Short Paper: Cultural Communication

Running Head: Short Paper Cultural Communication; Copyright (c) – Lopamudra Chakraborty – no portion of this article can be copied reproduced or distributed without prior authorization of the author. Author: Lopamudra(Lopa) Chakraborty M5A1: Short Paper Cultural Communication Business Communications 08/3/2012 Cultural Communication Introduction “The reasonable person adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. ” – George Bernard Shaw Intercultural communication between people is an integral attribute of the human society development.

The modern world is developing towards globalization. In this regard, the issues about the role and the place of international communication become an integral part of life both for the humankind in general, as well as for the individual (Shokina & Nishev, 2009). The art of business communication has evolved as globalization has set disparate businesses cultures of the world on a collision course. Emerging economies have begun to integrate the business cultures of traditional powerhouse nations into their businesses, and they have been leaving traces of their own culture wherever they go.

The impact of cultural diversity on business communication has widespread implications–from corporate boardrooms to employee break-rooms–and small business owners can benefit from gaining an understanding of the eccentricities of all cultures to which they are exposed (Ingram, 2012). As mentioned by Hynes, it is extremely important to become familiar with intercultural business practices for three reasons. First, is the tremendous increases in international trade caused by vertical specialization or global supply chains.

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These are some of the reasons that underline the importance of cross-cultural communications. With the advent of globalization, research on cross cultural organizational behavior has become a pathway to understand the dynamics of multicultural domestic and international workplaces. In fact successful organizations of the 21st century require leaders who understand culturally diverse work environment and can work effectively with different cultures that have varying work ethics, norms and business protocols (HR Magazine, SHRM, 2008).

In addition, there are other world issues that enhances the importance of cross-cultural communication, for e. g. emergence of the digital age, ease and speed of international travel, formation and expansion of regional trade associations (like NAFTA, EU, GATT, ASEAN) and growth of international professional associations (Beaman, 2005). To become culturally competent, the first step is to have a solid understanding of one’s own values and how they shape the cultural identity. Within this process it is also important to realize that different culture exhibit different values.

Cross cultural management researchers and theorist like Hofstede, Hall and Trompenaars have developed cultural value dimensions often within the realm of comparing national cultures (HR Magazine, SHRM, 2008). Countries like US who are heavily dependent on the global economy must understand their own culture and how it shapes their communication with other cultures. 3 Cultural Communication Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand the US business communication protocol and how it affects the cross communication with other culture.

In responding to this short paper on cultural communication, the attempt is to discuss and elaborate on the following factors: 1. What are some typical U. S. business communication protocols? 2. How would these protocols create challenges, for example, in communicating with someone from a collective culture? 3. What are recommendations you would offer for decreasing the potential of communication misunderstandings? Background In the past, it may have been commonplace for entrepreneurs and corporate managers to develop their own unique communication style for dealing with customers, business partners and suppliers.

Today, however, managers must take the time to study the cultural eccentricities of their business counterparts before attempting to make contact with people in other countries or from other subcultures. The Texas oil tycoon, for example, has to understand that grabbing his Chinese partner’s hand in a firm handshake is not a good idea but that a slight bow and smile are the appropriate form of greeting. Verbal communication and body language are more important than ever in international business dealings because innocent hand gestures, mannerisms or even posture can cause a rift between culturally diverse business partners.

The diversity of culturally distinct managers has been melding slowly as globalization and Westernization give managers extensive experience in different cultures (Ingram, 2012). 4 Cultural Communication Globalization: ? The percent of the U. S. population that is foreign born has grown from 4. 8% in 1970 to 6. 2% in 1980 to 7. 9% in 1990 and over 9% in 2000 ( (Ferraro, 2002). ? The U. S. has the fourth largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. E. g. , More than 60% of the people in Miami speak Spanish as their first language (Ferraro, 2002). 60% of companies will increase their global presence in the coming three years (ADP Survey, 2002). ? A large number of corporations receive more than half of their sales from foreign markets. ? E. g. , Coca Cola sells more of its product in Japan than in the U. S. (Ferraro, 2002). Senior executives say that the ability to manage the business on a global basis is a top priority (ADP Survey, 2002). ? All of these changes are facilitating the cross border movement of people, goods, and data, bringing more and more cultures into contact with one another and increasing the potential for cross-cultural conflict. What is new about the global economy is the scale and the speed with which innovations, borrowings (maladies! ), etc. are spreading. Given this background, the purpose of this discussion is to highlight and explain some of the major cultural value dimensions in the United States and how it impacts when commutating with other cultures with differing business communication protocols. 5 Cultural Communication Findings Understanding what shapes US Business Communication protocol: There are several dimensions to the US business communication protocol.

