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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Business Communication

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Common Problems (Business Communication)

Communication plays a big role in an organization between employer and the employee, even though effective business do  not guarantee success in a business set up, its absence will surely lead to problems, this can easily lead t crisis in an organization. However various communication barriers do exist, among them are:

Individual perception

Cultural Barriers and diversity
Cultural barriers are normally at the source of communication challenge. An organization has to explore historical experiences and ways in which different cultural groups relates to one another is key to open channels for cross-cultural communication in any set-up. Organizations have to become more conscious of cultural differences, and also have to explore cultural similarities, this can assist one communicate with others much more effectively. (Pinker, 1997)

Information flood
The structure of communication follow is a crucial issue in how effective business communication is passed on to an audience. It does not matter if the audience is involving one or hundred, good flow is essential if the communication is to be “heard”. Thus a poor flow of your message or delivery is hence a key barrier to effective communication.

Technological changes
Due to current technological advancements there are several medium in which one can use when communicating, however if a wrong medium is selected the message may not reach the intended audience or the audience my not be able to interpret the message. Thus when considering the medium to use when communicating, it is wise to evaluate the percentage of your target audience who are likely to have access to your selected medium at the time you are passing the message. (Pinker, 1997)

Lack of common understanding
Perception; our own preconceived attitudes affects our capability to listen. We normally listen uncritically to individuals of “high status” and dismiss those of “low status”.

Lack of common spirit
When individuals don’t have a common spirit will interpret a particular communication differently, this a definitely a big barrier to communication

Lack of training or experience
Having inefficient knowledge or experience in communication skills, limits one to communicate effectively whether through talking or listening. This thus is a big barrier to communication.

Common Issues (business communication):

People: individual, groups
Centering on ourselves, instead of other persons can lead to confusion and conflict. Some factors that cause this are ego; superiority and defensiveness also hinder effective communication. (Mehrabian and Morton, 1997)

Culture, perception
Culture, background, and prejudice; we permit our previous experiences to alter the meaning of a message. Our culture, bias and background can only be good if they let us use our previous experiences to comprehend something new, but when they change the message meaning then they hamper communication process. (Mehrabian and Morton, 1997)

Channels, information flow
The channel of communication chosen when communicating is critical in ensuring that communication is effective. When some message requires an oral channel other requires writing. Thus if the wrong channel is chosen it will be a barrier to communication.

Environment, network access
Environmental; consist of physical things which can get in our way of communication such as unusual sights, an attractive person, Bright lights, or other stimulus offers potential distraction. (Pinker, 1997)

Need in business communication within the company

The term “organization communication” is normally applied by organizations to mean the process that is used to facilitate the exchange of information and knowledge of the organization with its internal and external publics or individuals that have a direct relationship with the organization. Organization communication is usually used within the organization’s internal communication by the managements as share information with the employees’ investors, customers and the organization partners. Such sharing of information builds communication channels and enhances it. (Pinker, 1997) As Mehrabian and Morton (1997) points out business communication in an organization is very vital as a tool of passing out information and instructions to employees in any organization.

Reference:
Mehrabian, A and Morton, W (1997): Decoding of inconsistent communications, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 6:109-114

Pinker, S (1997): How communication Works. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_1418391_15.html

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