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Topic 4:

BUSINESS COMMUNICATION ACROSS


CULTURES

Concept 1: Communicating in and between


cultures
Concept 2: Communication Effectiveness
Concept 3: Barriers to intercultural communication

Slide 13.1 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Communicating in and between cultures

Introduction
Increasing complexity of business
Increasingly global nature
Growing interaction between cultures
Universalist approach no longer appropriate
Diversity needs to be taken into account
New management skills needed, particularly in
area of communication

Slide 13.2 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Communication in and between cultures

Defining intercultural communication:


systemic versus dynamic perspective
Systemic:
Comparisons between cultures
Sets of relations between cultures
Dynamic:
Interaction and exchange between cultures: fabric
of relations
Process where cultures are defined by
Their own characteristics
Through interaction with others

Slide 13.3 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
A model of communication
Key communication filters

Message Message
LANGUAGE:
intended verbal and received
non-verbal

STYLES Frame of
of thinking and
Frame of SENDER / communicating
reference:
reference: Knowledge
RECEIVER
Knowledge STEREOTYPES SENDER / Experience
Experience
RECEIVER
Experience CULTURE 1
CULTURE 2 Norms/values
RELATIONSHIPS
Norms/values Assumptions
Assumptions

Message Message
received intended

Message

Figure III.1 A model of communication


Slide 13.4 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
A model of communication

When addresser and addressee


communicate, they use a frame of reference:
their knowledge of the subject under
discussion
their experience in professional or individual
terms
their norms, i.e. the norms of the society in
which they live
their assumptions, i.e. what is taken as a fact
or believed to be true
Slide 13.5 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
The role of context

Context: the environment in which the


communication process takes place
High-context cultures and low-context cultures
(Hall and Hall, 1990)
High context: most of information being sent is
contained in:
Relationship between those communicating
The situation where they are communicating
Low context: information is explicitly in the
message itself

Slide 13.6 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Proxemics and culture

Proxemics: how people perceive their social


and personal space (Hall, 1966)
The silent messages being given through:
Physical distance between people when
interacting
The senses: touch, smell, sight and
sound
The organization of public spaces
(offices, restaurants)
Slide 13.7 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Personal space

An invisible zone with distinct boundaries


Extent of zone determined by:
gender
age
personality
the degree of sympathy towards the individuals
concerned
the situation in which the individuals are
confronted
the culture(s) involved
Slide 13.8 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Personal space (Continued)

SMALL LARGE
PERSONAL PERSONAL
SPACE SPACE
Indians
South South North
Arabs and Asians
Europeans Americans Europeans
Pakistanis

Figure 13.1 Ranking of personal space


Source: Watson (1970)

Slide 13.9 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Table 13.1 Channels of business communication

Mode Description Examples

Personal conversations, speeches,


Oral Communications transmitted through meetings, telephone conversations,
communication speech conference calls, and video tele-
conferences

Written Communications transmitted through E-mails, letters, memos, faxes, formal


communication writing reports, news releases

Internal memos, reports, meetings,


Communications transmitted through
written proposals, oral presentations,
Formal the chain of command within an
meeting minutes; external letters, written
communication organization to other members or to
proposals, oral presentations, speeches,
people outside the organization
news releases, press conferences

Communications transmitted outside


Informal formally authorized channels without Rumours, chats with colleagues in the
communication regard for the organization's hierarchy hallways or during lunch or coffee breaks
of authority
Meetings, voice mail, telephone
Verbal Communication transmitted in the
conversations, internet forums
communication forms of words
(asynchronic), internet chat (synchronic)
Communication transmitted through Communication transmitted through
Nonverbal
actions and behaviour rather than actions and behaviour rather than
communication
through words through words
Slide 13.10 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Culture and choice of communication mode

Individualist versus Collective


B decides not to
Individualist business
A approaches respond directly in
collectivist writing
business B with direct,
detailed proposal B requests a face-
For business A, speed to-face meeting
and efficiency are key instead to establish
factors in a good relationship
communication before going into
detail
Slide 13.11 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Culture and choice of communication mode
(Continued)
Individualist versus Collective
Individualist business In Bs eyes, speed and
A approaches collectivist efficiency are less
business B with direct, important than
detailed proposal establishing trust and
For business A, speed confidence.
B uses the oral mode to
and efficiency are key
factors in set the conditions for
communication cooperation
B then uses the written
mode once relationships
established are
scrupulously maintained
Slide 13.12 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Computer-mediated communication (CMC)

