Management MCO101 – Unit 9 – Communication


Leader or Follower? That is the question...

Lader or Follower? That is the question...

A different point of view is simply the view from a place where you’re not.

Look at this HERE

You don’t understand me now because of your habit of thinking as you look and thinking as you think. By “thinking” I mean the constant idea that we have of everything in the world. Seeing dispels that habit and until you learn to see you will not really understand what I mean… Our lot as men is to learn. I have learned to see and I tell you that nothing really matters. A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting. Carlos Casteneda A Separate Reality

We do not really see reality, we perceive it. We do not see anything in any direct sense, it is mediated by the senses and the mechanisms by which they communicate with the brain. Finally, the data produced by this transport mechanism is sorted and decoded by the brain to ‘make sense’ – that is, to become relevant for survival and the satisfaction of will and need.

Check out art HERE

These images are great fun, but they also serve to illustrate a more important point. What we perceive in everyday life including the judgements we make about people are often wrong because we see what we are conditioned to see; not what is really there. Remember the proverb about giving a dog a bad name? Well one example of how perception operates is that we naturally tend to expect the worst from people whose poor reputation precedes them. The mind can perceive only what the mind can conceive. Ramachandran and Hirstein state dramatically in a 1997 paper in the Journal of Consciousness Studies that: “Nothing is more chastening to human vanity than the realization that the richness of our mental life — all our thoughts, feelings, emotions, even what we regard as our intimate self—arises exclusively from the activity of little wisps of protoplasm in the brain. The distinction between mind and body, illusion and reality, substance and spirit has been a major preoccupation of both eastern and western thought for millenia.”

Somehow we must connect to the world and we must be able to sense difference. It is important that observation be precise and that he differences between what what you want and what you don’t want are extreme and therefore obvious.

These are functions of internal processing.

• There are sources of energy around us:

– Some are good (light, sound, heat)
– Some are bad (sharp objects, intense heat)

• These sources of energy provide information to allow us to satisfy goals.
• Perception allows us to use this energy.

We perceive many aspects of the world:

– Light in the visible spectrum (vision)
– Air movement (hearing)
– Infra-red radiation (heat)
– Forces approaching dangerous levels (pain)
– The presence of certain chemicals (taste + odor)
– The position of our bodies in space (proprioception)

215 Points of View  is a 5.5 foot diameter sphere covered with 215 video monitors and surveillance cameras. Each monitor displays live video feed from a camera placed on the opposite side of the sphere. The sphere can be rolled around in its environment. It is a surveillance device that reveals what is just beyond it. Its scale and mobility defy secrecy.

215 Points of View is a 5.5 foot diameter sphere covered with 215 video monitors and surveillance cameras. Each monitor displays live video feed from a camera placed on the opposite side of the sphere. The sphere can be rolled around in its environment. It is a surveillance device that reveals what is just beyond it. Its scale and mobility defy secrecy.

Perception is our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli. Through the perceptual process, we gain information about properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival. Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment. Because we are always providing our own interpretations of reality based upon our own subjective, faulty or biased paradigms. This affects not just how we understand the world, but how we understand people.

Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things. Miyamoto Musashi, Go Rin No Sho

We have a need to understand and explain the causes of other people’s behavior. We explain using words. Metacommunicative competence is the ability to intervene (in a guiding or constructively controlling way) within difficult conversations and to correct communication problems by utilizing the different ways of practical communication:

* verbal communication: by words or their meaning
* paraverbal communication: loudness of speaking, manner of speaking, when keeping silent, meaning of interrupting or interfering the conversation
* nonverbal communication: body language (facial expression, eye contact, gestures), messages without words
* extraverbal communication: time, place, context, orientation towards target groups, tactile (feeling by touching) and olfactory (smelling) aspects

Within the metacommunicative competence the aforementioned ways of communication can be used in a balanced and therefore credible, authentic way as well as simultaneously observed (Meta-analysis), if necessary corrected and adapted to an evolvement, a new influence or a new situation.

Starting with the lowest neurological level:

1) Environment: This is the lowest level of the neurological model. It helps you consider the surrounding world, in terms of location, people, objects etc.

2) Behavior: This level comes above the environment. Using this level, you can identify your specific behaviors that you are good at, such as negotiating, making schedules etc.

