Communicating Across Cultures

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Communicating Across Cultures

  1. 1. Communicating Across Cultures A Presentation by Rajiv Bajaj
  2. 2. Need for Cross-Cultural Awareness <ul><li>Business has become more global. </li></ul><ul><li>Communicating across cultures effectively improves productivity and promotes harmonious work environments. </li></ul><ul><li>It involves understanding cultural differences and overcoming language problems. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Problems of Cultural Differences <ul><li>Two qualifying statements begin this study of culture: </li></ul><ul><li>1. It is improperly blamed for some miscommunication. It is often confused with the other human elements involved. </li></ul><ul><li>2. It is easy to over-generalise cultural practices. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Defining Culture </li></ul><ul><li>Culture is the shared ways in which groups of people understand and interpret or view the world. </li></ul><ul><li>The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Two major types of cultural differences affect communication – </li></ul><ul><li>1. Differences in body positions & movements; and </li></ul><ul><li>2. Differences in views & practices concerning various factors of human relationships (Time, Space, Intimacy etc) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Body Positions & Movements <ul><li>Body positions and movements differ among cultures. E.g. Sit Vs. Squat. Manners of walking also differ. </li></ul><ul><li>Communication with body parts – hands, arms, head etc – varies by culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Hand gestures differ by culture. E.g. The V-Sign has different meanings in different cultures. </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>Thumbs-up sign too has different meanings in different cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>Eye movements too differ by culture. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, in America, eye contact is considered important. </li></ul><ul><li>In Indonesia, eye contact with elders or those in high positions is considered disrespectful. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Touching & handshaking are important to understand in cross-cultural communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Some cultures do not like much touching. Their handshake may be perceived as weak. </li></ul><ul><li>Other cultures, that like touching, have greetings ranging from embraces to kisses to nose-rubbing. </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>In some cultures, a smile is considered as a sign of weakness, particularly while negotiating. </li></ul><ul><li>Receiving a gift or touching with the left hand is considered a serious breach of etiquette in some cultures. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Factors of Human Relationship <ul><li>Differing attitudes toward various factors of human relationship cause communication problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Let us look at some major factors. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Time <ul><li>Views about time differ widely. Some cultures stress punctuality, others do not. </li></ul><ul><li>Westerners tend to be monochronic. They like to stick to schedules and plan them meticulously. </li></ul><ul><li>Asians tend to be polychronic, viewing time in a more relaxed way. They are unhurried, particularly in negotiation. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Space <ul><li>Space is viewed differently by different cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>In some cultures, people want to be far apart – e.g. North Americans prefer at least two-feet distance while talking to someone. </li></ul><ul><li>In other cultures they prefer to be close – e.g. Arab & Latin-American. Not doing so is considered impolite and a breach of etiquette. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Frankness <ul><li>Some cultures are more frank and explicit as compared to others. </li></ul><ul><li>Westerners tend to be more frank and get to the point quickly, sometimes appearing blunt. </li></ul><ul><li>Asians are not so frank or explicit, and may appear to be evasive, roundabout and indecisive to Westerners. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Intimacy of Relationship <ul><li>Intimacy among people varies in different cultures. </li></ul><ul><li>How people view superior-subordinate relations also differs. </li></ul><ul><li>So does the role of women. In some cultures women are viewed as equals. In others, they are not. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Values <ul><li>Values concerning such matters like attitude toward work, employee-employer relations and authority differ culturally. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. Americans expect to change several jobs in their career. </li></ul><ul><li>For Japanese, employment tends to be for a lifetime. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Westerners respect authority, but at the same time maintain the rights of an individual. </li></ul><ul><li>In many third-world countries, workers accept a subservient role passively. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Expression of Emotions <ul><li>Social behaviour varies by culture, such as practices concerning affection, laughter and emotion. </li></ul><ul><li>Some cultures frown upon public displays of affection. They consider them crude and offensive. </li></ul><ul><li>Westerners, on the other hand, accept moderate display of affection. </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Also included is the degree of animation displayed. </li></ul><ul><li>Even laughter or the expression of sorrow differs by culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Many more such practices exist. Some cultures combine business with pleasure, some do not. </li></ul><ul><li>We must recognise such differences, look for them and understand them. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Effects on Business Communication <ul><li>Cultural differences affect communication. Communication techniques are not universally acceptable. </li></ul><ul><li>People in Asian cultures prefer an indirect approach, Westerners prefer to be direct. </li></ul><ul><li>One must modify one’s communications to fit the culture of the recipient. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Lack of Language Equivalency <ul><li>Communication problems are caused by the existence of many languages. </li></ul><ul><li>Differences among languages make equivalent transactions difficult. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g., in the West, a florist denotes someone selling flowers and related items in a store. </li></ul><ul><li>In India, a florist could be a street vendor. </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>“ Supermarket” has no equivalent in some languages. </li></ul><ul><li>French language has no words to distinguish “home” from “house”; “mind” and “brain”; “man” and “gentleman”. </li></ul><ul><li>Russians have no words for “efficiency”, “challenge” and “having fun”. </li></ul>
