What are communication Barriers?
• When the sender and receiver are from different
cultures, communication may prove to be ineffective through
misunderstanding and may even cause a breakdown in the
• Some problems may occur when doing business with foreign
partners, working with foreign colleagues in the same
company, or within a joint venture with a foreign company.
• Breakdown in communication may occur when
- Context is unclear
- cultural misunderstandings
Non- Verbal Behavior as Barrier
• It includes gestures, facial expression, postures and the
distance between sender and receiver.
• They are closely associated or allied to or indeed replace
verbal communication in terms of producing messages.
• They may contradict the accompanying verbal messages.
• They have communication value over and above verbal
Meta Communication and Verbal Behavior
• A Meta Communication is an act of communication /
relationship between two agents.
• Its functions include
- Making gestures to complete messages when information is
missing(e.g when gesturing to indicate someone’s height or
- Making hard gestures and modulating the voice to reinforce
the verbal message by adding rhythm and emphasis;
- Replacing spoken language when it is impossible for some
reason(physical barriers, the dominance of other sounds)
• The nature of meta communication behavior is determined by
personal, social, relational and cultural factors.
• All cultures use forms of body language to communicate, but the meaning
of these forms is subject to different interpretation according to the cultural
background of the interpreter.
Eg: Nod the head for affirmation and Shaking for negation
( Greek shake for saying yes)
• If the gestures or expressions made is unknown in another culture, then its
meaning will not be understood.
• Communication could be interrupted if an incorrect meaning is applied by
• Certain gestures may not have the same meaning as in their own culture.
Eg: In France, ‘Pulling someone’s eyelid down with the fore finger’ means ‘I
don’t believe you’. In Italy the same gesture means ‘ I’m keeping an eye on
To give the expression ‘to be fed up with…’ or ‘have had enough of…’ in
France the hand is raised up to the head and in Netherlands hand is raised
up to the neck.
• Thus the gestures represents a cultural attitude
Non- Verbal Communication barriers in Business
• Non- Verbal Communication a source of misunderstanding and
irritation. Eg: (Gestures) French are very expressive and use the
whole upper part of their body; Dutch usually limit gestures to the
use of their arm.
• Silence can also be a cause of misunderstanding particularly
between Western and Asian Cultures.
- In Western cultures, silence marks pause in a discourse, but not too
- In Thailand, it is a sign of respect, of agreement or disagreement
but appreciated as a style of discourse
- In Asian cultures discourage verbalization since it contradicts the
principle of modesty
- In Korea, silence is preferable to the improper use of words.
- In America, Remaining silent is considered as more Negative.
• Non- Verbal Communication are simply style of communication and
do not indicate that a particular culture experience more or less
Assumptions and Culture
• Assumptions may have:
- a cognitive dimension, related to presumptions as to how people
think that things work;
- an affirmative dimension, related to the presumed linkings of people
- A directive dimension related to the presumed choices of people.
• Cultural assumptions can be related to time, space or identity.
• Time related cultural assumptions relate to 4 common questions:
- Is time considered as a scarce good(economy of time?
- Are tasks performed simultaneously or one after other?
- Is life seen as continuity or as cyclic episode?
- Is the orientation in time towards the past, present or the future?
• Cultural assumptions that are space related have to do with ‘in’ or
‘out’; being a member or not; belonging or not belonging. Group
space includes- excludes- families.
• Identity- relate assumptions relate to self and others and about the
ideal conduct in certain social context.
Assumptions and Culture
• Cultural assumptions are difficult to detect because they are not easily
expressed and most hardly understood by insiders.
• Statements may be given about values and ideas, but the underlying
assumptions are generally unclear.
• There is a gap between the explanation people give for their behavior and
the real motives for the behavior.
• There is a difference between what people say and what they want to say
• That’s why assumptions can generate a lack of understanding and
misunderstanding when people from different cultures are communicating.
• Assumptions can create all kind of problems. Eg: Receive a confirmation
order from the supplier stating that the delivery date of the order will be 2
weeks, A dutch supplier think that the product must be delivered within 2
weeks and he feels contractually bound to this delivery time where as a
French supplier assumes this as a promise and still subject to negotiation.
Problem is not with the language but with the culture.
Perceptions and Stereotypes
Who/About Whom? What?
British They have no Sense of Humor
Dutch They are arrogant
Identity and Communication
• National Identity
• Ethnocentrism- inherent to any membership of
a socio-cultural, ethnic or national group.
• Building Stereotypes- a series of images
created in our minds with regard to a group or
groups of people.