3) Capability: This level comes above the behavior. Using this level you can identify what the overall capability is that your behavior translates to, such as marketing, time management etc.

4) Belief: This level comes above the capability. This level indicates who you are and what you believe about yourself. What is the belief that is true for you in order to have the capability? For example importance of value of a product, or importance of time.

5) Identity: This level comes above the belief. It sums up you as a person by stating your identity. For example, you are a business oriented person, or a timely person.

6) Spirituality: This level comes above the identity. It indicates what metaphor or symbol can be used to identify your spiritual connection or any higher ideal. For example, it could be a swan, a blue sky or a tropical garden.

Problems with perception

Selective perception (self)
notice and accept stimuli which are consistent with our values and beliefs; ignore inconsistent stimuli

Closure (self)
The principle of closure applies when we tend to see complete figures even when part of the information is missing. We see three black circles covered by a white triangle, even through it could just as easily be three incomplete circles joined together. Our minds react to patterns that are familiar, even though we often receive incomplete information. It is speculated this is a survival instinct, allowing us to complete the form of a predator even with incomplete information.

Self-Serving Bias

The tendency to overestimate our value by attributing successes to ourselves (internal causes) and attributing failures to others or the environment (external causes).

Attribution Theory (others):

The theory is concerned with the ways in which people explain (or attribute) the behavior of others or themselves (self-attribution) with something else. It explores how individuals “attribute” causes to events and how this cognitive perception affects their usefulness in an organization.

General reasons to explain behavior: Internal attribution – the behavior was voluntary or under their control; External attribution – the behavior was involuntary and beyond their control

Attribution error and bias

Attribution error and bias

The basic communication process

So what Is communication? – communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating. Use of these processes is developmental and transfers to all areas of life: home, school, community, work, and beyond. It is through communication that collaboration and cooperation occur. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe stated that ‘no one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others.’

Many of the problems that occur in an organization are the direct result of people failing to communicate. Faulty communication causes the most problems. It leads to confusion and can cause a good plan to fail. Communication is the exchange and flow of information and ideas from one person to another. It involves a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver. Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit.

Studying the communication process is important because you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise through this process. It is the chain of understanding that integrates the members of an organization from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side.

The Communication Process

Communication -That is what we try to do – Speak to those near us.

* Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender. This can be a concept, idea, information, or feelings.
* Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols.
* Decoding: lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that he or she can understand.

During the transmitting of the message, two elements will be received: content and context. Content is the actual words or symbols of the message which is known as language – the spoken and written words combined into phrases that make grammatical and semantic sense. We all use and interpret the meanings of words differently, so even simple messages can be misunderstood. And many words have different meanings to confuse the issue even more. Language always — not just in innovation but in any field — reveals the underlying structures we have in our heads about what to do and how to do it. The language that exists around innovation is both imprecise and implausible.

Context is the way the message is delivered and is known as paralanguage – it is the non verbal elements in speech such as the tone of voice, the look in the sender’s eyes, body language, hand gestures, and state of emotions (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence, etc.) that can be detected. Although paralanguage or context often cause messages to be misunderstood as we believe what we see more than what we hear; they are powerful communicators that help us to understand each other. Indeed, we often trust the accuracy of nonverbal behaviors more than verbal behaviors.

The basic communication process from transmitter to receiver and illustrating the noise which can interfere with the signal or message quality

The basic communication process from transmitter to receiver and illustrating the noise which can interfere with the signal or message quality

Some leaders think they have communicated once they told someone to do something, “I don’t know why it did not get done. I told Jim to it.” More than likely, Jim misunderstood the message. A message has NOT been communicated unless it is understood by the receiver (decoded). How do you know it has been properly received? By two-way communication or feedback. This feedback tells the sender that the receiver understood the message, its level of importance, and what must be done with it. Communication is an exchange, not just a give, as all parties must participate to complete the information exchange.


When you know something, say what you know. When you don’t know something, say that you don’t know. That is knowledge. – Kung Fu Tzu (Confucius)

The purpose of feedback is to alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. It includes verbal and nonverbal responses to another person’s message.

Providing feedback is accomplished by paraphrasing the words of the sender. Restate the sender’s feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than repeating their words. Your words should be saying, “This is what I understand your feelings to be, am I correct?” It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones. Nodding your head or squeezing their hand to show agreement, dipping your eyebrows shows you don’t quite understand the meaning of their last phrase, or sucking air in deeply and blowing it hard shows that you are also exasperated with the situation.

