: initiate ideas that encourage problem solving activities.
  • Relational role behaviour: interpersonal harmony and mediation.
  • Tolerance for unknown and ambiguity: The ability to react to new situations with little discomfort.
  • Interaction posture: Responding to others in descriptive, non-judgmental ways.[27]
  • Patience[29]
  • Active listening[30]
  • Clarity [30]

Important factors

  • Proficiency in the host culture language: understanding the grammar and vocabulary.
  • Understanding language pragmatics: how to use politeness strategies in making requests and how to avoid giving out too much information.
  • Being sensitive and aware to nonverbal communication patterns in other cultures.
  • Being aware of gestures that may be offensive or mean something different in a host culture rather than one's own culture.
  • Understanding a culture's proximity in physical space and paralinguistic sounds to convey their intended meaning.[31]

Traits

Verbal communication

Verbal communication consist of messages being sent and received continuously with the speaker and the listener, it is focused on the way messages are portrayed. Verbal communication is based on language and use of expression, the tone in which the sender of the message relays the communication can determine how the message is received and in what context.

Factors that affect verbal communication:

  • Tone of voice
  • Use of descriptive words
  • Emphasis on certain phrases
  • Volume of voice

The way a message is received is dependent on these factors as they give a greater interpretation for the receiver as to what is meant by the message. By emphasizing a certain phrase with the tone of voice, this indicates that it is important and should be focused more on.

Along with these attributes, verbal communication is also accompanied with non-verbal cues. These cues make the message clearer and give the listener an indication of what way the information should be received.[32]

Example of non-verbal cues

  • Facial expressions
  • Hand gestures
  • Use of objects
  • Body movement

In terms of intercultural communication there are language barriers which are effected by verbal forms of communication. In this instance there is opportunity for miscommunication between two or more parties.[33] Other barriers that contribute to miscommunication would be the type of words chosen in conversation. Due to different cultures there are different meaning in vocabulary chosen, this allows for a message between the sender and receiver to be misconstrued.[34]

Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication is behavior that communicates without words--though it often may be accompanied by words. Minor variations in body language, speech rhythms, and punctuality often cause differing interpretations of the situation among cross-cultural parties.

Kinesic behavior is communication through body movement--e.g., posture, gestures, facial expressions and eye contact. The meaning of such behavior varies across countries.

Occulesics are a form of kinesics that includes eye contact and the use of the eyes to convey messages.

Proxemics concern the influence of proximity and space on communication (e.g., in terms of personal space and in terms of office layout). For example, space communicates power in the US and Germany.

Paralanguage refers to how something is said, rather than the content of what is said--e.g., rate of speech, tone and inflection of voice, other noises, laughing, yawning, and silence.

Object language or material culture refers to how people communicate through material artifacts--e.g., architecture, office design and furniture, clothing, cars, cosmetics, and time. In monochronic cultures, time is experienced linearly and as something to be spent, saved, made up, or wasted. Time orders life, and people tend to concentrate on one thing at a time. In polychronic cultures, people tolerate many things happening simultaneously and emphasize involvement with people. In these cultures, people may be highly distractible, focus on several things at once, and change plans often.

Clothing and the way people dress is used as a form of nonverbal communication.

Interdisciplinary orientation

Cross-cultural communication endeavours to bring together such relatively unrelated areas as cultural anthropology and established areas of communication. Its core is to establish and understand how people from different cultures communicate with each other. Its charge is to also produce some guidelines with which people from different cultures can better communicate with each other.

Cross-cultural communication, as with many scholarly fields, is a combination of many other fields. These fields include anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. The field has also moved both toward the treatment of interethnic relations, and toward the study of communication strategies used by co-cultural populations, i.e., communication strategies used to deal with majority or mainstream populations.

The study of languages other than one's own can serve not only to help one understand what we as humans have in common, but also to assist in the understanding of the diversity which underlines our languages' methods of constructing and organizing knowledge. Such understanding has profound implications with respect to developing a critical awareness of social relationships. Understanding social relationships and the way other cultures work is the groundwork of successful globalization business affairs.

