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Cultural Influences in Group Communication
Group Research Project
Holly Blay, Ciaran Henderson, Gary Melia, Sheenagh Walker-Ayers,
DT413-Event Management Group (A) Juliet Ryan
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ................................................................................................... 2 Introduction ................................................................................................................ 3 Non-Verbal Communication ...................................................................................... 4 Sexual Orientation ..................................................................................................... 6 Gender ........................................................................................................................ 7 Religion ...................................................................................................................... 9 Conclusions .............................................................................................................. 10 Bibliography ............................................................................................................ 11
The group will present four different cultural influences on group communications, demonstrate their importance and show how they influence groups;
Immediacy- Behaviour of individuals that communicates either approach or avoidance. The group discovers that this differs greatly depending on nationality. The group concludes this can have profound negative effects as misinterpreted immediacy can lead to people feeling uncomfortably close or make them feel excluded.
Gestures- are culture-specific & convey very different meanings in different settings. The group explains common gestures & discovers that a simple “thumbs up” gesture means “good” to a westerner but means “up yours” in Greece. The group concludes that each gesture can have positive or negative perceptions & can lead to misinterpretations.
Diversity- People who look, speak or behave differently from what we accept
The group discovered that diversity is one of the qualities required for success in groups but it is also the quality that can undermine success. Therefore sexual orientation can have either a positive or negative effect on group communication; the more diverse the group is to sexual orientation the more positive influences it has on communication.
Gender The group differentiates behavioural aspects of how men and women communicate
differently and discovers that men are more forward, direct & tend to take more control, while women are indirect, suggestive and tend to listen more. The group believes that both bring positives to group communication; however the right ratio of male to female must be found.
Religion The group found that the effect of religion on group communication can depend on
how important it is to the cultural identity of the people. Distinctive clothing such as Burkas can be a distraction as other group members cannot see their facial expressions. Group communication is also ineffective if discrimination is present and this may result in conflict and a negative effect on group communications.
According to Donald Levine (1971) Culture is- “An integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for symbolic thought and social learning” and is the “set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group”
Culture is a word that is used commonly in everyday life but nobody can really explain what it is, how it works or how it can have profound effects on our basic everyday communication. According to Albert Mehrabian (1971) 55% of our communication is unconscious, so we may not even realise that someone else‟s cultural background will result in them having a different interpretation of our communication.
We take many of our cultural customs for granted, as Leila Monaghan et al. (2007) tells us, having an “our way is the only way” mentality can be dangerous and lead to a lot of miscommunication of messages. This can spark ambiguity, lead to unintentional insults, and may lead to violence.
In this report the group will present four different cultural influences on group communications, demonstrate their importance and show how they influence groups.
According to Knapp & Hall, (2002) “Nonverbal communication refers to communication that is produced by some means other than words (eye contact, body language, or vocal cues)”
Immediacy This is the behaviour of individuals that communicate warmth, closeness approach & accessibility and at the other extreme of expressing avoidance and distance (Andersen, 1998)
As Westsidetoastmasters (2011) demonstrates, this can differ greatly within different cultures and can cause confusion and embarrassment within groups from different nationalities. For instance the Italians and French love to constantly touch each other while they talk, the Americans moderately touch, while the British avoid touching each other as much as possible. Dr Ken Cooper studied touch frequencies per hour & found that: Puerto Rico Paris 180 110 Florida 2 London 0
The group believes that this can have profound influences on group communication as it can make members of particular multicultural groups feel either uncomfortably close or makes them feel excluded and distant.
Cross-Cultural Gestures “Gestures are culture-specific and can convey very different meanings in different social or cultural settings” (Morris, D. 1979)
Westsidetoastmasters (2011) shows 3 common gestures used in group communication-
-“OK” to a westerner. -“Money” to a Japanese person. -“Zero” to a French person. -“Homosexual”(insult) to the Turks & Brazilians.
Communications Thumbs Up This means: -“Good” or “OK” to a westerner. -“Male” to a Japanese person. -“Up Yours” to a Greek person.
The “V” Sign
This means: -“Up yours” in Britain -“Two” in America -“Victory” in Germany
Anna Wierzbicka (2003) shows us another gesture which has multiple meanings The Nose Tap This means: -“a secret” in Italy and England -“Be alert” in Rome and Naples -“Your Nosey” in parts of Europe
The Group feels that this influences international groups who can easily insult or mislead someone accidently. As we can see each of these gestures has positive and negative perceptions depending on your cultural background and can often be misinterpreted.
There are many types of cultural diversities and differences that can have an influence on group communication such as gender, age, race and religion. Another type is sexual orientation and here we look at the effect that it can have on group communication. “Research by Lynda Gratton and Tamara Erickson in to team behaviour in 15 multinational companies discovered the paradox that the four qualities required for team success were the same ones that undermined that success. These were large size, diversity, virtual participation and high educational levels.” (Buchanan & Huczynski 2010 P.388).
In this research diversity is stated as one of the qualities that is required for team success but also is a quality that can undermine that success. Harris & Sherblom (2005 P.91) state that “As a concept, diversity often refers to the “other”- people who look, speak, or behave differently from what we expect and accept in those with whom we are familiar”
Sexual Orientation can have an affect on the influence of group communication in reaching its goals if there is a lack of understanding of diversity within the group. A study carried out by McCann, Plummer and Minichiello (2010) looks in to a group of men who discussed acceptable masculinity. The result of the study showed that “Homophobic humour emerged as central to the formation of Australian male identity” (McCann et al 2010). Coupling the findings of this study to a statement by Harris et al (2005 P.96) “Being insensitive to these diverse perspectives can lead to bad feelings...What some of us may take as a joke or a humorous remark in a small group or team can make others feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, discounted, or insulted”
The group feels that the lack of sexual orientation diversity in a group can have negative influences on its communication. Likewise the more diverse the group is to sexual orientation the more positive influences it has on communication.
“The word gender refers to learned characteristics and psychological attitudes of masculinity and femininity” (Wilson, G. 2005)
The group feels that Gender influences on group communication is one of the most important aspects, on the topic of cultural influences of group communication. Gender is an issue seen in all parts of society and business for centuries. A 50/50 ratio of males and females would be ideal for any group as it would be equal. However this ideal case is not always possible due to the set in stone norms of centuries gone by. It is best to look at how gender influences group communication from a business aspect, assuming the groups are teams of employees coming together to work on a particular task.
Men and women may be equal but they are extremely different in physical appearances and they the way in which they communicate. Divided by their methods of communication it creates the argument of whether it is better to have more of one gender or equal of each? From examples shown in „Communication for Business‟ (McClave, H. 2004), we can see how men and women differ in their communication methods. The following are ways in which each gender behaves in different situations present when working in a group:
1. When putting ideas forward men are more direct and pushy where women are more indirect and present them in a more suggestive way. 2. When conflict is present, men tend to resolve it with a winner/loser result. Women look for a consensual and beneficial result which can be very timeconsuming. 3. In terms of emotions, men will criticize and women will „soften the blow‟ which could lead to miscommunication of opinions. 4. In terms of mistakes, men don‟t admit to mistakes or take the blame, where as women will admit mistakes and accept blame. 5. Men talk more in a group situation and women will listen more.
Communications The group has demonstrated that both communicate differently, showing that both genders bring positives and negatives to a group situation. It entirely depends on the task that the group must complete when deciding how many of each gender should be in the group to have the best communication. From the examples provided from McClave, H (2004) we can see that if a task is to be completed in a small amount of time then having more men in the group is more appropriate however if the task will have a major impact then it is better to have more females in the group. If there is not the right ratio of male and female present suited to the group then conflict can arise and completion of the task will take longer.
The group believes that a good Example of gender influence on group communication is the television show Dragon‟s Den represents a group of „dragons‟ that best shows how gender influences group communication. There are four men and one woman in the group. This group really display the examples that McClave has shown in his book. The woman takes her time before investing in any products; she listens intently to all pitches, questions politely and explains her choices. She shows assertiveness and is decisive after receiving information.
Religion in groups and in the workplace can cause many difficulties, conflicts and barriers to achieving successful communications in groups. For many cases a persons‟ religion and spirituality can be the central aspect to their identity and for others it can be a completely irrelevant topic and not define any part of their identity. Religion can be brought into a workplace and group situations in many different and sometimes very indirect and subtle ways. For example, wearing distinctive religious clothes, such as the Burka, jewellery, bringing religious articles into groups and the workplace, engaging in group prayers, bible studies or discussions of religion during work hours or requesting time off to take part in some sort of religious celebration or occasion.
Successful group communication can be broken down by religious factors. For example, distinctive clothing such as a Burka or veil can be a distraction to group members and a sense of uncertainty of feelings and opinions may come about if a speaker cannot see their colleague‟s facial expressions. This, in group
communication, can cause confusion and uncertainty from the addresser if there is no non-verbal communication, such as smiling or frowning.
Group communications can also be ineffective if discrimination is present due to someone‟s religion. Conflict may result if a person is unable to only focus on the group task at hand and is not being respectful of a persons‟ choice of how they live their life. Discrimination can be defined as “bias or prejudice resulting in denial of opportunity, or unfair treatment regarding selection, promotion, or transfer. Discrimination is practiced commonly on the grounds of age, disability, ethnicity, origin, political belief, race, religion, sex, etc. factors which are irrelevant to a person's competence or suitability.” (BD, 2010) The group feels that tolerance and acceptance of religion is key to being able to communicate successfully and cut out any discrimination which can lead to a breakdown in effective group communication.
In conclusion the group believes that any of these cultural aspects can severely impede the communication process within groups with different cultural backgrounds and cause barriers to communication. This can result in long delays, insulted colleagues and feelings of ambiguity to form.
As a stubborn society few people know other cultures non-verbal communication and even fewer go out of their way to learn any. We tend to believe that there is only one correct way to behave and all the others are wrong. This can result in a handshake, the simplest of gestures, becoming a complete insult to the other party. As group work in the business environment becomes more diverse it is important for participants of the group to understand non-verbal communication to help create a positive impact of group influence.
Taking sexual-orientation and religion in to account when dealing with diversity in a group the lack of understanding towards religious views or homophobic humour can lead to a feeling of a group member being uncomfortable, unwelcome, discounted or insulted.
As the group feels that Gender influences on group communication is one of the most important aspects, understanding the different traits and characteristics of male and female personalities in a group will help towards positive influences of group decisions.
The group concludes that cultural influence on group communication can have both positive and negative effects depending on the mix and diversity of a group but also on the cultural understanding of the other group members.
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