These business communication protocols are shaped and formed by the Culture of the organization and of the society. “Domestic business organizations can be viewed as ‘mini-cultures’ (composed of different people with different roles, statuses, and value systems) that operate within the wider national context (Ferraro, 2002). ” Culture is defined as a set of values and beliefs with learned behaviors shared within a particular society. Culture provides identity and belonging. Culture is everywhere starting from language to communication styles, history, religion, norms, values and symbolism (HR Magazine, SHRM, 2008).

One of the most extensive studies of cultural differences was conducted by Geert Hofstede. Based on his findings, there are six major dimensions of national culture that are discussed below(Hynes, 2012). An understanding of these cultural dimensions is necessary to explain what shapes the US business communication protocols. Power Distance: Power distance indicates the extent to which a society accepts the fact the power in the institutions and organizations is distributed unequally (Hynes, 2011).

Britain, Philippines and Mexico have high power distance where the managers and leaders are almost viewed like autocrats and there is a lot of disparity in power between higher and lower ranks. United States has a culture with low power distance. The manager is seen to have a little more power than the subordinate and is addressed by the first name, takes her place in the line and manages by communicating using an equalitarian communication strategy. 6 Cultural Communication Uncertainty Avoidance: Relates to the degree to which a society feels threatened by uncertain and ambiguous situation(Hynes , 2011).

It tries to avoid uncertainties by having a strict formal rules and not allowing odd ideas or beliefs to prevail for example countries like Germany, England and Pakistan. United States have weak uncertainty avoidance and are open to new ideas and beliefs. Individualism/Collectivism: Individualism refers to a loose knit social framework in which people are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate family, example United States. Collectivism refers to a society with a tight social network where people are distinguished between in-groups and outgroups, example -.

Japan, Masculinity/Feminity: expresses the extent to which dominant values in the society are masculine for example assertiveness, acquisition of money etc (Hynes, 2011). United States has a masculine type culture but Finland has a more feminine type culture. High Context/Low Context: First coined by Edward Hall, in a high context culture, communication is internalized and happens in the physical context or environment. Lot of importance is given to non-verbal communication. Japan and China are examples of High Context Culture.

United States on the other hand has a low context culture where a lot of importance is given to the vebal cues and spoken words. Monochronic/Polychronic: In a monochromic culture such as United States Germany, times is valued as money and time is measured by the clock, multi tasking, be punctual and time management are valued in this culture. In a polychornic culture like India and Spain, time is linear and events are not measured by the clock. Punctuality is not of much importance in this culture. As you can imagine the frustration 7 Cultural Communication f a manager who does not understand this in United States dealing with someone in India when there is a project deadline to be met in a timely manner. Business Communication Protocol in the United States: ? Informal and Friendly communication: Since US has a low power distance type culture, communication in the workplace is typically informal and friendly. Employees refer to their managers by their first names. People tend to not wait to be introduced, will begin to speak with strangers as they stand in a queue, sit next to each other at an event, etc.

Because if their informality and friendliness they appear to be pretty direct in their communication. When doing a business dealing or communicating with someone from high power distance type culture, the American has to be mindful of the fact that their informality is not perceived as rudeness. They have to be careful as not to cross the line. Following is an example of difference in communication between British and American. The British uses a more indirect approach to communication while the American uses a more direct approach (Beaman, 2005).

American/British Differences (Source: the Navigator Jan/Feb 2003) ? ? ? ? ? ? American: “Jack will blow his top. ” British: “Our chairman might tend to disagree. ” American: “You’re talking bullshit. ” British: “I’m not quite with you on that one. ” American: “You gotta be kidding. ” British: “Hm, that’s an interesting idea. ” 8 Cultural Communication As is evident from the above example, both culture has a distinct approach so when an American is communicating with the British, they have to be careful as not coming across as rude. Meeting and Greeting – the American way: Americans usually prefers a strong handshake, a casual hello and use first name when introducing someone. Though handshake is a practice that is used across the world in a business setting, the pressure used may vary. The high pressure grip may be a positive thing for an American but may be too aggressive for an Asian. In a business meeting, an American is direct, assertive, giving and taking feedback is considered positive and they confront when necessary.

However when dealing with a Japanese they have to realize that the later’s approach is indirect, they avoid confrontation and strive to develop harmonious and trusting business relationships. ? Dress: What is considered appropriate business attire varies by geographic region, day of the week and industry. In general, people in the East dress more formally, while people in the West are known for being a bit more casual. Executives usually dress formally regardless of which part of the country they are in. Casual Friday is common in many companies. High technology companies often wear casual clothes every day. Other non-verbal cues: With regards to space, Americans maintain a spatial distance of 4 feet with strangers. They should be aware that some Arab countries speak almost face-to-face which may feel like encroaching on a personnal space to an American. Americans belong to a low context type culture and more 9 Cultural Communication verbal and articulate than some of the other high-context cultures like Japan and China. This sometimes can be a challenge when communicating and understanding appropriate non-verbal communication. Americans do not like silence and try to fill it with small talk.

