Intercultural Communication & virtual environments

By Rao BN 2016

Non-verbal communication has important role in communication process. Non-verbal communication is defined as a communication process that use wordless messages but generates meaning to such messages. In non-verbal communication tool exchange wordless messages, signals, expressions and body language of the participant is used to generate a meaningful the message exchanged. It is not possible to quantify the amount of information that could be exchanged to non-verbal communication (Lapakko, 1997), but it is a fact that non-verbal communication is considered as important source to exchange information when to participants are unknown to each other (Grahe and Bernieri, 1999). In such situations only means to understand once feelings is only by means of non-verbal cues (Vedantam, 2006). Non-verbal communication often causes misunderstanding between participants. It is bit easy to resolve issues if participants belongs to common culture. But in multicultural teams non-verbal communication is considered as the main cause of cultural conflicts. In this essay an investigation is carried to understand how important it is to manage intercultural commutation process in virtual assignments and it also discusses about conflict resolution and intercultural commutation aspects.

Intercultural Communication & virtual environments

Intercultural communication is critical

To overcome conflicts concerned to intercultural commutation, it is crucial for organisations to have cross-cultural commutation strategists. Effective cross cultural commutation has crucial role in providing information exchange (both verbal and non-verbal) among people belonging to different cultures. So, Zofi, states that cross-cultural communication is critical to overcome intercultural disconnect (Zofi, 2012). Zofi, also provided various strategies to enhance the effectiveness of the intercultural communication for example, listening strategy, effective communication strategy, avoiding ambiguity strategy, respecting cultures strategy and finally no decision strategy Whicker, et al, 1991) (Senge and Lannon, 1997). It could be understood from the theories mentioned above that it is very important for delegates participating in virtual assignments to adapt aforementioned strategies to effectively manage different users, participating in virtual assignments and to overcome intercultural issues.

Holtbrugge Dirk and Schillo Katrin explain virtual delegates of the participants of virtual assignments, who usually live in one culture and interacts with participants from various other cultures (Holtbrugge and Schillo, 2008). In such situations, there is a possibility of upcoming intercultural conflicts due to cultural differences, language barriers, communication style variants, and it might be because of an ability to adjust to time zone (Briscoe and Schuler 2004) (Dowling and Welch 2004) (Tharenou and Harvey 2006). Holtbrugge and Schillo suggested that providing proper training to virtual agents on managing cultural differences exhibited by multicultural virtual team is a possible solution to overcome intercultural conflicts while dealing with virtual teams as it reflects virtual delegate to understand communication style and language, and virtual delegates gets adjusted to time zones (Holtbrugge and Berg, 2004) (Jarvenpaa and Leidner, 1999).

Multicultural Environments and Their Challenges

Fatima Oliveira Maria de in their research study clearly mentions about various important problems faced by communication professionals while implementing communications strategies targeting interpersonal or intercultural communication (Fatima Oliveira Maria de, 2013). According to Fatima, usually public relations officers find it difficult to understand cultural differences existing among the various social groups (Barker and Gower, 2010); even if it is understood, the scope of the cultural study is limited to age, race, language and religion; and finally, many communication professionals do not prepare themselves to implement intercultural communication (Roberson, 2006). Due to sensitivity of cultural aspects many communication professionals resist to understand interpersonal communication. Fatima had provided a solution to integrate multicultural commutation strategy with regular communication frameworks as it helps communication process to become more effective and to perform effectively in the global markets (Marimoto andLa Ferle, 2008).

Intercultural communication and conflict resolution

Dispute resolution helps organisation to resolve issues between disputant and respondent. A research study conducted by Tinsley and etal had identified that intercultural communication influences the effectiveness of resolving conflict between disputant and respondent (Tinsley and etal, 2011). Characteristics of the participants irrespective of disputant or respondent influences the behaviour is towards understanding the situation and to resolve persistent dispute between them. For instance, uses the participants usually have respect towards other cultural groups and attempts to resolve disputes understanding of those party issues. But it is considered to Qataris they behave differently while resolving issues and the attempts to protect their Honour then resolving the conflict. It could be understood from above mentioned the research respondent’s or disputants from different countries behave differently based on their cultural backgrounds. Usually the rise of conflicts in the organisation because of cultural differences reduces the performance of the multicultural team. There are various other results that could also lead to ill performance of the organisation. For example, in some cases, if organisations do not break cultural norms even if participants do not involve in discriminating co-participants, there is a possibility that participants belonging to different groups compromise in performing their tasks. Participants of the multicultural task attempts to understand cultural backgrounds of their co-participants and forms separate groups based on their cultural backgrounds. Once participants become member of particular social cultural groups, there is a possibility that influence of the particular group might cause participant to compromise from performing their task. Milliken and Martins states that usually groups are separated in multicultural teams based on age, race and religion (Milliken and Martins, 1996). From the theories studied above it could be stated that intercultural communication is in its appropriate form enables organisations to manage participants effectively by understanding their cultural backgrounds. Such practices enhance job satisfaction of the employees and it also improves the performance of the organisation as effective management of the multicultural teams provides the greater out come to the organization.


The main purpose is to study about intercultural communication and importance of non-verbal communication while communicating with multicultural groups. In this study importance of intercultural communication to effectively manage virtual teams and various challenges faced by communication professionals while implementing cross communication strategies in the organisation, and it provides insights on importance of intercultural communication is resolving disputes between the disputant and respondent. It is identified from the research that intercultural communication is crucial to effectively manage cross-cultural teams committed for the organisation. Important strategies of effective intercultural communication such as listening strategy and avoiding ambiguity strategy. It is also observed from the research that communication practitioners face problems in implementing intercultural commutation strategies due to sensitivity issues of cultural assets of a group. But it could be achieved by integrating intercultural communications strategies with communication framework. The research also conveys that effective dispute resolution also gets influenced by intercultural communication aspects. It becomes easy for the agents to resolve conflicts with the have understanding on disputant cultures and their mind plans. Overall, if intercultural conflicts are resolved and multicultural teams are effectively managed and it improves the performance of the organisation.


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