Understanding Cross-cultural Management
PART THREE
CULTURE AND
COMMUNICATION
Slide 13.1
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Understanding Cross-cultural Management
CHAPTER 13
BUSINESS COMMUNICATION ACROSS
CULTURES
• Concept 13.1: Communicating in and between
cultures
Slide 13.2
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 13.3
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 13.4
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
A model of communication
Key communication filters
Message
intended
Frame of
reference:
•Knowledge
Experience
Norms/values
Assumptions
LANGUAGE:
verbal and
non-verbal
Message
received
Frame of
reference:
STYLES
of thinking and
communicating
SENDER /
RECEIVER
STEREOTYPES
CULTURE 1
SENDER /
RECEIVER
CULTURE 2
RELATIONSHIPS
Message
received
•Knowledge
Experience
Norms/values
Assumptions
Message
intended
Message
Figure III.1
Slide 13.5
A model of communication
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 13.6
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 13.7
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 13.8
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 13.9
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Personal space (Continued)
SMALL
PERSONAL
SPACE
Indians
South
South
and
Europeans Americans
Pakistanis
Arabs
Figure 13.1
LARGE
PERSONAL
SPACE
Asians
North
Europeans
Ranking of personal space
Source: Watson (1970)
Slide 13.10
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Table 13.1 Channels of business communication
Mode
Description
Examples
•Oral
communication
Communications transmitted through
speech
Personal conversations, speeches,
meetings, telephone conversations,
conference calls, and video teleconferences
•Written
communication
Communications transmitted through
writing
E-mails, letters, memos, faxes, formal
reports, news releases
•Formal
communication
Communications transmitted through
the chain of command within an
organization to other members or to
people outside the organization
Internal memos, reports, meetings,
written proposals, oral presentations,
meeting minutes; external letters, written
proposals, oral presentations, speeches,
news releases, press conferences
•Informal
communication
Communications transmitted outside
formally authorized channels without
regard for the organization's hierarchy
of authority
Rumours, chats with colleagues in the
hallways or during lunch or coffee breaks
•Verbal
communication
Communication transmitted in the
forms of words
Meetings, voice mail, telephone
conversations, internet forums
(asynchronic), internet chat (synchronic)
•Nonverbal
communication
Communication transmitted through
actions and behaviour rather than
through words
Communication transmitted through
actions and behaviour rather than
through words
Slide 13.11
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Culture and choice of communication mode
Individualist versus Collective
• ‘Individualist’ business
A approaches
‘collectivist’
business B with direct,
detailed proposal
• For business A, speed
and efficiency are key
factors in
communication
Slide 13.12
• B decides not to
respond directly in
writing
• B requests a faceto-face meeting
instead to establish
a good relationship
before going into
detail
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 •
A approaches ‘collectivist’
business B with direct,
detailed proposal
• For business A, speed
and efficiency are key •
factors in
communication
•
Slide 13.13
In B’s eyes, speed and
efficiency are less
important than
establishing trust and
confidence.
B uses the oral mode to
set the conditions for
cooperation
B then uses the written
mode once relationships
established are
scrupulously maintained
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 13.14
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Language during business encounters
What happens when business representatives
don’t 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 13.15
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
Language during business encounters
(Continued)
What happens when business representatives
don’t share a common language?
One interlocutor uses the mother tongue of the other.
– Advantage: the manager can ‘tune into’ the other’s
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 13.16
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
English – a neutral language?
What happens when business representatives
don’t 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 13.17
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 13.18
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 13.19
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
– Making assertive
statements
– Avoiding silence
Slide 13.20
– Taking turns
– Making negotiable, less
conclusive contributions
– Using silence for reflection
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 13.21
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 13.22
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 13.23
Browaeys and Price, Understanding Cross-cultural Management, 1st Edition, © Pearson Education Limited 2009
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