Carl Rogers listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations. Notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand:

* Evaluative: Making a judgment about the worth, goodness, or appropriateness of the other person’s statement.
* Interpretive
: Paraphrasing – attempting to explain what the other person’s statement means.
* Supportive: Attempting to assist or bolster the other communicator.
* Probing: Attempting to gain additional information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point.
* Understanding: Attempting to discover completely what the other communicator means by her statements.

Imagine how much better daily communications would be if listeners tried to understand first, before they tried to evaluate what someone is saying.

Anything that prevents understanding of the message is a barrier to communication. Many physical and psychological barriers exist:

* Culture, background, and bias – We allow our past experiences to change the meaning of the message. Our culture, background, and bias can be good as they allow us to use our past experiences to understand something new, it is when they change the meaning of the message that they interfere with the communication process.
* Noise – Equipment or environmental noise impedes clear communication. The sender and the receiver must both be able to concentrate on the messages being sent to each other.
* Ourselves – Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to confusion and conflict. The “Me Generation” is out when it comes to effective communication. Some of the factors that cause this are defensiveness (we feel someone is attacking us), superiority (we feel we know more that the other), and ego (we feel we are the center of the activity).
* Perception – If we feel the person is talking too fast, not fluently, does not articulate clearly, etc., we may dismiss the person. Also our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. We listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss those of low status.
* Message – Distractions happen when we focus on the facts rather than the idea. Our educational institutions reinforce this with tests and questions. Semantic distractions occur when a word is used differently than you prefer. For example, the word chairman instead of chairperson, may cause you to focus on the word and not the message.
* Environmental – Bright lights, an attractive person, unusual sights, or any other stimulus provides a potential distraction.
* Smothering – We take it for granted that the impulse to send useful information is automatic. Not true! Too often we believe that certain information has no value to others or they are already aware of the facts.
* Stress – People do not see things the same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given moment is influenced by our psychological frames of references – our beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences, and goals.

Formal communication

Business managers spend approximately 50% to 80% of their time communicating with others (such as their supervisors, peers or direct reports) within their organizations.

Extrernal and internal data and knowledge must transfer in flows

Extrernal and internal data and knowledge must transfer in flows

Formal communication is that which is connected with the formal organizational arrangement and the official status or the place of the communicator and the receiver. It moves through the formal channels authoritatively accepted positions in the organization chart. Formal communication is mostly in black and white.

The different flows of communication within hte organisation

The different flows of communication within hte organisation

Formal communication can be defined as, “A presentation or written piece that strictly adheres to rules, conventions, and ceremony, and is free of colloquial expressions.” Except for the smallest organizations, people need systems for managing the flow of information. These may be either formal
or informal. Formal communication networks. Formal communication networks define who should talk to whom or who reports to whom. Formal communication may be downward or upward (sometimes referred to as vertical), or horizontal.

Downward communication refers to communications from superiors to those who report to them. These may be used to communicate the following: job instructions, job rationale, procedures and practices, performance feedback, and company missions.

Upward communication refers to messages going from subordinates to superiors and is used to convey the following: updates of what subordinates are doing, unsolved work problems, suggestions for improvement, and how subordinates feel about each other and their jobs. Managers are responsible
for improving and encouraging upward communication. Some helpful methods include: open-door policies, establishment of grievance procedures, periodic interviews, group meetings and a suggestion box. However, these methods are only effective when managers are sincerely interested in hearing
from their staff and truly value their ideas.

Horizontal communication consists of messages between colleagues at the same level of the organization – for example, in the pharmaceutical industry, between healthcare representatives in different districts or between district managers from different regions. Horizontal communication may
be used for purposes such as task coordination, problem solving, sharing information, conflict resolution or building rapport.

Downward, upward and horizontal communication can be combined in what is called a 360-degree feedback survey. The term 360-degree refers to the full circle of feedback received from people above, below and around an individual. After multiple people evaluate an individual, a confidential report is generated about his or her communication, sales and/or management skills.

It connotes the flow of the data by the lines of authority formally acknowledged in the enterprise and its members are likely to communicate with one another strictly as per channels constituted in the structure. Thus, it is a purposeful effort to influence the flow of communication so as to guarantee that information flows effortlessly, precisely and timely.

