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Intercultural or “Inter-Diversity” Communication?

Diversity Workplace

Inter-ethnic relations have been a taboo in the U.S. because assimilation has been expected from immigrants and minorities. Assimilation has mainly occurred among people from countries with less cultural and linguistic distances (Anglo-Saxon, Ireland, France)—for whom the term expatriates is used—or among people who are not seen as “others.”

In the last decade due to fast technological advancements such as the Internet, social media, and cell phones, many immigrants are not assimilating. While there is a great level of acculturation to the American way of doing business—mostly by college graduates, immigrants and expats bring and keep their own worldviews, perspectives, and values representative of their first language and culture of origin.

Minorities in the U.S. who live in silos have strengthened their diversities. The more an ethnic group is segregated, excluded or other-ed, the less it assimilates. Diversity is a positive aspect. It enriches any company, organization or team. Silicon Valley, Tech Venture Capitalist, Paul Graham explains, “United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population; it stands to reason that most of the world’s best new ideas will be thought up by people who weren’t born here.”

The challenge is when communication styles clash let alone the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. It results in misunderstandings, frustration, decreased productivity and lower morale. We all have seen this!

Best Blog Comments: Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural

English Language Camp 2008 SMK Taman Rinting 2 #82

Image by Roslan Tangah (aka Rasso) via Flickr

Since I published the article “Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural,” it has consistently been the top post according to Ixmati Communications’ WordPress dashboard statistics. This article also prompted comments from two subject matter experts.

Leo Salazar wrote:

“Well written, Mari. One learns by writing, and the more I write the more I realize how little I know. I welcome the learning offered by experts such as yourself, who take the time and trouble to help me understand. It’s unfortunate that the particular writer on the Mashable, oops, I mean the well-respected social media blog, wasn’t open to your contribution.

You have, indeed, pointed out a very fundamental difference in terms. Most people who have a good command of the English language should understand that “inter-” and “cross-” have completely different meanings. You travel the interstate to go cross-country, but you can’t take the cross-state to go inter-country.”

Leo is the principal at Effective Intercultural Business. He specializes in learning and development in an intercultural context. He’s based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. More about Leo @srLeoSalazar

Joe Ray wrote:

“Good explanation, Mari. I have been working on presentation that includes some of these aspects and knew there were subtle yet contrasting differences in the terms.

I seem to hear the term cross-cultural thrown about more so than intercultural when navigating through the Latino market universe. However, much of my interaction is also with Native American tribes and have noticed that one term they use quite a bit is intertribal.

Your explanation was clear and very helpful. Much appreciated!”

Joe is the Creative Director at Estudio Ray, a branding agency that specializes in connecting with Latino consumers and in Hispanic marketing. He is based in Phoenix, Arizona. More about @JoeRayCr8iv