Even if two parties share the same language, differences in culture may hinder effective communication. One’s culture may often have an impact on the way one thinks and feels about the world, and two individuals who speak the same language but have different cultural backgrounds may come away from a conversation with entirely different views of the exchange. When an individual is not a native speaker of the language an exchange takes place in, misunderstandings or errors in translation may further impede good communication.
Culture can impact meaningful communication in three primary ways:
- Cognitive constraints can be seen in communicating parties who do not share similar world views and have dissimilar frames of reference.
- Behavioral constraints are differences in verbal and nonverbal actions. For example, while it is acceptable to look into the eyes of an authority figure while communicating in some cultures, individuals from other cultures may find this behavior to be unacceptable.
- Emotional constraints describe differences in the expression of feelings and emotions. Those from a particular cultural background may display their feelings quite openly, while individuals from another culture may rigid control over their emotions.
When those involved in cross-cultural communications are not aware of these potential constraints and the effects they may have, misunderstandings can easily occur, and conflict may be the result.