Рефераты. Intercultural business communication

Intercultural business communication


As David Glass is well aware, effective communicators have many tools

at their disposal when they want to get across a message. Whether writing

or speaking, they know how to put together the words that will convey their

meaning. They reinforce their words with gestures and actions. They look

you in the eye, listen to what you have to say, and think about your

feelings and needs. At the same time, they study your reactions, picking up

the nuances of your response by watching your face and body, listening to

your tone of voice, and evaluating your words. They absorb information just

as efficiently as they transmit it, relying on both non-verbal and verbal



The most basic form of communication is non-verbal. Anthropologists

theorize that long before human beings used words to talk things over, our

ancestors communicated with one another by using their bodies. They gritted

their teeth to show anger; they smiled and touched one another to indicate

affection. Although we have come a long way since those primitive times, we

still use non-verbal cues to express superiority, dependence, dislike,

respect, love, and other feelings.

Non-verbal communication differs from verbal communication in

fundamental ways. For one thing, it is less structured, which makes it more

difficult to study. A person cannot pick up a book on non-verbal language

and master the vocabulary of gestures, expressions, and inflections that

are common in our culture. We don't really know how people learn non-verbal

behaviour. No one teaches a baby to cry or smile, yet these forms of self-

expression are almost universal. Other types of non-verbal communication,

such as the meaning of colors and certain gestures, vary from culture to


Non-verbal communication also differs from verbal communication in

terms of intent and spontaneity. We generally plan our words. When we say

"please open the door," we have a conscious purpose. We think about the

message, if only for a moment. But when we communicate non-verbally, we

sometimes do so unconsciously. We don't mean to raise an eyebrow or blush.

Those actions come naturally. Without our consent, our emotions are written

all over our faces.

Why non-verbal communication is important

Although non-verbal communication is often unplanned, it has more

impact than verbal communication. Non-verbal cues are especially important

in conveying feelings; accounting for 93 percent of the emotional meaning

that is exchanged in any interaction.

One advantage of non-verbal communication is its reliability. Most

people can deceive us much more easily with their words than they can with

their bodies. Words are relatively easy to control; body language, facial

expressions, and vocal characteristics are not. By paying attention to

these non-verbal cues, we can detect deception or affirm a speaker's

honesty. Not surprisingly, we have more faith in non-verbal cues than we do

in verbal messages. If a person says one thing but transmits a conflicting

message non-verbally, we almost invariably believe the non-verbal signal.

To a great degree, then, an individual's credibility as a communicator

depends on non-verbal messages.

Non-verbal communication is important for another reason as well: It can be

efficient from both the sender's and the receiver's standpoint. You can

transmit a non-verbal message without even thinking about it, and your

audience can register the meaning unconsciously. By the same token, when

you have a conscious purpose, you can often achieve it more economically

with a gesture than you can with words. A wave of the hand, a pat on the

back, a wink—all are streamlined expressions of thought.

The functions of non-verbal communication

Although non-verbal communication can stand alone, it frequently works

with speech. Our words carry part of the message, and non-verbal signals

carry the rest. Together, the two modes of expression make a powerful team,

augmenting, reinforcing, and clarifying each other.

Experts in non-verbal communication suggest that it have six specific


• To provide information, either consciously or unconsciously

• To regulate the flow of conversation

• To express emotion

• To qualify, complement, contradict, or expand verbal messages

• To control or influence others

• To facilitate specific tasks, such as teaching a person to swing a golf


Non-verbal communication plays a role in business too. For one thing, it

helps establish credibility and leadership potential. If you can learn to

manage the impression you create with your body language, facial

characteristics, voice, and appearance, you can do a great deal to

communicate that you are competent, trustworthy, and dynamic. For example,

Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton has developed a homespun style that puts people

at ease, thereby helping them to be more receptive, perhaps even more open.

Furthermore, if you can learn to read other people's non-verbal messages,

you will be able to interpret their underlying attitudes and intentions

more accurately. When dealing with co-workers, customers, and clients,

watch carefully for small signs that reveal how the conversation is going.

If you aren't having the effect you want, check your words; then, if your

words are all right, try to be aware of the non-verbal meanings you are

transmitting. At the same time, stay tuned to the non-verbal signals that

the other person is sending.


