Communication is the process of transferring meaning from sender to receiver. Organizational communication process involves both the external and internal flows of information, including verbal communication in a nation and in the world as well. Government attempt to secure agreements with other nations regarding international trade is one of the major objectives of external communication, which often takes the form of two-way communication. Other external communication often involves more ways than one-way communication and that may require all the parties affected by the messages to join and cooperate. Internal communication, however, is highly influenced by cultural differences. That is why cross-cultural understanding can never be over-emphasized.
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Context is the totality of information against the background of which an event or an act of communication takes place. Therefore, the context becomes a necessary part of effective understanding and helps convey the message. It is alleged that there are societies, such as Asian countries and many Arab countries, where messages can be implicit and indirect to the Westerners.
Traditions, languages and social fabrics there form a highly different cultural context in their own communication. Whereas, there are low-context societies, as the United States and Canada, where messages sound far more explicit and direct.
There are varying degrees of communication effectiveness, depending on the cultural context of the parties engaged in the discourse. For example, the elaborating style with words and phrases added to fit the style is widely used in high-context societies. The plain and exact style is more popular in low-context societies. The succinct style can be achieved in both high-context and low context cultures if the speaker is more concerned with conveying his or her message risking little misunderstanding.
Contextual style has a lot to do with the speaker and relationship between the parties involved. It is associated with high power distance, collective, high-context cultures. Personal style can be a choice of the speaker who wants to reduce possible barriers between the parties and makes it easy for the listeners. It is popular in low power distance, individualistic and low-context cultures. In addition, the affective style is characterized by language flourishes, which requires the listener to carefully note what is being said and what is being hinted by observing how the sender is presenting the message. In contrast, the instrumental style is goal-oriented and focuses on the sender.
Communicating in the international business context involves both downward and upward flows. Downward communication is the transmission of information from the superior to the subordinate. The purpose of the manager-initiated communication flow is to issue orders and share information. Upward communication is to transfer information from the subordinate to the superior. The purpose of this subordinate-initiated upward communication is to provide feedback, ask questions, or obtain assistance from higher-level management.
There are a great many problems in the international arena that can result in the failure to transfer meaning correctly. International management contains a number of common communication barriers in the language, perception, culture and nonverbal communication. In the field of language, poor writing is proving to be a bigger barrier than poor talking. Misperception resulting from cultural differences also can become barriers to effective communication. Nonverbal communication, such as body language, facial expressions, and use of physical space, time and colors, often causes communication problems.
A number of steps can be taken to improve communication effectiveness in the international arena, which include feedback systems, language and cultural training, as well as increased flexibility and cooperation. These means would help to alleviate such complicated communication problems. But before all those steps taken, the awareness of ineffective communication on the part of both of the superiors and subordinates is essential. And all remedies should start from that.
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