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Cross Cultural Communication MHR- 106

A Communications Model





A Better Communications Model

Context Channel
Sender Message Audience


Good Intercultural Communicators Are.

Aware values &

behaviors not always right.

Flexible & open to


Sensitive to verbal

& nonverbal behavior. Aware of values, beliefs, practices of other cultures. Sensitive to differences within cultures.


High-Context Cultures
Infer information from

message context, rather than from content. Prefer indirectness, politeness Asian & ambiguity. Latin American Convey little information Middle Eastern explicitly. Rely heavily on nonverbal signs.

Low-Context Cultures
Rely more on content

rather than on context.

Explicitly spell out European

Value directness. See indirectness as

North American

Value written word more

than oral statements.

Communication Process and Verbal Communication Styles


The process of transferring meanings from sender to receiver

Verbal communication styles

Context is information that surrounds a communication and helps convey the message
Messages are often highly coded and implicit in high-context societies, such as Japan and many Arab countries The message is explicit and the speaker says precisely what he or she means in low-context societies such as the United States and Canada


Explicit and Implicit Communication

High-context/implicit communication cultures Japanese Arabs Latin Americans Italians English

North Americans Scandinavians Germans Swiss Germans Low-context/explicit communication cultures

Adapted from Figure 71: Explicit/Implicit Communication: An International Comparison


Phases of Multicultural Development

Table 71 Major Characteristics of Verbal Styles
Verbal Style Major Variation Interaction Focus and Content Cultures in Which Characteristic It Is Found

Indirect vs. direct

Succinct vs. elaborate

Indirect Direct
Elaborate Exacting Succinct

Implicit messages Explicit messages

High quantity of talk Moderate amount of talk Low amount of talk

Collective, high context Individualistic, low context

Moderate uncertainty avoidance, high context Low uncertainty avoidance, low context High uncertainty avoidance, high context

Adapted from Table 71: Major Characteristics of Verbal Styles


Phases of Multicultural Development

Table 71 Major Characteristics of Verbal Styles
Verbal Style Major Variation Interaction Focus and Content Cultures in Which Characteristic It Is Found

Contextual vs. personal


Focus is on the speaker and role relationships Focus is on the speaker and personal relationships
Language is process oriented and receiver focused Language is goal oriented and sender focused

High power distance, collective, high context

Low power distance, individualistic, low context Collective, high context

Affective vs. instrumental



Individualistic, low context

Adapted from Table 71: Major Characteristics of Verbal Styles


Communication Process and Verbal Communication Styles

Verbal communication styles (continued)

Indirect and direct styles

In high-context cultures, messages are implicit and indirect Voice intonation, timing, and facial expressions play important roles in conveying information In low-context cultures, people often meet only to accomplish objectives and tend to be direct and focused in their communications


Communication Process and Verbal Communication Styles

Verbal communication styles (continued)

Elaborate and succinct styles

Three degrees of communication quantity elaborate, exacting, and succinct. The elaborating style is more popular in high-context cultures that have a moderate degree of uncertainty avoidance The exacting style focuses on precision and the use of the right amount of words to convey the message and is more common in low-context, low-uncertainty-avoidance cultures The succinct style is more common in high-context cultures with considerable uncertainty avoidance where people tend to say few words and allow understatements, pauses, and silence to convey meaning.


Communication Process and Verbal Communication Styles

Verbal communication styles (continued)

Contextual and personal styles

Contextual style is one that focuses on the speaker and relationship of the parties Contextual style is often associated with highpowerdistance, collective, high-context cultures Personal style focuses on the speaker and the reduction of barriers between the parties Personal style is more popular in low-power-distance, individualistic, low-context cultures


Communication Process and Verbal Communication Styles

Verbal communication styles (continued)

Affective and instrumental styles

Affective style is common in collective, high-context cultures and is characterized by language that requires the listener to note what is said and to observe how the message is presented The meaning is often nonverbal and requires the receiver to use his or her intuitive skills to decipher the message Instrumental style is goal oriented and focuses on the sender who clearly lets the other party know what he or she wants the other party to know. The instrumental style is more commonly found in individualistic, low-context cultures


