Intercultural communication is important because modern communication and transportation networks bring businesses, organizations and individuals in contact with a large diversity of people from all over the world. People in different countries learn different social cues and have different styles of communication. The ability to learn how different cultures communicate is an asset in the modern world.
Many modern businesses and organizations operate globally, which means that both executives and employees must learn to communicate with partners, colleagues and employees from other cultures. Organizations must also learn how to communicate with customers across cultures, as important messages can be lost in translation, causing confusion and even embarrassment.
Individuals or organizations that plan to work or operate in other cultures can benefit from learning about cultural practices and communication styles in those cultures. Failing to adapt communication styles can cause misunderstandings and problems. For example, different cultures have different understandings of hierarchy and formality, so adopting a laid-back, familiar style of communication can cause problems in a country that takes a formal approach to business communications. Some countries also take a slower approach to business planning and execution, and assertive American approaches may appear aggressive in these cultures.
Body language is also an issue in other cultures. Gestures can mean different things in different cultures, so it can be easy to offend people by using what may seem like a harmless gesture.