Why is Cultural Intelligence Critical for an Intercultural Team?

f-blog pic intercultural-team2One of the most common challenges intercultural teams face is lack of trust resulting from a misunderstanding, even when all parties had the best of intentions.

There are numerous factors that contribute to intercultural miscommunication and the challenges of doing business globally.  One of the most frequent relates to the level of context in which the respective cultures typically speak.

View this short scenario to see a concrete real-life example, learn about the role context plays in cross-cultural communications and increase your own cultural intelligence:

A Bit More on Context

Cultures classified as relatively “high-context” (e.g.: India) have developed communication patterns that are quite nuanced and indirect.  The actual words play a relatively smaller role in relation to body language, eye contact, tone of voice, etc.

For Example: Rather than a direct “no” in response to a request that can not be met, a person from a high-context culture might say something more along the lines of “maybe” or simply talk about the challenges involved without actually saying “no.”  If this is a dialogue and both communicators are form the same high-context culture, the person who made the request and was told something less direct than “no” would likely understand exactly what the other party is trying to say.

Cultures classified as relatively low-context (e.g.: Germany) tend to invest more in the words that are said, and as a result, are quite direct.

For Example: A person from a low-context culture would be likely to respond to a request that can not be met with a flat “no” without much explanation or apology.  If both communicators are from the same low-context culture the flat “no” is unlikely to offend.

An Assignment

Can you give an example of a situation where you witnessed or experienced an innocent misunderstanding due to different levels of context?

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