Language socialization can be broadly defined as "an investigation of how language both presupposes and creates anew, social relations in cultural context".[35] It is imperative that the speaker understands the grammar of a language, as well as how elements of language are socially situated in order to reach communicative competence. Human experience is culturally relevant, so elements of language are also culturally relevant.[35]:3 One must carefully consider semiotics and the evaluation of sign systems to compare cross-cultural norms of communication.[35]:4 There are several potential problems that come with language socialization, however. Sometimes people can over-generalize or label cultures with stereotypical and subjective characterizations. Another primary concern with documenting alternative cultural norms revolves around the fact that no social actor uses language in ways that perfectly match normative characterizations.[35]:8 A methodology for investigating how an individual uses language and other semiotic activity to create and use new models of conduct and how this varies from the cultural norm should be incorporated into the study of language socialization.[35]:11,12


See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ Lauring, Jakob (2011). "Intercultural Organizational Communication: The Social Organizing of Interaction in International Encounters". Journal of Business and Communication. 48 (3): 231-55.
  2. ^ Drary, Tom (April 9, 2010). "3 Tips For Effective Global Communication". Archived from the original on 2010-04-13.
  3. ^ "Intercultural Communication Law & Legal Definition". Definitions.uslegal.com. Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b c Saint-Jacques, Bernard. 2011. "Intercultural Communication in a Globalized World." In Intercultural Communication: A Reader, edited by Larry A. Samovar, Richard E. Porter, and Edwin R. McDaniel, 13 edition, 45-53. Boston, Mass: Cengage Learning.
  5. ^ Byram, Gribkova & Starkey, 2002
  6. ^ Crofts Wiley, Stephen B. 2004. "Rethinking Nationality in the Context of Globalization." Communication Theory 14 (1):78-83.
  7. ^ a b Samovar Larry, Porter Richard, McDaniel Edwin, Roy Carolyn. 2006. Intercultural Communication A Reader. Nonverbal Communication. pp13.
  8. ^ Cf. Gudykunst 2003 for an overview.
  9. ^ Kincaid, D. L. (1988). The convergence theory of intercultural communication. In Y. Y. Kim & W. B. Gudykunst (Eds.), Theories in intercultural communication (pp. 280-298). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. p.289
  10. ^ Dragojevic, Marko; Gasiorek, Jessica; Giles, Howard (2015). "Communication Accommodation Theory". The International Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Communication (Submitted manuscript). pp. 1-21. doi:10.1002/9781118540190.wbeic006. ISBN 9781118540190.
  11. ^ Gudykunst, W. & Kim, Y. Y. (2003). Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication, 4th ed., 378. New York: McGraw Hill.
  12. ^ Orbe, 1998. p.3
  13. ^ Kim Y.Y.(1995), p.192
  14. ^ Mc.Guire and Mc.Dermott, 1988, p. 103
  15. ^ a b Pauls, Elizabeth. "Assimilation". www.britannica.com.
  16. ^ Giffin, Kim (2009). "Social alienation by communicaton denial". Quarterly Journal of Speech. 56 (4): 347-357. doi:10.1080/00335637009383022.
  17. ^ Trevisani, D. 1992. A Semiotic Models Approach to the Analysis of International/Intercultural Communication; published in "Proceedings of the International and Intercultural Communication Conference", University of Miami, fl., USA, 19-21 May 1992
  18. ^ Trevisani, Daniele; Stene, Trine Marie; Danielsen, Brit-Eli (16 December 2015). Preparing for the unexpected. European Space Agency (ESA) Moon 2020-2030 Conference: A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration. doi:10.13140/RG.2.1.4260.9529.
  19. ^ Gudauskas, Renaldas; Jokubauskiene, Saul?; Zavadskas, Edmundas Kazimieras; Kaklauskas, Arturas; Binkyte, Arune; Peciure, Lina; Budryte, Loreta; Prialgauskas, Darius (2015). "Intelligent Decision Support System for Leadership Analysis". Procedia Engineering. 122: 172-180. doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2015.10.022.
  20. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 492
  21. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 496
  22. ^ Social group
  23. ^ Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.
  24. ^ Wood, 2005[full ]
  25. ^ Intercultural Communication: Globalization and Social Justice (1 ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc. 2013. ISBN 978-1412927444.
  26. ^ Griffin (2000), p. 497
  27. ^ a b c d e f (Lustig & Koester, 2010)
  28. ^ "Facts and Figures". Cultural Candor Inc.
  29. ^ Geldart, Phil. "Excellent Communication Requires Patience". eaglesflight.
  30. ^ a b "Importance of Communication Skills at Work Place". linguasofttech. Retrieved 2018.
  31. ^ a b (Intercultural Communication)
  32. ^ Hinde, R. A. (1972). Non-verbal communication; edited by R. A. Hinde. -. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press, 1972.
  33. ^ Esposito, A. (2007). Verbal and nonverbal communication behaviours [electronic resource] : COST Action 2102 International Workshop, Vietri sul Mare, Italy, March 29-31, 2007 : revised selected and invited papers / Anna Esposito ... [et al.] (eds.). Berlin ; New York : Springer, c2007.
  34. ^ Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. K. (2001). Intercultural communication : a discourse approach / Ron Scollon and Suzanne Wong Scollon. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishers, 2001
  35. ^ a b c d e Rymes, (2008). Language Socialization and the Linguistic Anthropology of Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2(8, Springer)

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