It emphasizes the essence of formal channel of communication. The different forms of formal communication include; departmental meetings, conferences, telephone calls, company news bulletins, special interviews and special purpose publications. Many managers also need to communicate
with geographically dispersed teams or individuals. By using e-mail, conference calls and telephone conversations to discuss assignments and expectations, managers keep remote workers feeling like a
part of the company. Mastering communication skills allows managers and supervisors to delegate tasks appropriately and assists them in:

Clearly indicating the expected outcome for a task.
• Providing all necessary guidelines for accomplishing the work.
• Identifying available resources.
• Setting up standards that will be used to evaluate performance, including specific times when evaluation will take place.
• Specifying what will happen if the outcome is met and what will happen if it is not met.

The main advantage of formal communication is that the official channels facilitate the habitual and identical information to communicate without claiming much of managerial attention. Essentially, executives and mangers may devote most of their precious time on matters of utmost significance.

But at the same time, the weakness of formal communication should not go unaccounted. Communication through channel of command greatly obstructs free and uninterrupted flow of communication. It is, generally, time consuming, cumbersome and leads to a good deal of distortion.

Common communication problems

Some major communication problems in business include:

Message overload. In today’s business organizations, workers may receive more than 200 messages in one day via e-mail, faxes, voice mail, personal digital assistants and other channels of communication.

A large percentage of these messages are useless or distracting to the recipients.

Different ways of learning.

Some managers mistakenly believe that simply explaining situations and/or providing staff with
written directions will automatically result in understanding. However, the same approach
may not be successful with everyone because individuals learn differently. Effective managers
use these insights to identify and build on the strengths of individuals.

Some terms used to categorize learning styles include:

• Visual/verbal, which means the learner prefers to read information.
• Visual/nonverbal, which refers to the use of graphics or diagrams to present information.
• Auditory/verbal, which denotes a preference for listening to information.
• Tactile/kinesthetic, which represents a learner who prefers physical, hands-on experience
or who understands by touching or moving.

Problems with feedback.

Common communication mistakes made by managers include the following:

• Providing insufficient feedback.
• Providing inaccurate feedback.
• Neglecting to solicit feedback about their own performance and communication style.

Positive, specific feedback from managers helps employees develop greater selfawareness,
leading to improved work performance and an ability to take direction well and willingly. In contrast, giving general, negative feedback can create animosity and prolong poor work habits. Discussions
should conclude with a focus on the future — how employees can improve their performance — rather than recriminations for past mistakes.

Making decisions without employee input. In some cases, managers do not ask supervisors and workers for their advice regarding major purchases that will affect them. This oversight may result in
receiving equipment or technology that is not properly configured for the group that will be using it, which can be costly for the company.

Informal communication networks.

Informal communication networks are patterns of interaction based on friendship, shared interests and proximity. Some consider informal networks to be the most important means of communication in an
organization. Functions of informal networks within organizations may include:

• Confirming a formal communication.
• Expanding on information conveyed formally.
• Expediting messages that arrive more slowly via formal channels.
• Contradicting formal messages (for example, a friend in accounting may disclose that the deadline for purchases on this year’s budget is not as firm as what was conveyed in the comptroller’s recent memo).
• Circumventing official channels (for example, a tennis partner who works in duplicating might give priority to a rush job instead of putting it at the bottom of the pile).
• Supplementing formal communications. Informal networks are faster and sometimes more dependable than formal channels. In fact, networking — the process of strategically meeting people and maintaining contacts to get career information, advice and leads — has been recognized as a key
skill in the development of managers. Those who informally network tend to be successful
and progress more in their careers compared with those who do not.

Active listening

Do you think there is a difference between hearing and listening? You are right, there is! Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. This is the same difference as lies between looking and seeing.

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as when listening to music, story telling, television, or when being polite.

People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 WPM. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift – thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening – which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding. It takes the same amount or more energy than speaking. It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. The following are a few traits of active listeners:

* Spend more time listening than talking.
* Do not finish the sentences of others.
* Do not answer questions with questions.
* Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
* Never daydreams or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.
* Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations.
* Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
* Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly.
* Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walk others through by summarizing.

* Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
* Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.

Hearing – To perceive or apprehend by the ear; to gain knowledge of by hearing; to listen to with attention.