  22. 22. <ul><li>Grammar differences in languages also add to the difficulty. </li></ul><ul><li>So do multiple meanings of many words. </li></ul><ul><li>Certain commonly used expressions don’t mean what their dictionary and grammatical structures say they mean. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g.- “Business couldn’t be better”. </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>Even words with same meanings can differ by usage in culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Overcome such language problems by knowing languages well and by questioning. </li></ul><ul><li>Use back translating for important communications ! </li></ul>
  24. 24. Difficulties in using English <ul><li>English is the primary language of International Business, but many non-natives have problems using the language. </li></ul><ul><li>Two-word verbs are especially hard for non-natives to understand. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. Give away, give up, cash in, clean out, blow up, cut back, break off, calm down, pass over, bring about etc. </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>Use two-word verbs sparingly. Find substitutes wherever possible. </li></ul><ul><li>Culturally derived words, e.g. slang, cause problems. Avoid slang. </li></ul><ul><li>Words derived from sports, social activities etc cause problems. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. kickoff, touch base, below the belt, knockout, ballpark figure, get the ball rolling. </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>Colloquialisms – expressions developed within cultures - also cause problems. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g. Head for home, tearjerker, make heads or tail of, a fish out of water, shoot from the hip, priming the pump etc. </li></ul><ul><li>We use such words in everyday communication. </li></ul><ul><li>However, they should be avoided in cross-cultural communication. </li></ul>
  27. 27. General Suggestions <ul><li>Use simple, basic English. </li></ul><ul><li>Word questions carefully to elicit the response intended. </li></ul><ul><li>Continually check the accuracy of the communication. </li></ul><ul><li>Continually checking for meaning and using written summaries can help ensure the accuracy of the communication process. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Cultural Diversity at the Workplace
  29. 29. What Is Diversity? <ul><li>Diversity is defined as a difference or variety </li></ul><ul><li>Without differences or variety among people in the world, the ability to grow and learn would be limited </li></ul>
  30. 30. Diversity at the Workplace <ul><li>Refers to differences we recognize in ourselves and others, such as: </li></ul><ul><li>Gender, Culture, Race, Ethnicity, Age, Religion, Sexual Orientation, </li></ul><ul><li>Family Structures, Physical and Mental Disabilities or Challenges. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Importance of Diversity <ul><li>It is necessary to: </li></ul><ul><li>1. Understand & embrace diversity, and also that each person’s contributions to the organisation are important for its growth; </li></ul><ul><li>2. Recognise & celebrate differences which exist in different cultures; and </li></ul><ul><li>3. Realise value of all people and what worthy contributions can be brought into the workplace. </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Investing in diversity creates a pool of talent - </li></ul><ul><li>It can provide you with a competitive edge in your industry. </li></ul><ul><li>People with different experiences & backgrounds are innovative. </li></ul><ul><li>Creative ideas are a distinct result. </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>People with varying life experiences and perspectives can come up with unique solutions to problems - </li></ul><ul><li>Which may not arise from groups who think similarly. </li></ul><ul><li>This is of great value to an organization. </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Business on the international level will present different philosophies and approaches. </li></ul><ul><li>A diverse workforce reaches out better on a global level due to a better understanding of how other cultures do business. </li></ul><ul><li>This is a vital component when doing business in today's global marketplace. </li></ul>
  35. 35. Adapting to Diversity <ul><li>Creating Awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Must start from the top. </li></ul><ul><li>Management should acknowledge unique differences of the individuals working with them. </li></ul><ul><li>Others will follow them by example. Differences will be appreciated rather than being scorned. </li></ul>
  36. 36. <ul><li>Avoid Being Judgemental </li></ul><ul><li>Cultures are deeply ingrained. Visible behaviour and words are only a small part of a person’s culture. </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural and personal value systems dictate a person’s behaviour. </li></ul><ul><li>Showing respect for it without being judgemental creates mutual trust. </li></ul>
  37. 37. <ul><li>Communicate Effectively </li></ul><ul><li>Following skills should be developed: </li></ul><ul><li>Effective Listening </li></ul><ul><li>Checking your Perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Gathering Information </li></ul><ul><li>Avoiding Judgmental Reactions </li></ul><ul><li>Cultivating Self-Awareness </li></ul><ul><li>Communicating to Others </li></ul><ul><li>Acceptance of differences </li></ul>
  38. 38. Thank You. Questions ?

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