Intercultural communication

To understand the intercultural nature of business communication To appreciate intercultural communication as communication shaped not only by national cultures, but also by other cultural dimensions such as ethnicity, gender and social class To heighten your awareness of differences in communication styles across cultures To develop positive attitudes towards people from different cultural groups The Rosette Story Rosette is a small community in Pennsylvania in the United States known for its closely-knit Italian immigrant families.

Idyllic and similar to many other small towns n the United States, Rosette nevertheless is distinguished for the well-documented lifestyle of its people. In the mid sass’s, medical and anthropological researchers were drawn to Rosette because it seemed to have been resistant to one of the most common causes of death in the United States: heart attacks. This was the period between 1955-1965. If textbooks were to be believed, people from Rosette would have died early: many drank and smoked, and worked under laborious conditions.

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Rosette became a mystery: the people defied medical logic by living longer than others in the rest of the United States. What researchers found intrigued and aught them by surprise. Rosette, it was known, had three-generational families that ate together and engaged in social activities together. Families formed strong emotional bonds, thus establishing trust not only within them but, more importantly, within the Rosette community itself. This could explain why crime rate was zero and there was no case of individuals seeking welfare support from the government because they helped each other out.

In other words, the “overall atmosphere of the town was one of mutual support and understanding, and unfailing sustenance in time of trouble” (Wolf, Grace, Bruin, & Stout, p. 01). Unfortunately, Rosette experienced dramatic changes in lifestyle from the late sass’s onwards as it started to be a “less cohesive, materialistic, more ‘Americanizes’ community’ (Geol.., Lasher, Wolf & Potting, 1992, p. 1090). The community’s deeply social lifestyle was breaking apart, and as a consequence Rosette started to see more people dying of heart- related diseases.

For example, the number of men under 65 who died due to heart attack increased rapidly after 1965 (p. 1092). According to Malcolm Caldwell, author of the bestselling book, Outliers: The story of success (2009), Rosette taught us to appreciate the idea that “the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are” (p. 12). Page THE ROLE OF CULTURE IN COMMUNICATION You are probably wondering what the relevance of the Rosette story is to our lesson in intercultural communication.

Indeed, what does the story teach us about intercultural communication? “… One of the world’s most significant problems: intercultural relations… ” Edward T. Hall Communication is a deeply cultural phenomenon Before the work on Rosette, much of medical research centered around health as a argyle individual phenomenon. On the contrary, Rosette teaches us that health should be viewed from the point of view of the community and culture. If such is the case, then we cannot go terribly wrong with the belief that communication is a deeply cultural phenomenon.

If health can be understood as being shaped by culture, how much more communication which involves interaction between people? Culture in communication is not a simplistic concept Nevertheless, the role of culture in communication is usually misunderstood or sometimes underrepresented. For example, when we talk about intercultural immunization, we often think in terms of ‘national’ cultures. Even if, for example, being German, American, Singapore or Filipino influences the way we talk, we do not communicate simply as a German, American, Singapore or Filipino alone.

It is difficult (in fact, impossible) to say that we bring along with us only our ‘national’ culture when we talk or write to people. A ‘Singapore’ is also a mother or a father, a student, a priest, a Malay teacher, a female cooperate CEO, a college drop-out who started his own clothing business and who is now a much sought-after inspirational speaker, and so on. So there is still much room for learning more about the role of culture in communication, and especially about the intercultural nature of communication.

To borrow the words of Caldwell above, the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on how we communicate. This could not be more true and relevant in intercultural communication in business contexts. THE NEED FOR INTERCULTURAL AWARENESS IN TODAY’S WORLD In essence, intercultural communication is communication between people from different cultures. This formal field of study dates back to the sass’s when Edward T. Hall, an anthropologist, published his landmark book, The silent language (1959), where the term ‘intercultural communication’ was introduced.

Hall’s foray into intercultural communication was first influenced by his early years growing up in multicultural New Mexico in the United States and in his deployment in Europe and the Philippines during the World War II (194221 P a GE 1 ‘345) as commander AT an Attract-American regiment (Rogers, Hart, He would later work with the Hopi and Navajo during which he crystallized further his belief in intercultural relations as “one of the world’s most significant robbers” (Hall, 1992, p. 76). The point of contact in communication between people is the intercultural moment.

It is during this time when communication either becomes successful or unsuccessful. Breakdown in communication could thus be due to a lack of understanding of what is going on at the point of intercultural contact. We may find other people’s communication practices or strategies unusual, irritating, insulting, arrogant, bossy, weak, and so on. If we lack the intercultural competence to understand and navigate potentially difficult intercultural moments, completion of tasks or adhering of important information may not be achieved.

