Practice Excersise ( Do this excersise prior to studying the notes below, after reading the notes, resume to adress the question based on the information provided, compare your answers and discuss in groups what your intepretation of the situation is)
Reflect on the scenario below:
Bob, the manager hangs up the telephone and leaps to his feet. Furious, he bounds out of his office in search of his Korean-born administrative assistant, Kim. He has just been berated by his customer for not sending the contract for softwood lumber to him on the date specified. As he walks down the hall toward the employee lunchroom he begins to calm down, knowing he must handle this situation with an employee carefully. He arrives at the lunchroom and pokes his head in the door, “Is Kim here?”. He sees her at a table sharing her lunch with several other administrative staff. “Did you forget to send that contract to Zott Industries?” he asks. Everyone stops talking and looks uncomfortable. Kim gets up from the table and says “I am so sorry, I will do it this minute!” Bob tells her that after lunch is fine. A few minutes later Kim comes into his office and hands him the contract (with two hands, typical of Korean culture). As the days go by Kim becomes more and more withdrawn. Bob attempts to talk about the situation and asks if she is still troubled over the contract. She nods, but does not make eye contact with him. He tells her it was no big deal and she should forget about it. Over the next few weeks Kim takes several sick days and three weeks later she resigns.
Question: What is the communication breakdown here/issues present in the scenario? .................................................................................................................................................. Cross-Cultural Communication
Communication – the interchange of messages between people – is the fundamental building block of social experience.
In communication, the communicator transmits messages to others (receivers) who interpret them. Communication operates through codes – the systems of signs in which each sign signifies a particular idea and also uses conventions – agreed-upon norms about how, when, and in what context codes will be used. If two people do not share the same codes and conventions, they will have
difficulty communicating with each other. Codes and conventions are determined mainly by people’s cultures. The most obvious example of unshared codes is different languages.
Language is the most obvious code for communicating. The essence of language is that sender and receiver should share the code. But the development and mobility of human kind has left us with thousands of different languages, plus different dialects and adaptations of many of them. In most cultures, different groups have their own vocabularies, slang, accents, and idioms. Some of us would be surprised at the extent to which we use slang, slogans, or catchphrases heard on TV as part of our day-to-day conversation. For example, “yadda yadda yadda”, and “it’s not rocket science” are good in English but may genuinely puzzle others.
Finding Common Language Codes
Two people attempting to communicate with each other who do not have any overlapping language codes face a major barrier. They can employ translators, but this is time-consuming and expensive. You could learn a foreign language, and even though your fluency in another language may be limited, the other person will be happy you made the effort.
Worldwide, the learning of English to facilitate international communication has become a major activity. Those who speak English as their only language owe a debt to the millions of people around the world who have gone out of their way to learn to understand, read, speak, and write in the English language.
A person fluent in English who is communicating with a less skilled English speaker has an obligation to communicate in relatively standard terms, to avoid jargon and obscure language, and to avoid assumptions about comprehension by the other person.
Communication conventions cover the ways that language and other codes are used within a particular culture. Once again, cultural values and norms, such as those based on collectivism or individualism, are apparent.
Explicit and Implicit Communication
There is a Western view that individuals perceive something called the truth and should state it, and a convention that communication should be verbal and that verbal messages should be explicit, direct, and unambiguous. But in many other cultures, for example many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures- there is no absolute truth, and politeness and desire to avoid embarrassment often take precedence. The convention is therefore that communication is implicit and indirect.
Verbosity and Silence
Cultures vary in their conventions about how much and how loudly one should talk. Americans are notorious for talking a lot and talking loudly. Silence can be used deliberately and strategically in communication. Japanese negotiators use silence as a means of controlling negotiation processes. Finnish people use it as a way of encouraging a speaker to continue. Interpreting silence accurately is important in culturally intelligent communication.
Different cultures use nonverbal communication differently, for example Greek people have a low interpersonal distance and touching is not uncommon, particularly between members of an extended family. The topic of body language is popular, and most of us now realize that we communicate, often inadvertently, by such means as physical proximity and orientation to another person, body movements, gestures, facial expression, eye contact, and tone of voice.
Nonverbal communication often assists cross-cultural understanding because many nonverbal signals are similar between different cultures. For example, smiling universally expresses positive feelings. But there are also subtle variations, for example Asians often smile to conceal nervousness or embarrassment. A shake of the head means disagreement in Western cultures but agreement in some parts of India. The codes that tell us the meanings of postures or gestures, or where to stand or whether to bow, sometimes agree across cultures, but sometimes disagree.
How close should you stand to other people when communicating with them? Should you face people directly or stand beside them? The answer can vary according to different cultures, for example, in casual conversation, Greeks stand closer than Americans, who stand closer than Norwegians, and so on. A culturally intelligent person will be mindful of the comfort of the other person and will modify his or her distance.
In most cultures, touching another person symbolizes various emotions and relationships. The most obvious example is the handshake, which in many cultures denotes a friendly relationship. Kissing another person’s cheek is common between men as well as women in France. Because of gender differences and concerns about the sexual connotations of touching, conventions are often different for men and women. There are low-touch cultures (predominantly in North America, Northern Europe, and Asia) and high-touch cultures (predominantly Latin American, Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East).
Polite North Americans wait for others to sit down before they do, and show respect by rising from their seats when others enter the room. The way people position themselves has meaning in all cultures, but it is hard to draw up hard and fast rules.
Hand and arm movements are often used simply as physical accompaniments to words, to supplement them or to provide a visual illustration. Often gestures are meaningless, but there are gestures that carry established meanings, for
example pointing to indicate direction, hands held up with the palms facing upward and outward to indicate defensiveness, and a shrug of the shoulders to indicate lack of interest. Some gestures, which are positive, humorous, or harmless, in some cultures, are considered hostile, offensive, or obscene in other cultures.
Facial expressions most obviously indicate the basic human emotions: happiness, surprise, disgust, fear, anger, and sadness. Most cultures have learned to how to disguise their emotions by adopting an expression that does not represent how they really feel. For example, do you really think the flight attendant who beams happily at every passenger is truly happy to meet each one? In some Asian cultures, smiling is often used to hide displeasure, sadness, or anger.
Making, or avoiding eye contact is another form of nonverbal communication. In Western countries a moderate level of eye contact during conversation is a way of communicating friendliness or interest, whereas excessive eye contact (staring) is considered rude and lack of eye contact can be perceived as hostile. Arabs, Latinos, Indians, and Pakistanis all have conventions of longer eye contact, whereas Africans and East Asians interpret eye contact as conveying anger or insubordination. A further complication is the fact that most cultures have different conventions about eye contact depending on the gender, status, and so on of those involved.
With all areas of nonverbal communication, the ability to observe the behaviour of others, to be mindful of it, and to be skilled at modifying one’s own behaviour are key components of cultural intelligence.