Pitfalls when using e-mail interculturally:


Problems of comprehension (inaccurate language and
poorly structured text)
Cultural issues which can lead to misunderstanding and
even antagonism.
Recipient considers the style too formal, not explicit
Recipient considers the email too informal
In either case, no facial expressions to mitigate or clarify
messages given

Slide 13.13 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Language during business encounters

What happens when business representatives


dont share a common language?
Use intermediary who can translate the native
languages used:
practical problems: availability, extra cost
reliability: Is work accurate, with full nuance?
may hamper the establishment of relationships
delays interaction, reduces impact of non-verbal
communication
the interpreter becomes focused, controls the
exchange but without responsibility for the final
outcome
Slide 13.14 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Language during business encounters
(Continued)

What happens when business representatives


dont share a common language?
One interlocutor uses the mother tongue of the other.
Advantage: the manager can tune into the others
culture, pick up all the nuances, understand the
cultural references and respond appropriately.
Disadvantage: managers operating across many
cultures cannot be expected to acquire the language
of every culture with which they are (about to be)
involved

Slide 13.15 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
English a neutral language?

What happens when business representatives


dont share a common language?
Share a neutral foreign language: often called
international English (IE)
evolved organically, with little complex grammar
and few idiomatic phrases.
often needs to be adjusted to accommodate
differences in knowledge and understanding
between the speakers concerned
differences in pronunciation: influence of mother
tongue
Slide 13.16 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
International English (IE)

Problems:
Differences in levels
Pronunciation: interference from mother tongue, regional
English accent
Discussion can be rather superficial and communicating
thoughts would be difficult: power of expression reduced
Written IE may cause more problems than those it was
intended to solve: the connections between thoughts,
ideas and information may become more diffuse or even
non-existent

Slide 13.17 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
International English

Also the question of language as a potent means


of expressing cultural identity
How motivated are people to use a language
which is not theirs and which does not allow them
to assert their own personal or cultural identity?

Slide 13.18 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Conversational styles

Once relationship is established, a negotiated


communication mode may be established, with
the context involved playing a decisive role (e.g.
in or outside the office)
Different styles of conversation may still cause
problems, e.g.
Interrupting others Taking turns
Making assertive Making negotiable, less
statements conclusive contributions
Avoiding silence Using silence for reflection

Slide 13.19 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Conversational styles

Listening a key skill:


asking questions to check
on understanding.
rephrasing of statements
to clarify understanding

Slide 13.20 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Facial expressions during interaction

Facial expressions are linked to the context:


differ according to whether the context is clear
or ambiguous
express the different degrees of dominance
between people with different levels of status
Facial expressions can function in different ways
according to culture, e.g. averting a gaze
can have a negative connotation in some
cultures
in others it may be seen simply as a sign that
the speaker is changing direction in the
discussion
Slide 13.21 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Conclusion

Even if a common language is


used in business, problems in
communication may arise because
of different cultural backgrounds

Slide 13.22 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Barriers in cross-cultural management
communication

Non-verbal behaviour can play a


crucial role in interaction
All cultures use forms of body
language to communicate, but the
meaning of these forms is subject to
different interpretations according to
the cultural background of the
interpreter
Slide 14.23 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Barriers in cross-cultural management
communication (Continued)

Non-verbal signals used in a certain context may


not only differ but also influence other
consequent non-verbal signals.
Question of the intention: did the sender (if from
another culture) intentionally choose to transmit a
non-verbal message with an exact purpose or
was he pretending to do so?
When responding to the signal, the receiver may
need to re-adjust his communicative goal, vary
the non-verbal messages so that the desired goal
is eventually reached.

Slide 14.24 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Barriers in cross-cultural management
communication (Continued)

Those communicating across


cultures must therefore be
careful not to assume that
certain gestures they perceive
do not have the same meaning
as in their own culture.