Summary of Verbal Styles


Communication Flows
Downward communication

Transmission of information from manager to subordinate Primary purpose of manager-initiated communication is to convey orders and information Managers use this channel for instructions and performance feedback The channel facilitates the flow of information to those who need it for operational purposes


Communication Epigrams

Adapted from Figure 72: Communication Epigrams


Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication The transfer of meaning through means such as body language and use of physical space Kinesics The study of communication through body movement and facial expression

Eye contact Posture Gestures

Chromatics The use of color to communicate messages


Nonverbal Communication

The study of the way that people use physical space to convey messages

Intimate distance is used for very confidential communications Personal distance is used for talking with family and close friends Social distance is used to handle most business transactions Public distance is used when calling across the room or giving a talk to a group


Personal Space in the U.S.

Intimate distance Personal distance

18 18 to 4

Social distance
Public distance

4 to 8
8 to 10

Adapted from Figure 73: Personal Space Categories for Those in the United States


Nonverbal Communication

Monochronic time schedule

Things are done in a linear fashion. Manager addresses Issue A first and then moves on to Issue B Time schedules are very important and time is viewed as something that can be controlled and should be used wisely People tend to do several things at the same time People place higher value on personal involvement than on getting things done on time Schedules are subordinated to personal relationships

Polychronic time schedules


Achieving Communication Effectiveness

Improve feedback systems

Two basic types of feedback systems between home office and affiliates

Personal (e.g., face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations and personalized e-mail) Impersonal (e.g., reports, budgets, and plans)

Language training Cultural training Flexibility and cooperation


Achieving Communication Effectiveness

Slow Down. Even when English is the common language in a cross cultural situation, this does not mean you should speak at normal speed. Slow down, speak clearly and ensure your pronunciation is intelligible.


Separate Questions. Try not to ask double questions such as, Do you want to carry on or shall we stop here? In a cross cultural situation only the first or second question may have been comprehended. Let your listener answer one question at a time.


Avoid Negative Questions. Many cross cultural communication misunder-standings have been caused by the use of negative questions and answers. In English we answer yes if the answer is affirmative and no if it is negative. In other cultures a yes or no may only be indicating whether the ques-tioner is right or wrong. For example, the re-sponse to Are you not coming? may be yes, meaning Yes, I am not coming.


Take Turns. Cross cultural communication is enhanced through taking turns to talk, making a point and then listening to the response.


Write it Down. If you are unsure whether something has been understood write it down and check. This can be useful when using large figures. For exam-ple, a billion in the USA is 1,000,000,000,000 while in the UK it is 1,000,000,000.


Be Supportive. Effective cross cultural communication is in essence about being comfortable. Giving encouragement to those with weak English gives them confidence, support and a trust in you.


Check Meanings. When communicating across cultures never assume the other party has understood. Be an active listener. Summarise what has been said in order to verify it. This is a very effective way of ensuring accurate cross cultural communication has taken place.


Avoid Slang. Even the most well educated foreigner will not have a complete knowledge of slang, idioms and sayings. The danger is that the words will be understood but the meaning missed.


Watch the humour. In many cultures business is taken very seriously. Professionalism and protocol are constantly observed. Many cultures will not appreciate the use of humour and jokes in the business context. When using humour think whether it will be understood in the other culture. For example, British sarcasm usually has a negative effect abroad.


Maintain Etiquette. Many cultures have certain etiquette when communicating. It is always a good idea to undertake some cross cultural awareness training or at least do some research on the target culture. Cross cultural communication is about dealing with people from other cultures in a way that minimises misunderstandings and maximises your potential to create strong cross cultural relationships. The above tips should be seen as a starting point to greater cross cultural awareness.


Always Remember Culture is not the same as race, ethnicity, or country of origin. Although all of these things contribute to culture, many other things do as well. You may have differences in communication style with someone who looks just like you and may have the same style as someone who looks much different. The bottom line is: don't assume and remember that everyone is an individual.