Listening – To pay attention to sound; to hear something with thoughtful attention; to give consideration; to be alert to catch an unexpected sound.

Almost every day we encounter an ad, a slogan, or some other communication that admonishes us to Listen! Entire ad campaigns have been built around a theme that tells the world that they listen to their customers. And I agree that listening is a very powerful way to connect with another person. That being said, I firmly believe that listening is only part of the power. The real power comes when we LISTEN & HEAR!

Can you think of instances where you were talking with someone and they emphatically told you and assured you that they were listening? Then later you discovered that they may have listened, but they certainly did not hear what you said. This happens every day in our business and personal lives. Can you think of some failure in business that resulted from someone just listening, but not hearing what is said? Listening is an essential skill when relating to others and it is critical to realize that hearing the words and truly understanding and accepting the other person’s message, situation and feelings are also required to HEAR what is being said.

We fail to HEAR whenever: we “already know” what we are going to hear; we seek confirmation, instead of information; we do not focus and give full attention to whomever is speaking; we allow prejudices, closed-minded opinions, fears of being wrong get in our way of understanding the message; we judge the speaker while the person is speaking; and we rehearse our response while the other person is speaking.

Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Often when people talk to each other, they don=t listen attentively. They are often distracted, half listening, half thinking about something else. When people are engaged in a conflict, they are often busy formulating a response to what is being said. They assume that they have heard what their opponent is saying many times before, so rather than paying attention, they focus on how they can respond to win the argument.

Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. The listener must take care to attend to the speaker fully, and then repeats, in the listener’s own words, what he or she thinks the speaker has said. The listener does not have to agree with the speaker-he or she must simply state what they think the speaker said. This enables the speaker to find out whether the listener really understood. If the listener did not, the speaker can explain some more.

Often, the listener is encouraged to interpret the speaker=s words in terms of feelings. Thus, instead of just repeating what happened, the active listener might add AI gather that you felt angry or frustrated or confused when . .[a particular event happened]. Then the speaker can go beyond confirming that the listener understood what happened, but can indicate that he or she also understood the speaker’s psychological response to it.

Active listening has several benefits. First, it forces people to listen attentively to others. Second, it avoids misunderstandings, as people have to confirm that they do really understand what another person has said. Third, it tends to open people up, to get them to say more. When people are in conflict, they often contradict each other, denying the opponent’s description of a situation. This tends to make people defensive, and they will either lash out, or withdraw and say nothing more. However, if they feel that their opponent is really attuned to their concerns and wants to listen, they are likely to explain in detail what they feel and why. If both parties to a conflict do this, the chances of being able to develop a solution to their mutual problem becomes much greater.

Improving Cross-Cultural Communication

Different perspectives can affect business eiffectiveness and efficiencies

Different perspectives can affect business eiffectiveness and efficiencies

Often we find that the meaning behind a word is different for different people. This is because people use their sensory information to create a distinct map of the world. This internal representation can change with a change in the words used for communicating a thought. Often the speaker will make certain assumptions, and express an idea using words. The listener might not be aware of the same assumptions, or make contradictory assumptions, and will generate a disparate meaning of the words used. This will not be known to the speaker unless the listener explicitly expresses his inner comprehension of the statement. This will result in a disparity of meanings and thoughts, leading to misunderstanding and miscommunication.

ABC Radio National’s The Philosopher’s Zone recently broadcast a programme that tackled the philosophy of translating between languages – discussing whether particular ideas are just harder to express in certain languages, and whether it is possible ever to tie a word to a definite meaning.

It is fascinating that some words don’t translate across languages, especially when they related to mental states or psychology.

One of my favourites is the Portuguese word saudade, which, as far as I can work out, refers to a type of wistful or sombre yearning for something that you’ve experienced in the past, with the underlying feeling that the wished for thing might never return and that the feeling is all that you have.

The programme looks at these issues beyond the case of single words, asking whether some sorts of thinking are a product of the language, which possibly allows for concepts to be dealt with in a different manner.

One of the most striking differences lies between analytic philosophy, largely produced by native English speakers that entails legal or scientific style reasoning as applied to concepts, and continental philosophy, which often deals with criticising the concepts of language itself and relies much more on rhetoric and analogy.

The most famous continental philosopher are French (Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze Baudrillard etc), so this provides a useful starting point for discussing whether the different approaches to philosophy are just the result of culture, or stem from the tools of language itself.