Chinese or Japanese on the other hand appear shy as they don’t speak out of turn. If an Asian is taking too long ot answer a question it is probably because they are thoughtful not because they do not know the answer. Americans do use certain gestures to supplement their verbal communication like OK, time out, wave etc. However they have to be aware that some gestures that have one meaning in America may have a complete different and sometimes negative connotation in another culture. A nod which may indicate no to an American may mean yes when done by an Indian.

It is safe to stick with universal gestures and try to refrain from others if you are not sure what it means for the other culture. ? Language: A language’s vocabulary contains large numbers of words that reflect the technologies, occupations, and values important to the culture. Americans tend to use a lot of baseball colloquialism in their language. For example, “he threw me a curve ball,” “you are way off base,” “She fielded my question well,” “I want to touch all bases,” etc. Business need to be aware when certain languages are translated to another language, the entire meaning may change.

For example, Chevrolet came out with a car “Nova” that they marketed in United States. The car sold well in the in so they decided to market it in Mexico. However the Ad campaign was a big failure there and they realized that the reason for that was Nova when translated to Spanish means “No go. (Beaman, 10 Cultural Communication 2005)” Understanding the appropriateness of translations when doing business with other cultures is very important. Recommendations To be a good intercultural communicator, one has to avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned above.

Additionally, taking cognizance and imbibing the following practices will decrease communication misunderstanding. 1. Moving from Ethno-centrism to Ethno-relativism : This model was deisgned by Bennett. It simple means that one has to move away from denial, defensiveness and minimization (which are the three stages of ethnocentrism) to acceptance, adaptation and integration (ethno-relativism). 2. Non-Defensiveness – One has to be open to criticism and non-defensive about their culture to be a good intercultural communicator. 3.

Curious and Brave: One has to be genuinely curious, brave and interested in knowing about other cultures. 4. Emphatic, Understanding and non-judgmental: It is possible ot be objective and open minded if you show these qualities. You cannot learn and be aware if you are not open minded or understanding. 5. Patience: Patience is one of the best virtues if you plan on being a good intercultural communicator. You cannot learn about another culture in one day and it is better to prepare yourself and be patient when you are trying to learn and communicate with another culture. . Genuinely personable: This cannot be faked. You really have to develop a liking for people of other culture (Hynes, 2011). 11 Cultural Communication 7. Facilitation with language: If you plan on spending a lot of time communicating with other culture, it may be a good idea to try and learn the language. A good deal of communication is lost in translation. Sometimes taking the interest to learn the language shows to the person you are communicating with that you mean business and are genuinely interested in them.

Conclusion The purpose of this paper was to discuss about why intercultural and cross cultural communication was important, the cultural dimensions that shapes the US business communication protocols, how it impacts us when communicating with other culture and recommendation of improving communication misunderstanding. The paper touched upon factors like globalization which was one of the main reason intercultural communications was important. When discussing culture, the paper discussed about Hofstede’s six dimensions.

The various types of US business protocols including communication approach, meeting and greeting, dress, other non verbal communication and language were discussed. Finally the paper made seven recommendations to follow to be a good intercultural communicator and minimize misunderstanding. In closing, when conducting business internationally, entrepreneurs learn that cultures have different expectations and protocols when it comes to meetings and interpersonal discussions. To be a successful in your business and be a good cultural communicator it is important to embrace these differences. 2 Cultural Communication References Bibliogrpahy: ADP Survey. (2002). ADP Survey. Beaman, K. C. -f. (2005). Cross Culture Communication in the workplace. Retrieved from The Jeitosa Group INC website: http://www. jeitosa. com/wpcontent/uploads/2010/12/Cross-cultural-communication-in-the-workplace_Apr2005. pdf Ferraro, G. P. (2002). The Cultural Dimension of International Business, 5th Edition. pearson. HR Magazine, SHRM. (2008, September). Selected Cross Cultural factors in Human Resources Management. Retrieved from Excelsior College virtual library, ebscohost. com: www. ehis. bscohost. com. vlib. excelsior. edu/eds/ Hynes, G. E. (2011). Business Communications, Strategies and Application. McGrawHill Irwin. Ingram, D. (2012). The impact of Cultural Diversity in Business Communication. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness. chron. com/impact-cultural-diversity-businesscommunication-3047. html: www. smallbusiness. chron. com Shokina, L. , & Nishev, A. (2009). Cross-Cultural Blog, Intercultural communication in the context of Globalization. Retrieved from http://www. stanford. edu/group/ccr/blog/2009/04/intercultural_communication_in. h tml: www. stanford. edu 13

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