Although you can express many things non-verbally, there are limits to

what you can communicate without the help of language. If you want to

discuss past events, ideas, or abstractions, you need words—symbols that

stand for thoughts — arranged in meaningful patterns. In the English

language, we have a 750,000, although most of us recognize only about

20,000 of them. To create a thought with these words, we arrange them

according to the rules of grammar, putting the various parts of speech in

the proper sequence.

We then transmit the message in spoken or written form, hoping that

someone will hear or read what we have to say. Figure 1.1 shows how much

time business people devote to the various types of verbal communication.

They use speaking and writing to send messages; they use listening and

reading to receive them.

Speaking and writing

When it comes to sending business messages, speaking is more common than

writing. Giving instructions, conducting interviews, working in small

groups, attending meetings, and making speeches are all important

activities. Even though writing may be less common, it is important too.

When you want to send a complex message of lasting significance, you will

probably want to put it in writing.

Listening and reading

It's important to remember that effective communication is a two-way

street. People in business spend more time obtaining information than

transmitting it, so to do their jobs effectively, they need good listening

and reading skills. Unfortunately, most of us are not very good listeners.

Immediately after hearing a ten-minute speech, we typically remember only

half of what was said. A few days later, we've forgotten three-quarters of

the message. To some extent, our listening problems stem from our

education, or lack of it. We spend years learning to express our ideas, but

few of us ever take a course in listening.


Forms of Business Communication

Similarly, our reading skills often leave a good deal to be desired.

Recent studies indicate that approximately 38 percent of the adults in the

United States have

trouble reading the help-wanted ads in the newspaper, 14 percent cannot

fill out a check properly, 26 percent can't figure out the deductions

listed on their paycheques, and 20 percent are functionally illiterate.

Even those who do read may not know how to read effectively. They have

trouble extracting the important points from a document, so they cannot

make the most of the information presented.

College student are probably better at listening and reading than are

many other people, partly because they get so much practice. On the basis

of our own experience, no doubt realise that our listening and reading

efficiency varies tremendously, depending on how we approach the task.

Obtaining and remembering information takes a special effort.

Although listening and reading obviously differ, both require a similar

approach. The first step is to register the information, which means that

you must tune out distractions and focus your attention. You must then

interpret and evaluate the information, respond in some fashion, and file

away the data for future reference.

The most important part of this process is interpretation and evaluation,

which is no easy matter. While absorbing the material, we must decide what

is important and what isn't. One approach is to look for the main ideas and

the most important supporting details, rather than trying to remember

everything we read or hear. If we can discern the structure of the

material, we can also understand the relationships among the ideas.


As Bill Davila knows, the first step in learning to communicate with

people from other cultures is to become aware of what culture means. Our

awareness of intercultural differences is both useful and necessary in

today's world of business.


Person may not realise it, but he belongs to several cultures. The most

obvious is the culture he shares with all other people who live in the same

country. But this person also belongs to other cultural groups, such as an

ethnic group, a religious group, a fraternity or sorority, or perhaps a

profession that has its own special language and customs.

So what exactly is culture? It is useful to define culture as a system of

shared symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms for

behaviour. Thus all members of a culture have, and tend to act on, similar

assumptions about how people should think, behave, and communicate.

Distinct groups that exist within a major culture are more properly

referred to as subcultures. Among groups that might be considered

subcultures are Mexican Americans in East Los Angeles, Mormons in Salt Lake

City, and longshoremen in Montreal. Subcultures without geographic

boundaries can be found as well, such as wrestling fans, Russian

immigrants, and Harvard M.B.A.s .

Cultures and subcultures vary in several ways that affect intercultural


• Stability. Conditions in the culture may be stable or may be changing

slowly or rapidly.

• Complexity. Cultures vary in the accessibility of information. In North

America information is contained in explicit codes, including words,

whereas in Japan a great deal of information is conveyed implicitly,

through body language, physical context, and the like.

• Composition. Some cultures are made up of many diverse and disparate

subcultures; others tend to be more homogeneous.

• Acceptance. Cultures vary in their attitudes toward outsiders. Some are

openly hostile or maintain a detached aloofness. Others are friendly and co-

operative toward strangers.

