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The CROSS-CULTURAL DIMENSIONS OF BUSINESS COMMUNICATION
Dr. AJAY PRATAP SINGH
MUHAMMAD SALIM 07217003909
CULTURE Donal Carbaugh defines culture as "a system of expressive practices fraught with feelings, a system of symbols, premises, rules, forms, and the domains and dimensions of mutual meanings associated with these." He also suggests culture is "a learned set of shared interpretations about beliefs, values, and norms, which affect the behaviors of a relatively large group of people." In each of these definitions, culture is linked to communication and a wide range of human experience including feelings, identity, and meaning-making. Communication is the vehicle by which meanings are conveyed, identity is composed and reinforced, and feelings are expressed. As we communicate using different cultural habits and meaning systems, both conflict and harmony are possible outcomes of any interaction. In today’s global business environment, more and more of us are required to understand people who come from countries and cultures different from our own. While there is no short and easy way to learn about a given culture in any depth, there are some general principles that lead to success in communicating and conducting business with people of backgrounds unlike our own. Communication across cultures effectively improves your productivity and efficiency and promotes harmonious work environment. Cross-cultural communication involves understanding cultural differences and overcoming language problem.
PROBLEMS OF CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: Specifically, these problems are related to two kinds of cultural differences: • • Differences in body positions and movements Differences in views and practices concerning various factors of human relationships
(1) Body positions and movements Body positions and movements differ among cultures. For example, in some cultures, people sit; in other cultures, they squat. Who is to say that sitting is more advanced or better? Manners of walking differ among cultures. Communication with body parts (hands, arms, head, etc.) varies by culture. Hand gestures differ by culture. So do eye movements, touching and handshaking. Body motions or kinesics can be categorized as follows:
Emblems - nonverbal actions that have a verbal translation into a word, phrase or symbol. Gesture of thumb and forefinger to form a circle to say “OK” in US and to indicate an obscenity in Brazil. Effective displays - facial expressions such as a frown, a smile, or lips pulled down at the corners. Illustrators – nonverbal acts accompanying speech. Examples include an upturned thumb to indicate that a ride is desired or pointing a finger to indicate a direction. Adapters – nonverbal behavior that modifies or add to what is being said. For example, folded arms may indicate disgust or that a person is feeling closed to others; a wave may be used as a friendly greeting; leg swinging and finger tapping may indicate anxiety. Regulators – movements that maintain interaction and provide feedback. Head nods or changing gaze can indicate that it is the other persons turn to talk. A head nod can also indicate listening. Culture Americans Germans French British Latin Americans Asians Handshakes Firm Brusque, firm, repeated upon arrival and departure Light, quick, not offered to superiors, repeated upon arrival and departure Soft Firm, long-lasting Gentle; for some, shaking hands is unfamiliar and uncomfortable
(2) Views and Practices Concerning Factors of Human Relationships Probably causing even more miscommunication than differences in body positions and movements are the different attitudes of different cultures toward various factors of human relationships. We will review seven major factors: Time - views about time differs widely. Some cultures stress punctuality (monochronic); but some do not (especially of the Middle East & some parts of Asia).
Space – space is viewed differently by different cultures. In some cultures, people want to be far apart (North American); in other cultures, they want to be close (some Arabian & South American). Odors – some cultures view body odors as bad (American work hard to neutralize body odor); others view them as normal (Asians take it as act of friendship). Frankness - High-context cultures are more frank and explicit than Low-context cultures. Germans and Israelis are even more frank than Americans. Intimacy of Relationships – in many cultures, strict social classes exist, and class status determines how intimately people are addressed and treated in communication. Similarly, how people view superior-subordinate relations can vary by culture. The role of women varies widely by culture. In North America, we continue to move toward a generally recognized goal of equality. In many Islamic cultures, the role of women is quite different. Values – each culture has different values concerning such matters as attitudes toward work, employer-employee relations, and authority. Expressions of Emotions – social behavior varies by culture, such as practices concerning affection, laughter, and emotion. Included is the degree of animations displayed. Many more such practices exist. Some cultures combine business &social pleasures; others do not. Some expect to engage in aggressive bargaining in business; others prefer straightforward dealings.
Some Problems Caused by Cultural Differences
You greet your Austrian client. This is the sixth time you have met over the last 4 months. He calls you Herr Smith. You think of him as a standoffish sort of guy who doesn't want to get really friendly. That might be true in America, where calling someone Mr. Smith after the 6th meeting would probably mean something -- it is marked usage of language -- like "we're not hitting it off". But in Austria, it is normal. A Canadian conducting business in Kuwait is surprised when his meeting with a high-ranking official is not held in a closed office and is constantly interrupted. He starts wondering if the official is as important as he had been led to believe, and he starts to doubt how seriously his business is being taken A British boss asked a new, young American employee if he would like to have an early lunch at 11 am each day. The employee said 'Yeah, that would be great!' The boss immediately said "With that kind of attitude, you may as well
forget about lunch!" The employee and the boss were both baffled by what went wrong. [In England, saying "yeah" in that context is seen as rude and disrespectful.] COMMUNICATION TOOLS FOR UNDERSTANDING CULTURE: The tools we will examine here relate to communication and ways of seeing the self in relation to others. They are: •
High-context and low-context communication, and Individualist and collectivism conceptions of self and other
High-context and Low-context Communication refers to the degree to which speakers rely on factors other than explicit speech to convey their messages. This tool, developed by Edward T. Hall, suggests that communication varies according to its degree of field dependence, and that it can be classified into two general categories -high-context and low-context. Field dependence refers to the degree to which things outside the communication itself affect the meaning. Following series is according to increasing degree (low context to high context) - Arab, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, French, English, North American, Scandinavian, German Individualist and collectivism conceptions - In individualist cultures, individual uniqueness, self-determination is valued. A person is all the more admirable if they are a "self-made man" or "makes up their own mind" or show initiative or work well independently. Collectivist cultures expect people to identify with and work well in groups which protect them in exchange for loyalty and compliance. Paradoxically, individualist cultures tend to believe that there are universal values that should be shared by all, while collectivist cultures tend to accept that different groups have different values. Many of the Asian cultures are collectivist, while Anglo cultures tend to be individualist.
OBSERVATIONS FOR OVERCOMING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: Observations may consist of Assessment of political situation of the state we are dealing with, understand religious & folk beliefs, clothing & food preferences, learn about business & economic institutes, how people greet there?, how people use name/surname in conversation, what is the attitude towards touching the people, how they express their feelings & emotions, how do they sit in corporate, how close they stand with others, how do they accepts/reject offers, how do they make eye-contact with others, etc.
HOW TO IMPROVE THESE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: • • • •
By studying other cultures Assume differences until similarity is proved Take responsibility at your own Show respect to other cultures Tolerate the ambiguity (avoid frustration) Look beyond the superficial Be patient and persistent Recognize your own cultural biases Be flexible Emphasize on common ground Send clear messages Deal with the individual (you are interacting with) Learn when to be direct & when to be indirect Treat your interpretation as a work in hypothesis (not as result)
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“TREAT OTHERS AS THEY EXPECT TO BE TREATED” “FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS”