Cultural identity and intercultural business communication
Cultural Identity andIntercultural BusinessCommunicationJulian IulianoMaster in Mediazione e Promozione per l’internazionalizzazione delle ImpreseSociologia dei processi culturali e comunicativi
RECONCEPTUALIZINGCULTURALIDENTITY AND ITS ROLE ININTERCULTURAL BUSINESSCOMMUNICATIONDaphne A. JamesonCornell UniversityKeywords: cultural identity; intercultural communication;changes; power; emotions; negotiation
Cultural IdentityDefinition“Cultural identity is an individual’s sense of self,derived from formal or informal membership in groupsthat transmit knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes,traditions, and ways of life.”by the author
Intercultural BusinessCommunicationDefinitionIntercultural communication is a form of globalcommunication. It is used to describe the wide range ofcommunication problems that naturally appear within anorganization made up of individuals from different religious,social, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. It seeks tounderstand how people from different countries and culturesact, communicate and perceive the world around them.WIKIPEDIA
The purposes of this article• First, the need to focus on individual self-analysisand a reconceptualization of cultural identity;• Then, the development of a unified model ofcultural identity;• In closing, applications of this model inteaching and research in intercultural businesscommunication.
Reconceptualization of culturalidentityFirst5 existing Theses
The thesis: Difficulties ininteracting with other culturesPeople continue to encounter difficulties when:-meet with overseas clients;-manage an ethnically diverse workforce;-negotiate contracts in another language;-take a job at an organization with a radically differentcorporate culture.
Misunderstandings• Beamer (1995) introduced the concept of schemata: preexistingmental structures consisting in a representation of other cultures thatinevitably differs from those cultures.• Victor (1992) talks about seven variables that affects businesscommunication: Language, Environment, Social Organization,Context, Authority, Non-Verbal Behavior and Conceptions of Time.• Varner and Palmer (2005) assumed cultural self-knowledgeshould be incorporated into the training that corporate employeesreceive when they are assigned to work abroad.All these theorists view culture as an internal state of mind thatinfluences the process of communication.
The thesis: Many people doequate Culture with CountryEquating Culture with Nationality limits ourunderstanding of business issues, problems, andstrategies.
The example: European food retailersentering the Korean market.Where the British company Tesco has succeeded, theFrench company Carrefour has not. It recently sold itsKorean business after a decade of disappointing results.Tesco’s success factors were not nationalities of thedecision makers, but their business acumen, educationalbackground, professional experience and ability toorganize key resources.The conclusion is that the contrasting results achieved bythe two companies are due to cultural factors rather thannationality.
The thesis: a narrow concept ofCultural IdentityMany studies of intercultural communication narrow theirfocus to one component of cultural identity: nationalityHowever, communication is influenced also by otherfactors:- socioeconomic class;- ethnicity;- religion;- …According to Graham (1985) people differ not only innationality but also in age, professional field, educationand amount of business experience.
The example: expanding theconcept of cultural identityAn expanded concept of cultural identity involves:-Nationality is not a salient factor in defining people culturalidentity;-Stereotyping reduction, no overgeneralizing oroversimplifying;- New approaches to intercultural business communicationresearch.In addition, it shows areas of commonality with othersinstead of just the differences.
The thesis: the complexity of“identity”Objective identity differs from subjective identity.•Objective identity: represented in people’s birth certificate,passport and other official records;•Subject identity: people’s sense of who they are as a humanbeing.Triandis (1989) divided Subject identity in personal andcollective identity.•Personal identity refers to the sense of self, derived frompersonality, character, spirit, and style;•Collective identity, in contrast, refers to the sense of self,derived from formal or informal membership in groups.
The thesis: the complexity of“identity”Collective identity is, in turn, divided into Social andCultural identity.•Social identity: concerns what roles people play inthe present, it is often anchored in a particularmoment in time;•Cultural identity: involves historical perspective,focusing on the transmission of knowledge and valuesbetween generations, and concerns what people havelearned in the past.
