How Important Is Cultural Awareness In Business?

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Shaking Hands with People from other Cultures

Cultural awareness is a hugely important aspect of business interaction. Failing to understand how these elements play out in a negotiation can very easily leave you on the back foot.

Effective negotiating is hard enough as it is. You have to understand and be able to effectively read and react to a range of body language, negotiating strategies and understand exactly how far you are prepared to go to achieve your objective. This is made all the harder when international factors are thrown into the mix. Body language, interpersonal behaviours and interpretation of language are all affected differently by different cultures and a number of business thinkers and academics have devoted their energies to identifying and attempting to explore these differences and how they can be understood for greater negotiation success.

Examples of differences in international business negotiations: To ask an Asian business person to make a yes or no decision during negotiation will be highly damaging. Their cultural norm is to avoid displeasing others with negative responses, and they will go to great lengths to avoid ‘losing face’ by admitting that they lack the ability to do something. This is shown particularly in the Thai culture where there isn’t a word meaning ‘no’ in the Thai language! In a similar way French business people will tend to say no outright when they are actually considering options and meaning ‘maybe’.

In other countries, the norm is to give people the answer that they want to hear when they ask a question – which can be highly confusing in business negotiations! This is commonplace in Japan, Mexico or Lebanon.

Maintaining eye contact is viewed as being important in America and those who don’t do it arouse suspicion for being shifty. However in other countries, an attempt to keep eye contact is viewed as being aggressive, and it’s particularly offensive in countries such as Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. However, if you’re negotiating in Saudi Arabia, make sure you do keep open and consistent eye contact, as it’s viewed as being highly important to facilitating communication. There are other more specific cultural differences too, which if not followed, can cause great offence. For example in Saudi Arabia once again, it’s considered to be insulting to ask after the health of the host’s spouse, pass items using the left hand or show the soles of your shoes.

Similarly in Korea, make sure you pass with both hands, and avoid discussing politics or anything related to Japan. Formal greetings and introductions are also very important here and use rank and title when addressing guests.

Relationships are highly valued in many cultures, particularly in Asian and European cultures where the longer-term benefits of a relationship are valued more highly than short term transactions and quick wins. This is often opposite to the views of American business people who value speed and will often negotiate aggressively to achieve short term objectives.

The important thing to note is that whilst it may not be practical to learn a foreign language to carry out a particular negotiation, it can be possible to rapidly learn enough about non-verbal communication for international parties to the procedure, thus avoiding potentially costly errors.

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Article by Linguarama:

Linguarama is the right partner for Business Language Training and Cross Cultural Training, whether for individual tuition or corporate language training.

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/http://mb011085.articlealley.com/how-important-is-cultural-awareness-in-business-1608596.html

 

 

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What Managers Should Know About Cross-Cultural Communication

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Imagine that your company sends you to Japan for a technical meeting. The Japanese company’s representative comes to your hotel room and inquires if you have had your lunch. You tell him that you are anxious to try some sushi. You feel great when he invites you to the hotel restaurant, where a gracious
waiter encourages you to try various kinds of sushi. A while later, you begin to feel very bad, when you realize that your host has just paid $300 to $400 for your lunch. This happened to a manager of a high tech Colorado company about 20 years ago. Today, due to the lessons he has learnt over the years through an ongoing contact with the Japanese vendors, he is unlikely to experience another culture shock.

Use Face to Face Communication to Build Bridges

Forget about email and telephone when trying to establish operations or find vendors abroad, advises Scott Meyer, who has worked for many years in Europe. Instead, go on an extended business trip to the country of interest. Try to spend time in the major metropolitan areas, as well as in less popular peripheral locales. Immerse yourself into that country’s culture, develop insights into the dynamics of country’s business culture. Experience first-hand how people in that county react to products or services, similar to yours. Establish personal relationships and business contacts.

Use Interpreters Wisely

Do not underestimate the role of an interpreter in a cross-cultural setting. A similar cultural background between the non-English-speaking client or vendor and the interpreter will make communication easier. There are two types of interpreters. Simultaneous interpreters facilitate conferences with a large number of attendees. Simultaneous interpretation requires special equipment that allows the presenter to speak without pausing while the interpreter listens through the headphone and interprets the speech. Consecutive interpreters are better suited for small meetings and tradeshows, where the speaker would pause after few sentences so that the interpreter can relay the message. When using a consecutive interpreter it is important to pace your presentation and let the interpreter and the listeners keep up with it. Use humor sparingly. Avoid jokes that rely on the English language puns and wordplay, or on an understanding of the U.S. culture.

When hosting a contact from abroad for the first time, do not make assumptions as to whether that person will or will not need an interpreter. Foreign visitors will view your offer the services of an interpreter as a sign of respect for their language and culture.

Plan Your Cross-Cultural Meetings Carefully

The Japanese have a different concept of time, explains Bob Ariniello, the media products’ vice president of Exabyte Corporation. Time is not as important a criterion for the Japanese, as it is for us, especially when it comes to schedules and timelines. When planning a business trip to Japan, it makes sense to allow at least twice as much time, as you normally would. The Japanese culture is evasive. Realize that when your vendors tell you they will study the issue, that may be their way of saying no. To get to a yes, let them take time to build consensus. Spending extended time in business meetings will give both sides the opportunity to resolve the underlying issues.