Worse, we may start Judging or Intercultural communication is not shunning others because we simply do not something we do independently as a understand them or cannot make sense of what business activity; rather, it is they are doing. We start blaming others for the embedded in the real business breakdown of communication, instead of looking activities that we engage in. At our inadequate understanding of the intercultural nature of our communication as a possible cause for the failure. Communication breakdowns may be more costly in business and professional intents because they may result in loss of revenue for companies.

Even worse, communication breakdowns may result in deaths, a tragic example of which would be airplane disasters. Many airplane crashes, it was later found, had been caused by a lack of comprehension of local terms and/or cultural differences in communication Cones, 2003). Culture shapes communication in the workplace Therefore, it is important to gain awareness of the cultural dimensions of communication which influence the shape of communication in the workplace. How do people shape their cultures through the way they speak, write, listen and read?

How can you contribute, instead of being a hindrance, to effective business communication in multicultural workplaces? How can you deliver your message clearly and effectively through a keen understanding of your audience’s cultural norms and values? Intercultural communication, after all, is not something we do independently as a business activity; rather, it is embedded in the real business activities that we engage in such us presenting a product, negotiating prices, networking, resolving conflicts, and writing a rejection letter.

To carry out these activities persuasively and effectively, intercultural awareness is important. SIP age DEFINITION OF CULTURE Over the years, there have been many attempts to define culture. Here is one for our discussion: Culture is “the coherent, learned, shared view a group of people has about life’s concerns that ranks what is important, instills attitudes about what things are appropriate, and prescribes behavior, given that some things have more significance than others” (Verne & Beamer, 1995, p. ). It is useful to take note of a few points about the above definition: Culture is created and learned Culture is not something that we are born with, but rather it is created and learned, imparted to us through our upbringing and exposure to the practices and rules of conduct of the culture of which we are a part. So when you remark, “That’s commonsense. Why doesn’t he know that? “, or “It is not appropriate for her to say that”, you probably think that you have said something that is true or unarguable.

But what you probably do not realize is that ‘commonsense’ and ‘appropriateness’ are part of the value system which you have learned as part of a community or society. Culture is shared by people in a society or group Culture is a system of beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors that is shared by the majority of the embers of a society or group. The question though is: do all members of a society agree about the meanings of things and why things should be done a certain way? If you say a particular society favors direct (not indirect) communication, would you expect all members of that society to communicate in a direct manner?

What happened? In the movie Seven Years in Tibet, Heimlich Harder, an Austrian living in Tibet, was asked by the Dalai Lama to build some sort of a movie theatre in Leash. In one scene, while he and a group of Tibetan were digging the piece of land on which the theatre was going to e built, their shovels and spades uncovered earthworms in the ground. The Tibetan complained about this and work on building the theatre had to be stopped temporarily, much to Heimlich Hearers amazement Ana Translation. Work only resumed after all the earthworms were safely collected in containers and transferred to another location.

What do you think happened? Why did the Tibetan make such a big fuss about the earthworms? Why was Heimlich Harder amazed and frustrated by what happened? This is where a narrow view of intercultural awareness may lead to stereotyping of people. Yes, culture is shared by people in a society or roof, but each individual is still unique in terms of his or her values and practices because his or her life experiences are also unique. You may share with someone from your group or society a deep belief in respect for family and family tradition, but you may not share with that person the same religious beliefs. Page Culture shapes attitudes Culture teaches values and priorities, which in turn shape attitudes. This must be clarified though: culture per SE cannot teach values and priorities; rather, certain people in society or the community do this. So when attitudes are shaped, it is people ho do this too. We are largely unconscious of our own attitudes towards others and the world because we are also largely unconscious of the people around us who shape our attitudes. Because we create our own cultures, we are also shapers of other people’s attitudes. This is where power is deeply intertwined with culture.

Culture prescribes behavior Culture prescribes behavior and members of a society or a community usually behave in ways that they think are appropriate or acceptable in their culture. There are people, by virtue of their privileged positions, who are able to prescribe their own aloes and practices upon the rest of their society or community and call them everyone’s culture. This is another example of when power and culture are interconnected. Culture is dynamic Some people still talk of culture as if it does not change at all. Another important element of the nature of culture is its dynamism.

Societies grow and change and the culture of that society changes along with it. No culture Is completely stall (unless AT course all ten memoirs AT that society have passed away) because the people who make up that society continuously change. One recent phenomenon that has affected all cultures of the roll (though not equally) is globalization. Globalization has influenced even the most isolated tribal communities. Although contact with outsiders may still be minimal in such societies, what other people do to their environment (logging, mining, water pollution, etc. Still impact their lives. Culture, no matter how we define it, is dynamic and continuously changing. This is important to know because some people still talk of culture as if it does not change at all. Culture is plural At any one time, each of us belongs to more than one culture, the most obvious perhaps being the culture of the country in which we live. Other cultural entities include an ethnic group, a religious group, or even a profession that has its own specialized ways of doing things.