The example: a case of CulturalidentityAn adopted child’s physical appearance may causeothers to perceive her to be Chinese, but in fact,she may have had little or no connection with Chineseculture— no learning of Chinese beliefs, values,attitudes, traditions, and ways of life.Cultural identity is especially relevant inintercultural business, it plays an important role ininterpersonal relationships.
The thesis: Cultural identity isaffected by Close RelationshipsAn individual’s cultural identity is affected by his or herclose family members and sometimes friends.
The example: people whose parentshave different nationalities or racesA person whose parents have different nationalities orraces assimilates values and perspectives of each.People whose partner has a different religion orethnicity gradually adopt some of their beliefs andattitudes.This process is often unintentional but may lead to a“qualitative psychic transformation” (Kim, 1995).
The example: Managers ability inintercultural business communication.This attribute of cultural identity could be applied inintercultural business communication•A research on managers’ ability to motivate anintercultural team has shown that communication ofmanagers whose families were mixed in terms of race orreligion is more effective than those whose families werenot.Intercultural communication at home increaseslinguistic sensitivity at work.
Unified Model of Cultural IdentityThen- Changes- Power- Emotions- NegotiationOf CulturalIdentity
The thesis: Cultural IdentityChanges Over TimeCultural identity evolves.In the course of a lifetime, many people move fromone economic class or professional field into another.Some people change nationality or religion.Many come to use new dialects or languages in dailylife.
Two Examples: Cultural Identitychanges• Sussman (2000) it happens in repatriation after aperiod of temporary immersion in a different culturalcontext.• Kim (1995, 2001) when people relocate on a long-term basis as immigrants or refugees.
The thesis: Cultural identity isClosely interwined with powerA person’s professional field may confer power andprivilege.
The Example: the professional field orthe organization give powerA surgeon may gain more automatic respect anddeference than a car salesperson.•The organization for whom a person works may alsoadd or detract from power and privilege;•A person who works for McKinsey Consulting, forinstance, may gain instant credibility when a personwho works for a small local company does not.
The thesis: Cultural Identity MayEvoke EmotionsPeople may have positive, negative, neutral, orambivalent feelings about components of their owncultural identity.•Sellers et al. (1998) people’s affective judgment oftheir race in terms of positive-negative valence iscalled ”regard“.•Ting-Toomey (1986) positive or negative feelingstoward one own cultural identity depends on theperception that the community has of that identity.
The thesis: Cultural Identity can beNegotiated through communicationGender and race, are visible in face-to-face meetings,many aspects are invisible, such as religion, class,and profession.In mediated communication, such as e-mail andphone calls, more components of cultural identity arehidden, unless a person intentionally reveals them.
The thesis: Cultural Identity can beNegotiated through communicationCultural identity involves three perceptions:(1)how one perceives one’s own cultural identity;(2)how others perceive it;(3) how one thinks that others perceive his or hercultural identity.This third aspect, called “private-public”, is important whenpeople negotiate cultural identity because they may bewrong about what others perceive.Misperceptions affect the negotiation process.
Teaching & Research in InterculturalBusiness CommunicationIn ConclusionApplications of the Model in-Teaching-Research
Applications in TeachingIn order to improve intercultural businesscommunication, training would be an efficient way toreflect on how cultural identity affects professional andpersonal communication.People can recognize the impact of culture on theirown behavior, interaction, and language.
Applications in ResearchApplications in research look forward to:•Understanding the impact of the corporate culture onindividual cultural identity;•Studying the case of «convergence» as the ability toadopt others’ cultural systems in intercultural contexts;•Investigate the phenomenon of «interculture», alsoknown as «third culture».
ConclusionsIn my opinion Cultural Identity is every day moreglobalized.•Each community has its specific identity but is part of abigger and more complex collectivity.•Also Business Communication is strictly linked to the waypeople consider other cultures.The more people know about the cultures of others, themore open-minded, tolerant and global they become.“Lets simply imagine Culture as a pair of glasses, throughwhich we see life.” [cit.]
Thanks for your attentionJulian Iulianoiulianojulian@gmail.comwww.julianiuliano.tk@iulianojulian