Avoid Assumptions About Cultural Similarities

It is common for people to view the world through their own cultural worldview, to attach culturally-based meanings to what we see and hear. In cross-cultural situations, however, it is easy to create a misunderstanding by viewing people from other cultures, as if they are similar to us. Incorrect assumptions about the meaning of similarities may cause us to stereotype or misjudge people and situations. Some Asian cultures, for example, use a smile as a mask when dealing with unpleasant situations. In our culture a smile is associated with pleasant emotions and projects friendliness.

Develop and Practice Cross-Cultural Awareness

In any country the operating parameters are set by rules, established practices and cultural attitudes. Cross-cultural awareness is a skill, based on a set of
interpersonal characteristics, that allows effective managers to be open to other cultures, different from their own. This skill can be learned and needs to be
practiced. Even in English-speaking countries, such as Australia, “nothing should be taken for granted”, cautions Jerri Paulison, organizational development manager for Cobe Cardiovascular, Inc. She stresses the importance of good listening skills, patience and talking to people, who are intimately familiar with the country you intend to do business with, as well as obtaining additional information through reading.

In summary, any cross-cultural business situation is a journey. There are going to be differences. Expect them. Learn to appreciate them. Learn from them.
Learn to adapt.

 

Article Author: All Language Alliance, Inc. –  Nina Ivanichvili

– Nina Ivanichvili is CEO of All Language Alliance Inc.,
www.languagealliance.com, a foreign language translation firm specializing in legal, technical, financial, and medical translation and interpretation services in over 80 languages. She can be reached at 303-470-9555

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_117184_15.html

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How to Master Intercultural Communication

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Interacting with people from other cultures can be fascinating.  Whether you are abroad or on home turf, you are often exposed to new and fascinating ways of doing things.  If you are about to take a trip to another country, it is a good idea to brush up on the culture and traditions in advance of your departure.  This can be instrumental in avoiding potential miscommunication.  If you are dealing with people from many cultures on a routine basis, some fundamental  information about value systems and how people relate in certain parts of the world can be invaluable. It will help you know how to interact in an appropriate way. Concentrating on five basic categories will give you a running start when interacting with individuals from other cultures.

INDIVIDUALISTIC and COLLECTIVISTIC CULTURES

Individualistic Cultures foster individualism and focus on individual goals.
There is a preference for ‘equal’ relationships, and behavior cannot be predicted from group memberships.  Representative Cultures: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States.

Collectivistic Cultures focus on group goals. There is strong emphasis on traditions and conformity. Representative Cultures:  Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Guatemala, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

MASCULINE and FEMININE CULTURES

Masculine Cultures have differentiated gender roles and are characterized by power, assertiveness and performance. Representative Cultures: Arab cultures, Austria, Germany, Italy,Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland and Venezuela.

Feminine Cultures value quality of life and service. Sex roles are androgynous. Feminine cultures have overlapping gender roles. Representative Cultures: Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, East African cultures, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Thailand.

LOW and HIGH POWER DISTANCE CULTURES

With Low Power Distance Cultures, individuals are viewed as equals. Emphasis is placed on legitimate power. Superiors and subordinates are interdependent. Representative Cultures: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States.

With High Power Distance Cultures, individuals are seen as unequal. Subordinates are dependent on those above them. Representative Cultures: Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Panama, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

LOW and HIGH UNCERTAINTY AVOIDANCE CULTURES

Low Uncertainty Avoidance Cultures are characterized by low stress and anxiety. Dissent is acceptable. There is a high level of risk taking. Uncertainty is OK. Representative Cultures: Canada, Denmark, England, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Sweden and the United States.

High Uncertainty Avoidance Cultures are characterized by high stress and anxiety. There is a strong desire for agreement. People do not like to take risks. Representative Cultures: Egypt, Argentina, Belgium, Chile, France, Greece, Japan and Mexico.

LOW CONTEXT and HIGH CONTEXT COMMUNICATION

High Content/Low Context Messages are direct and clear with most of the message explicit in the code. This form predominates in individualistic cultures.

High Context/Low Content Messages are indirect and ambiguous. Most of the information is internalized in the person or his surroundings. This form is found more typically in collectivistic cultures.

Be  aware of cultural differences and how they should impact your communication.  When you’re not sure how to proceed, be respectful.  That goes a long way in successfully establishing relationships.
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Article Author: Carol Dunitz, Ph.D.

Carol Dunitz, Ph.D. is president of The Last Word LLC, a communication and creative services company.  She is a professional speaker and author of ‘Louder Than Thunder,’ a parable about listening and interpersonal communication.  Dunitz is the playwright, lyricist and composer of ‘Bernhardt on Broadway,’ a musical about Sarah Bernhardt.  She can be reached at 312.523.4774, cdunitz@lastword.com or www.DrCarolDunitz.com.

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_1175282_15.html

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