The second part of the programme deals with W.V. Quine’s views on language, which suggest that there is no definite distinction between statements we assume are meaningful by definition (e.g. a bachelor is an unmarried man) and those which are only true with reference to the outside world (e.g. the sun is shining in London).

Interestingly, the programme avoids discussing Wittgenstein, who thought that all philosophical issues were really just difficulties brought about by language.

Foreign objects

There is no word, in the language of the Amazonian Piraha tribe, to describe the number of words on this page. To the fascination of anthropologists, the Piraha cannot count: they have a word for “one” (which usually means “roughly one”); and a word for two (which tends to mean “not many”, and sounds exactly like the word for “one”, only with a rising inflection); and they have a word for “many”. A Piraha version of Ten Green Bottles would not take long, then: one, two, a lot.

Objects unknown to a culture can actually be easy to translate. For example, in Japanese, wasabi わさび is a plant (Wasabia japonica) used as a spicy Japanese condiment. Traditionally, this plant only grows in Japan. It would be unlikely that someone from Brazil (for example) would have a clear understanding of it. However, the easiest way to translate this word is to borrow it. Or you can use a similar vegetable’s name to describe it. In English this word is translated as wasabi or Japanese horseradish. In Chinese, people can still call it wasabi by its Japanese sound, or pronounce it by its Kanji characters, 山葵 (pinyin: shān kuí). However, wasabi is currently called 芥末 (jiè mò) or 绿芥 (lǜ jiè) in China and by the phonetic 味沙吡 (weishabi) in Taiwan. Horseradish is not usually seen in Eastern Asia; people may parallel it with mustard. Hence, in some places, yellow mustard refers to imported mustard sauce; green mustard refers to wasabi.

Another method is using description instead of a single word. For example, languages like Russian and Ukrainian have borrowed words ‘Kuraga’ and ‘Uruk’ from Turcic languages. While both fruits are now known to the Western world, there are still no terms for them in English. English speakers have to use ‘dried apricot without core’ and ‘dried apricot with core’ instead.

But does language determine thought, or the other way round?

Why do Koreans say ‘a biscuit would be nice’ instead of ‘I want a biscuit’?

Find out HERE

What is Culture?

Culture in general is concerned with beliefs and values on the basis of which people interpret experiences and behave, individually and in groups. Broadly and simply put, “culture” refers to a group or community with which you share common experiences that shape the way you understand the world.

The same person, thus, can belong to several different cultures depending on his or her birthplace; nationality; ethnicity; family status; gender; age; language; education; physical condition; sexual orientation; religion; profession; place of work and its corporate culture.

Culture is the “lens” through which you view the world. It is central to what you see, how you make sense of what you see, and how you express yourself.

Useful or Useless? You decide...

Useful or Useless? You decide...

Affective versus neutral culture

Affective or neutral context describes how cultures express their emotions. In affective cultures like in China people express their emotions more naturally. Reactions are shown immediately verbally and/or non-verbally by using mimic and gesture in form of body signals. They don’t avoid physical contact, which is well known especially from Italians and Spanish when meeting each other very enthusiastic and with raised voices. In contrast neutral cultures like Japanese tend to hide their emotions and don’t show them in public. Neutral cultures don’t express precisely and directly what they are really thinking which can lead to misunderstandings and certain emotions are considered to be improper to exhibit in certain situations. It is also considered as important not to let emotion influence objectivity and reason in decision making. In general they feel discomfort with physical contact in public and communicate in a more subtle way which makes it difficult for members of other cultures to read between the lines and get the message.

Which one is art, which is science?

Which one is art, which is science?

The Chinese may also use more intuition or feeling in making a business decision. The Americans are in the middle of this dimension. They express their emotions but try to avoid that they won’t influence the rational decision making, especially in business situations. Germany, France and Finland are also more centered within the scale of this context neutral versus affective. These cultures respond from a non-emotional level in business life. They often expect gratification for their work achievements – not immediately but later on.

“When doing business with neutral cultures it is recommended to ask for time-outs from meetings and negotiations and put as much as you can on paper beforehand. “Neutrals” tend to be reserved which doesn’t mean that they are disinterested or bored. It is just a lack of emotional tone. You may experience that the entire negotiation is very focused on the object or proposition being discussed and less on you as a person.

