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19 June 2013
A blink or a wink? Cross-Cultural Communication
Education / Culture Diversities

Culture and communication mutually influence and condition each other (Keesling, 1974). Productive/efficient communication is a very complex and demanding process, even between people with the same background. Hence cross-cultural communication is indeed more challenging than intra-cultural communication and conditioned by a series factors.

Today’s increasingly cultural diverse and globalized world creates the need for effective communication, especially as it is a core of any business. Nowadays, working the environment becomes more and more multicultural, both in an internal corporate context as well as for external relations between companies from different countries. Thus, to create a productive environment in this multicultural world, good communication skills are invaluable. There is a need in the market for people who have multicultural experience as they have a better ability to communicate and work with people from other countries.


It is also proven that multicultural experience positively influences people’s creativity, as they tend to meet more often with innovative, fresh culture-related ideas and thus have more experience and capacity to adapt, connect and use those ideas in their work. Therefore, cultural experience and the skills acquired through international interactions can be an important added value. However, a multicultural work environment, apart from being a competitive advantage in a globalized market, can also cause challenges and difficulties., especially in the field of communication.

Communication is the way to share information, establish and strengthen relationships and to build trust.  Language issues are becoming a significant cause of conflict and ineffectiveness in the increasingly diverse work environment. The cultural background and ingrained personal frame of interpretation can be an even more crucial condition for people’s behavior and interaction with others.

Somewhat based on Thick Description by Geertz, the difference between a twink and a wink can cost a life. Whilst the physical expression when twinking and winking is identical, it is the interpretation of the intended communication that makes the difference. Twinking would be a merely physical reacion, maybe a tick. A wink can hint at something and be intended to communicate a specific message such as flirting, conspiracy or a warning. 

Subconsicously, however, we probably receive 100% of the message, so honesty and integrity are most likely to win in the long run.

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