As you can see, cultures vary widely. It's no wonder that most of us need

special training before we can become comfortable with a culture other than

our own.


When faced with the need (or desire) to learn about another culture, we

have two main approaches to choose from. The first is to learn as much as

possible—the language, cultural background and history, social rules, and

so on—about the specific culture that you expect to deal with. The other is

to develop general skills that will help to adapt in any culture.

The first approach, in-depth knowledge of a particular culture, certainly

works. But there are two drawbacks. One is that you will never be able to

understand another culture completely. No matter how much you study German

culture, for example, you will never be a German or share the experiences

of having grown up in Germany. Even if we could understand the culture

completely, Germans might resent our assumption that we know everything

there is to know about them. The other drawback to immersing yourself in a

specific culture is the trap of overgeneralization, looking at people from

a culture not as individuals with their own unique characteristics, but as

instances of Germans or Japanese or black Americans. The trick is to learn

useful general information but to be open to variations and individual


The second approach to cultural learning, general development of

intercultural skills, is especially useful if we interact with people from

a variety of cultures or subcultures. Among the skills you need to learn

are the following:

• Taking responsibility for communication. Don't assume that it is the

other person's job to communicate with you.

• Withholding judgment. Learn to listen to the whole story and to accept

differences in others.

• Showing respect. Learn the ways in which respect is communicated—

through gestures, eye contact, and so on — in various cultures.

• Empathizing. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Listen

carefully to what the other person is trying to communicate; imagine the

person's feelings and point of view.

• Tolerating ambiguity. Learn to control your frustration when placed in

an unfamiliar or confusing situation.

• Looking beyond the superficial. Don't be distracted by such things as

dress, appearance, or environmental discomforts.

• Being patient and persistent. If you want to accomplish a task, don't

give up easily.

• Recognizing your own cultural biases. Learn to identify when your

assumptions are different from the other person's.

• Being flexible. Be prepared to change your habits, preferences, and


• Emphasizing common ground. Look for similarities to work from.

• Sending clear messages. Make your verbal and non-verbal messages


• Taking risks. Try things that will help you gain a better understanding

of the other person or culture.

• Increasing your cultural sensitivity. Learn about variations in customs

and practices so that you will be more aware of potential areas for

miscommunication or misunderstanding.

• Dealing with the individual. Avoid stereotyping and overgeneralization.


The more differences there are between the people who are communicating,

the more difficult it is to communicate effectively. The major problems in

inter-cultural business communication are language barriers, cultural

differences, and ethnocentric reactions.


If we're doing business in London, we obviously won't have much of a

language problem. We may encounter a few unusual terms or accents in the 29

countries in which English is an official language, but our problems will

be relatively minor. Language barriers will also be relatively minor when

we are dealing with people who use English as a second language (and some

650 million people fall into this category). Some of these millions are

extremely fluent; others have only an elementary command of English.

Although you may miss a few subtleties in dealing with those who are less

fluent in English, we’ll still be able to communicate. The pitfall to watch

for is assuming that the other person understands everything we say, even

slang, local idioms, and accents. One group of English-speaking Japanese

who moved to the United States as employees of Toyota had to enroll in a

special course to learn that "Jeat yet?" means "Did you eat yet?" and that

"Cannahepya?" means "Can I help you?"

The real problem with language arises when we are dealing with people who

speak virtually no English. In situations like this, we have very few

options: We can learn their language, we can use an intermediary or a

translator, or we can teach them our language. Becoming fluent in a new

language (which we must do to conduct business in that language) is time

consuming. The U.S. State Department, for example, gives its Foreign

Service officers a six-month language training program and expects them to

continue their language education at their foreign posts. Even the Berlitz

method, which is famous for the speed of its results, requires a month of

intensive effort — 13 hours a day, 5 days a week. It is estimated that

minimum proficiency in another language requires at least 240 hours of

study over 8 weeks; more complex languages, such as Arabic and Chinese,

require more than 480 hours. Language courses can be quite expensive as

well. Unless we are planning to spend several years abroad or to make

frequent trips over an extended period, learning another language may take

more time, effort, and money than we're able to spend.

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