In comparison to “Neutrals”, members of affective cultures may have a tendency to overact, creating scenes or getting histrionic, but it is suggested not to get confused but to take time-outs for a clear, sober reflection and hard assessment. They don’t have made up their minds when showing their enthusiasm, readiness to agree or vehement disagree. You can respond warmly their expressed goodwill. In contrast to neutral cultures, affective cultures are focused on you as a person and not so much on the object or position.”

You cannot treat everybody the same regardless of culture without adverse consequences. In Asia, simple gestures that would be benign or complementary in one country could be a gross insult in another country. Acts that US citizens perform every day and phrases that they use all the time with each other would be offensive and judged negatively in many of the Asian countries.

Case in Point: Dell Computer Corporation

When Dell Inc. moved into Asia, people told them that their Western concept wouldn’t work there. “But rather than tailoring the strategy to fit the culture, we said, ” We think our direct model will work cross-culturally. And we’re willing to take the risk,” writes Michael Dell1, Chairman and CEO of the Dell Computer Corporation.

“To be sure we do some localization,” he continues. You obviously can’t sell English-language computers in China. And from a cultural perspective, customers in other countries are different. We learned, for example, that some Germans aren’t comfortable telephoning in a response to an advertisement; they find it too forward. They will, however, respond to an ad that features a fax number. They’ll send in a fax, asking for more information, and will provide their name and phone number so that a Dell representative can call them. The conversation that ensues is almost exactly the same as that which would have occurred if the German customer had made the call himself. It was a slight modification that allowed us to adapt to cultural differences without altering our business strategies.”

For example, you can expect some language challenges when you hire employees for whom English is their second language. Here are the authors’ suggestions for how to make life easier for such employees:

* Simplify your message by using less complex sentence structure and vocabulary.
* Try to slow down your delivery and articulate each word more clearly. Avoid contractions such as “gonna” and “wanna.”
* Watch for nonverbal clues, such as body language, that indicate your message is not getting through.
* Use visual aids such as PowerPoint or charts during presentations, whenever possible.
* Do not assume an employee is uneducated or inexperienced if she isn’t familiar with acronyms or jargon that’s common in Canada. She may completely understand the concepts but may be unfamiliar with the English terms. These can be easily learned.
* Be patient and try to follow newcomers’ ideas and logic. They may be different from your own, but just as valid.
* Consider providing ESL courses for the non-native English speakers on your team. Courses designed to help participants modify their accents can be particularly helpful, as can those that cover specific industry terminology.

High Context vs Low Context

A low context culture is one in which things are fully (though concisely) spelled out. Things are made explicit, and there is considerable dependence on what is actually said or written. A high context culture is one in which the communicators assume a great deal of commonality of knowledge and views, so that less is spelled out explicitly and much more is implicit or communicated in indirect ways. In a low context culture, more responsibility is placed on the listener to keep up their knowledge base and remain plugged into informal networks.

Low context cultures include Anglos, Germanics and Scandinavians. High context cultures include Japanese, Arabs and French.


* Interactions between high and low context peoples can be problematic.
o Japanese can find Westerners to be offensively blunt. Westerners can find Japanese to be secretive, devious and bafflingly unforthcoming with information
o French can feel that Germans insult their intelligence by explaining the obvious, while Germans can feel that French managers provide no direction
* Low context cultures are vulnerable to communication breakdowns when they assume more shared understanding than there really is. This is especially true in an age of diversity. Low context cultures are not known for their ability to tolerate or understand diversity, and tend to be more insular.

Monochronic vs Polychronic

Monochronic cultures like to do just one thing at a time. They value a certain orderliness and sense of there being an appropriate time and place for everything. They do not value interruptions. Polychronic cultures like to do multiple things at the same time. A manager’s office in a polychronic culture typically has an open door, a ringing phone and a meeting all going on at the same time.

Polychronic cultures include the French and the Americans. The Germans tend to be monochronic.

* Interactions between types can be problematic. German businessman cannot understand why the person he is meeting is so interruptible by phone calls and people stopping by. Is it meant to insult him? When do they get down to business?
* Similarly, the American employee of a German company is disturbed by all the closed doors — it seems cold and unfriendly.

Future vs Present vs Past Orientation

Past-oriented societies are concerned with traditional values and ways of doing things. They tend to be conservative in management and slow to change those things that are tied to the past. Past-oriented societies include China, Britain, Japan and most spanish-speaking Latin American countries.