Slide 14.25 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Barriers in cross-cultural management
communication (Continued)

Figure 14.1 Ive had enough

Slide 14.26 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Non-verbal communication barriers in business

Use of body language, e.g.


use of arms by the Dutch, compared to
use of the whole upper part of body by the
French
The Dutch may perceive French as very
emotional and excited since the Dutch only
use gestures made by the French when
they feel deeply emotional

Slide 14.27 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Non-verbal communication barriers in business
(Continued)

Silence
In western cultures, silence marks
pauses in a discourse.
In oriental cultures silences are an
integral part of communication.
Silences can indicate:
Respect, of agreement or
disagreement,
Modesty (avoid improper use of
Slide 14.28
words) Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Non-verbal communication barriers in business
(Continued)

The way feelings are expressed


can vary so much between
cultures and result can be
negative feelings towards another
The creation of such prejudices is
not the differences in themselves
but the way in which the
Slide 14.29
differences are interpreted
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Assumptions and culture

Assumptions may have:


1) a cognitive dimension, related to
presumptions as to how people think
that things work,
2) an affective dimension, related to
the presumed likings of people and
3) a directive dimension related to
the presumed choices of people.
Slide 14.30 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Assumptions and culture (Continued)

Assumptions can be time-related:


Is time a scarce good (economy of time)?
Are tasks performed simultaneously or one
after the other (monochronic versus
polychronic)?
Is life seen as a continuity or as cyclic
episodes?
Is the orientation in time towards the past,
the present or the future?
Slide 14.31 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Assumptions and culture (Continued)

Assumptions can be space-related relating


to territories: orientation may be:
in group: the group space includes
families, nations, and cultures
out-group: based on the assumption that
there is a unity of mankind beyond the
borders of in-group spaces
in-group orientation does not completely
exclude out-group orientation (e.g. in
Slide 14.32 Nordic European cultures)
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Assumptions and culture (Continued)

Assumptions can be identity-related: related


to identity of self and others
What is seen to be the ideal conduct in
certain social contexts:
Main socio-demographic categories
(age, sex, social class)
Particular roles in society (such as the
perfect politician, or successful
businessman)
Slide 14.33 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Perceptions and stereotypes

WHO IS SAYING WHAT ABOUT WHOM?

WHO / ABOUT WHOM? WHAT?


Germans Theyre pretentious
British Theyre arrogant
Americans Theyre chauvinist
Spaniards Theyre hypocritical
Dutch Theyve got no sense of
French humour
Theyre individualistic

Table 14.1 Who is saying what about whom?


Source: Grure and Morel (1991)

Slide 14.34 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Perceptions and stereotypes

Every culture sees its own system of


values in a positive light
If confronted with negative stereotypes of
themselves by other nationalities:
will not recognize themselves
will react strongly since they feel under
attack
defend their own personal identity
see their national identity more in terms
Slide 14.35 of them than us
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Identity and communication

National identity characterizes a nationality: sets the


limits of an intercultural exchange.
Perception of the other always is based on ones
own culture > ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism is inherent to any membership of a
socio- cultural, ethnic or national group.
It is the intrinsic mechanism separating mine
from yours
Our perceptions are made through a barrier which
is unconsciously made up of our own values
Ethnocentrism responsible for prejudices and
stereotypes
Slide 14.36 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Stereotype building

Starting-point for building a cultural stereotype is


the norms and values of the culture concerned
A stereotype consists of images created in our
minds with regard to a group or groups of people
These images are over-generalizations made
from selective (self-) perceptions and information
corresponding with our beliefs
A stereotype confirms our prejudices rather than
reflecting accurate observations of reality
The development of prejudices is supported or
provoked by our cultural environment
Slide 14.37 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
How to deal with stereotypes?

Suppress them, fight them or ignore them?


Better not to fight against them since they
are the first stage in the process whereby
the existence of another culture is
acknowledged
Stereotypes are necessary for establishing
ones own cultural identity. If a cultural
group cannot compare itself to other groups
then it cannot become aware of what it is

Slide 14.38 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
How to deal with stereotypes? (Continued)

If people could place another culture in its own


context and avoid judging it according to their
own system, stereotypes would eventually
disappear
Note the dynamic nature of interaction:
characteristics of speakers PLUS
structure of the situation and the context, as
well as time and space (see chapter 13)
The variable nature of the interaction makes
every communicative situation unique and
therefore unpredictable
Slide 14.39 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009
Conclusion

The cultures of the interlocutors


filters information and interprets it
according to their own references
Stereotypes form the most
important barrier to intercultural
communication

Slide 14.40 Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, Pearson Education Limited 2009