Thus, each individual’s beliefs, attitudes, values and behavior are shaped by many cultural influences. Because we come from and associate with different groups of people and communities, some people prefer use the word ‘cultures’, instead of ‘culture’. But we will not quibble with this matter. Culture or cultures, we will assume that whatever values and practices we bring into a communication situation, these values and practices come from not one but many sources, e. G. Nationality, education, ethnicity, gender, workplace experience and even our families. Page DOMINANT CULTURAL ORIENTATIONS In order to make ‘sense’ of culture in communication, we now need to be familiar with some dominant descriptions of cultural orientations or tendencies. You will find that in business, different people in various contexts may show tendencies towards certain cultural orientations. How context affects communication All communication occurs in a context. In all cases, the meaning of the communication is carried in part by the words chosen and in part by the context in which those words are used.

There are differences among cultural groups with regard to how much meaning is conveyed by the words and how much meaning comes through the context. What this implies is that the audience for any particular communication must be open to receiving the message being conveyed by both what is said and what is not said but can be interpreted from the context. For example, imagine you are a new employee attending a staff meeting with your boss and eight other colleagues. During the meeting, the boss presents some new initiatives for your department and asks the staff to give their comments on the proposals.

An awkward silence follows, which you decide to break by sharing your opinions on the ideas proposed. You find it surprising that even though the Doss specifically sakes Tort comments, no one else voices any opinions. After a few such meetings, you begin to realize that when the boss asks for your opinion during a staff meeting, he is really not asking for your opinion, but only for your agreement. The context here was communicating something different from the actual words used. Why is the manager stressed?

A marketing manager of a major car producer is finding it increasingly difficult to work with his colleagues. In tenting, they hardly ever say anything. When they are asked if they agree with his suggestions they always say “yes,” but they don’t do anything to follow up on the ideas. The only time they open up is in a bar in the evening, but that is getting stressful, as they seem to expect him to go out with them on a regular basis. Here is another example. After you have worked in a company for one year, your head of department is promoted to senior management position in another department.

Your CEO writes to all the members of your department asking you to nominate one of the remaining staff members to take on the department head sections. You write an email to ask a more senior colleague if she wants to be nominated as the new head, but you receive no response. In this example, your colleague’s silence could mean many things, depending on the degree to which the context is carrying the message. On the one hand, it could mean yes, I want to be nominated as head, but I cannot say that to you in writing as I might appear proud and you could forward my message to the CEO or to our former Head. On the other hand, it could mean ‘l am still thinking about it’, or ‘I don’t want to be nominated’ and so on. The context is communicating in these examples. The context gives you clues about what certain things mean. In other situations, however, messages are directly communicated through words and not indirectly through the context. In a high-context culture, people convey meaning by relying less on verbal communication and more on nonverbal cues, environmental settings, the relationship between the interlocutors and implicit information, shared by the parties in the communication.

As a result, for an outsider, high-context communication can appear as rather indirect and even vague. If you propose a new incept to a prospective business partner, you might receive a yes’ answer, but yes mere may not mean yes, I agree’ or yes, I’m Interested’ (wanly Is ratter 01 yes, I understand the concept but I still have to think about it’ or yes, I understand the concept, but I am not interested’ (which is rather indirect). Here, you need to understand the context to know what yes’ nearness (e. G. , where you are making a pitch for your concept, who you are talking to).

Many layers of meaning may be embedded in some societies’ cultures, so high- context communication requires that you ‘experience’ the culture before you start understanding how and why people communicate their messages in particular ways. In contrast, in a low-context culture, people rely more on verbal communication and less on circumstances and non-verbal cues to convey meaning. The context, in these cultures, does not carry very much of the meaning, so there is great value placed on direct, precise and explicit words during the process of communication.

Even if they criticize someone in a group setting, low-context individuals may say everything they feel like saying. So, for a high-context ‘outsider,’ they may appear to be brutally frank or unfeeling. How face-saving affects communication Face-saving is the act of preserving one’s outward dignity. Although all of us are concerned with face-saving to some extent, the value attached to the maintenance of status and respect varies significantly from culture to culture. Usually, the more high- context a culture is the more importance its members attach to face saving.

So if an individual is essentially high-context, then face-saving is likely very important to her. In other words, the indirectness that characterizes high-context communication is to a large extent a strategy to avoid causing another person to lose face. So instead of disagreeing with the boss in a meeting, a person may Just keep quiet and avoid giving his/her opinion. In this sense, one’s silence can be viewed as consideration for another person’s sense of dignity. Face-saving can also mean truth’ is less important than ‘relationship’.