Present-oriented societies include the rest of the spanish-speaking Latin American countries. They see the past as passed and the future as uncertain. They prefer short-term benefits.

Future-oriented societies have a great deal of optimism about the future. They think they understand it and can shape it through their actions. They view management as a matter of planning, doing and controlling (as opposed to going with the flow, letting things happen). The United States and, increasingly, Brazil, are examples of future-oriented societies.
Quantity of Time

In some cultures, time is seen as being a limited resource which is constantly being used up. It’s like having a bathtub full of water which can never be replaced, and which is running down the drain. You have to use it as it runs down the drain or it’s wasted. In other cultures, time is more plentiful, if not infinite. In old agricultural societies, time was often seen as circular, renewing itself each year.


* In societies where time is limited, punctuality becomes a virtue. It is insulting to waste someone’s time, and the ability to do that and get away with it is an indication of superiority/status. Time is money. In cultures where time is plentiful, like India or Latin American, there is no problem with making people wait all day, and then tell them to come back the next day.
* Time-plentiful cultures tend to rely on trust to do business. Time-limited cultures don’t have time to develop trust and so create other mechanisms to replace trust (such as strong rule-by-law).

Power Distance

The extent to which people accept differences in power and allow this to shape many aspects of life. Is the boss always right because he is the boss, or only when he gets it right?

* In high power distance countries (most agrarian countries), bypassing a superior is unsubordination. In low power distance countries (US, northern europeans, Israel), bypassing is not usually a big deal.
* In the US, superiors and subordinates often interact socially as equals. An outsider watching a party of professors and graduate students typically cannot tell them apart.

Individualism vs Collectivism

In individualist cultures, individual uniqueness, self-determination is valued. A person is all the more admirable if they are a “self-made man” or “makes up their own mind” or show initiative or work well independently. Collectivist cultures expect people to identify with and work well in groups which protect them in exchange for loyalty and compliance.

Paradoxically, individualist cultures tend to believe that there are universal values that should be shared by all, while collectivist cultures tend to accept that different groups have different values.

Many of the asian cultures are collectivist, while anglo cultures tend to be individualist.

* A market research firm conducted a survey of tourist agencies around the world. The questionnaires came back from most countries in less than a month. But the agencies in the asian countries took months to do it. After many telexes, it was finally done. The reason was that, for example, American tourist agencies assigned the work to one person, while the Filipinos delegated the work to the entire department, which took longer. The researchers also noticed that the telexes from the Philippines always came from a different person.

Problems Caused by Cultural Differences

* You greet your Austrian client. This is the sixth time you have met over the last 4 months. He calls you Herr Smith. You think of him as a standoffish sort of guy who doesn’t want to get really friendly. That might be true in America, where calling someone Mr. Smith after the 6th meeting would probably mean something — it is marked usage of language — like “we’re not hitting it off”. But in Austria, it is normal.

* A Canadian conducting business in Kuwait is surprised when his meeting with a high-ranking official is not held in a closed office and is constantly interrupted. He starts wondering if the official is as important as he had been led to believe, and he starts to doubt how seriously his business is being taken

* A British boss asked a new, young American employee if he would like to have an early lunch at 11 am each day. The employee said ‘Yeah, that would be great!’ The boss immediately said “With that kind of attitude, you may as well forget about lunch!” The employee and the boss were both baffled by what went wrong. [In England, saying “yeah” in that context is seen as rude and disrespectful.]

* A Japanese businessman wants to tell his Norwegian client that he is uninterested in a particular sale. So he says “That will be very difficult.” The Norwegian eagerly asks how he can help. The Japanese is mystified. To him, saying that something is difficult is a polite way of saying “No way in hell!”. Dave Barry tells the story of being on a trip to Japan and working with a Japanese airline clerk on taking a flight from one city to another. On being asked about it, the clerk said “Perhaps you would prefer to take the train.” So he said “NO, I want to fly.” So she said “There are many other ways to go.” He said “yes, but I think it would be best to fly.” She said “It would very difficult”. Eventually, it came out that there were no flights between those cities.

Three basic kinds of problems: interpreting others comments and actions, predicting behavior, and conflicting behavior.

Which one is work?

Which one is work?

To view slides full page or to download them click HERE.

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