Jitesh Kumar

One Life to Live

Intercontinental Communication Misunderstandings

This is the world of information technologies, people are doing business all over the world, hence we need to communicate with the people belonging to different continents. Every country has its own customs, cultures, rules, regulation and standards of living. Similarly, there are some communication cultures, which sometimes create misunderstandings while people talking to each other’s overseas.   No matter they are using same language like English, but still the native language cultures get mixed with the language, people using for communication overseas. I have observed few of such misunderstandings while talking to people belonging to overseas, which I am going to share with you in this article.

Starting from India, we Indians have habit of sounding like hmm……hmm….hmmmh, while talking to each other. For us this is just a real-time feedback to other guy that means ‘I am listing, yes, I am listening, keep saying’. It helps other person to send signal that I am listening you and I have interest what you are telling, please keep talking. But this is very annoying for the people belonging to Europe and America. They often get confused and feel interrupted while they listen this sound and finally when they listen more, they think that the other person who is listening got my point 100% and I don’t need to tell anymore. For example if someone belonging to USA is explaining anything to Indian guy and if he needs average 10 sentences to explain about the topic, if he listens more hmmm…..hmmm…..hmmm from Indian guys. USA guy might think that what I am telling is already understood by Indian guy and I don’t need to talk more, USA guy might close his speech in just 5-6 sentences. So, not 100% information is transferred from one party to other party. At the later stage when conflicts occur, USA guy will claim that he has transferred all the information and Indian Guy has acknowledged this while conversation, but Indian guy will claim that he has followed the only instructions which he has received. Saying more Ok-Ok can create same problem.

Similarly, USA people often say ‘great’, ‘it’s great’ while they talk, for them this means, ‘yes it makes sense to me’ but for Indian people it means what ‘I am telling is 100% accepted by another person’. So, Indian people might stop talking and explaining if he/she listen more word ‘great’ because he might think that I got response from USA guy and he is satisfied and happy what I am telling.

Indian guys keep moving their heads up and down or left to right while listening, for them this simply means ‘yes I am listing and interested in your talks’ but for USA guy this might be the signal that this person is agreed with me and he is acknowledging by moving his head.

USA people don’t have any expression (or might be very less) while they listening and they never make any sound while listening. They do this because they don’t want to interrupt person speaking, and want to focus most what he is speaking. But for Indian, if he doesn’t listen anything or doesn’t see any facial expression he might think that his audience is not interested what he is telling. Indian guy might lose his interest and could close the conversation early.

Such communication misunderstandings occur more if you are talking to person like on Phone ore Skype where you actually don’t see other person. You might create wrong impression in your mind about other person based on the sounds which you hear from other party. Same is the case with the party at other end of line, any extra sound made by you can mislead the person.

It’s better to use video conferencing while talking overseas because this helps for better communication by avoiding many communication misunderstandings. If you are the person who often use to talk to people overseas, then you might need to learn and observe these communication misunderstandings for the effective and desired results. You should use professional and straight forward language in plain tone and pitch so that no misunderstandings happen. Don’t assume the person you are taking is agreed with your thoughts, ask him manually and then take his acknowledgement. Avoid making sounds like hmmm…..hmmmm……hmmmm or saying more great-great.

I have read a chapter in a book “The Professional by Subroto Bagchi” where author is discussing similar problems. There can be many more intercontinental communication misunderstanding points, please share with me if you have experienced any. :) :) :)

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5 Comments

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  3. Fascinating article. Thank you for sharing. I work a lot with people around the world and I agree 100% with your observations.

    I think you would agree, we even have similar misunderstandings between people who live in cities vs rural, rich vs poor, and so on. We don’t always understand each other.

    It’s important to keep an open mind when working with all people. You never know if gestures, words or even sounds mean something different to that person.

    Effective communication is about working to understand others as much as it is about what the person speaking is saying.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog. Keep up the great work.

    ~Leigh

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