However, to people who prefer low-context communication, this indirectness may be seen as dishonesty, suggesting that the speaker is hiding something. Consequently, when engaging in business communication, it is important to consider the degree to which the situation is high or low context and whether face- saving is valued. If it is considered a low-context situation, clear and direct communication (although still respectful) may be preferred. In a high-context situation, perhaps some indirectness may work better.

However, because business communication does not happen in a vacuum 7 IP a GE (people make it happen), you may have to contend with people’s different, usually even clashing, cultural values. If you have not already done so, it is almost certain that you will encounter people who deliver messages in both these ways. How the individual is viewed in relation to the group Cultures, societies, groups or communities can be characterized as either more individualist or collectivist in orientation (Hefted, 1991). An individual who exhibits individualist tendencies values individual effort and self-sufficiency.

She is comfortable looking after herself, and also expects others to look after themselves. She may also have low expectations of support from her family or cultural group in general. On the other hand, an individual who exhibits collectivist tendencies, one won Trot Dealt Is Integrated Into strong, convolves groups, wanly tonguing nerd lifetime continue to protect her in exchange for unquestioning loyalty, is someone ho thinks about and does things primarily in order to benefit her family, social group or community.

Thus, in an individualist corporate culture, independence is highly valued; in a collectivist corporate culture, the individual is regarded as part of the group and a high degree of interdependence prevails in the same group. We must bear in mind, however, that individualism and collectivism are cultural tendencies and not biological traits of people. They are also not mutually exclusive. Thus, every individual is individualist and collectivist at the same time, except that here are different ways of dealing with specific situations and people.

You may be individualist in your view of academic achievement and career development, but highly collectivist in your view of family life and filial responsibility. Verne and Beamer (1995) point out that in an Why is the audience horrified? Individualist culture, a single person can earn In one of his presentations too bank credit or blame for the success or failure of a client, a consultant suggests that individual company project while in a collectivist culture, employees who have done good Job ought credit or blame goes to the group.

Collectivist to be given greater recognition by which individuals do not usually seek individual he nearness singling them out for praise in recognition and may even feel uncomfortable if it front of their colleagues. His audience is horrified. Is given. As members of a team, they “are more concerned with fulfilling their obligations to a group than being self-fulfilled in terms of personal achievements” (Abdullah, 1996, p. 26). Those with individualist inclinations, on the other hand, have the ‘self as the center of action and achievement.

If they go up the corporate ladder, it is because hey believe they have worked hard for it themselves. Recognition is easily accepted; if congratulated, you expect them to say thank you’, instead of ‘uh, not sure about that’ or ‘not really. Page How time is perceived Hall (1983) makes a distinction between cultures that tend to be monochromatic and those that tend to be polyphonic. In monochromatic business cultures, time is seen as a way to organize the business day efficiently.

People place a high emphasis on schedules, a precise reckoning of time and promptness. Schedules often take precedence over interpersonal relations. Winy Is seen Trustee-• People in such business cultures try to get to the A businessperson is keen to secure an point quickly when communicating and they also important deal. She has a tight tend to focus on only one task during each schedule, and can’t afford to waste scheduled period. Any time. Her frustration increases because she has to wait for ages to get an appointment with her business partner.

Meetings never start on time, and when they do, there are frequent interruptions, with people coming in to get papers signed. Her partner even takes phone calls in the middle of critical negotiations. If, in a corporation, time is seen as more fluid and people do not observe strict schedules, then you are probably working with people in a polyphonic culture. Preset schedules are subordinate to interpersonal relations and people take whatever time is needed to get to know each other and build a foundation for the business relationship.

It is common for business meetings in polychrome cultures not to follow the agreed schedule or to be interrupted by things completely unrelated to the discussion. People in these cultures tend to think of these changes and interruptions as ‘natural’ and are essentially not bothered by them as much as those with a monochromatic orientation. How power is distributed Cultures also differ according to how power and status are distributed in society.

For example, in some cultures, status is accorded to people based more on their individual achievements while in others status is ascribed to people by virtue of their age, family background, position, profession, and so on. This has been described as cultures which are more or less hierarchical. In highly hierarchical cultures, employees tend to use titles extensively especially for high ranking executives and officials. Power and status are clearly in the hands of those who occupy the topmost sections of the hierarchy.

In less hierarchical cultures, titles are usually used only when they are relevant to the competence one brings to the task, for example, as a medical doctor. In these contexts, power and status are distributed more equally; that is, more people are accorded the opportunity to speak and make decisions regardless of their Job title or number of years in the organization. Within a highly hierarchical organization, you will observe that people show respect for individuals depending on their rank and position. When addressing people who are older or of

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