Guide to Cross-Cultural Communications / Edition 2

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This concise, practical book will help you communicate successfully in culturally-diverse workplaces at home and abroad. The Second Edition of the Guide to Cross-Cultural Communication:

Explores ways that new technology impacts cross-cultural communication

Presents data on the global impact of the Millennial Generation

Includes updated intercultural examples, suggested readings, and films

Targets a world-wide audience

Like all the books in the Prentice Hall "Guide To" Series in Business Communication, this book is . . .

Brief: summarizes key ideas only

Practical: offers clear, straightforward, useful tools

Reader-friendly: provides an easy-to-skim format

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780132157414
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Publication date: 7/13/2010
  • Series: Alternative eText Formats Series
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 168
  • Sales rank: 703,313
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Read an Excerpt


As U.S. companies become global entities and as the American workplace and American workers become increasingly multicultural, we face complex challenges in cross-cultural communication. For example, foreign direct investments in the United States are approaching $273 billion; because of these investments, millions of Americans now work for foreign employers. In addition, the United States has invested almost $125 billion abroad, which means that many Americans now work with foreign clients. Our workplaces also are becoming more and more diverse: The most recent Census Bureau statistics show that the total U.S. population of almost 300 million people includes over 35 million Latinos, over 34 million African-Americans, more than 12 million Asian and Pacific Islanders, and over 18 million people from a variety of races and ethnic groups. These groups represent many cultures, each with distinct preferences in communication styles.

Unfortunately, our success rate working in this rich and demanding environment is not as high as it might be. Many instances of failure are caused not by inadequate management competencies or technical skills, but by lack of cultural sensitivity. Because the United States is geographically separate, Americans historically have been poor internationalists. We generally do not speak other languages (an indication that we don't take the international world seriously), and we often fail to recognize that people of other cultural backgrounds may have different goals, customs, thought patterns, management styles, and values. When we understand differences at all, we tend to be judgmental. Our attitude often is "If they knewbetter, they would do it our way." Even if we understand and attempt to work well with others in a multicultural context, we may suffer from tunnel vision based on experience acquired in purely American organizations.

It's easy to find examples of this lack of ability to communicate cross culturally; miscommunication occurs every day in the American workplace:

  • You think a contract deal is complete, yet it requires additional negotiation.
  • "On-time delivery" seems to have no meaning for your vendor.
  • An employee from a non-western culture is habitually late for meetings.
  • A customer is offended by your direct approach to discussion of contract terms.
  • Co-workers complain that a colleague "refuses" to offer ideas in meetings.

If you have been puzzled by the beliefs, behaviors, and work ethic of others; if you plan to work abroad in the future; or if you wish to become a more successful communicator in culturally diverse workplaces both at home and abroad—this book will help by providing essential information and practical examples for these important aspects of intercultural communication. WHO CAN USE THIS BOOK

If you are interested in understanding and improving cross-cultural communication both inside and outside your organization, you will benefit from the information presented here. Many readers will find this book useful:

  • Managers, executives, and other business professionals who must communicate more effectively in an increasingly multicultural workplace;
  • MBA students who can count up to a third of their classmates as international, who wish to improve their communication effectiveness in both academic and business settings, and who want to gain an edge in entering a global workplace;
  • Instructors in graduate communication courses who wish to incorporate knowledge of intercultural communication into their syllabus;
  • Corporate HR staff who educate workers about intercultural communication.

We have taught thousands of business professionals and MBA students at corporations and universities in the United States and abroad, and have been both surprised and dismayed at the lack of awareness of effective cross-cultural communication. Even among people who have worked abroad, there is ignorance and misunderstanding.

For example, we have worked with managers who considered Chinese staff as uncommitted, disinterested, and unmotivated because they failed to make eye contact during performance evaluations. We have trained pharmaceutical representatives who misunderstood the unwillingness of Indian, Malaysian, and Hasidic doctors to shake hands. We have taught MBA students who were completely unaware of cultural issues, even after having worked overseas.

Other books on this subject, however, are too long or academic for the needs of busy professionals. That's why Prentice Hall is publishing the Prentice Hall Series in Advanced Business Communication—brief, practical, reader-friendly guides for people who communicate in professional contexts. (See the inside front cover for more information on the series.)

  • Brief: The book summarizes key ideas only. Culling from thousands of pages of text and research, we have omitted bulky cases, footnotes, exercises, and discussion questions. Instead, we offer proverbs that capture cultural values and practical examples drawn from our business and academic experience.
  • Practical: This book offers clear, straightforward tools you can use. It includes only information that you will find useful in a professional context.
  • Reader friendly: We have tried to provide an easy-to-skim format using a direct, matter-of-fact, nontheoretical tone.

We begin with an introduction which defines culture, discusses the relationship between culture and communication, and explores the various ways culture affects values, attitudes, and behavior. Part I: Understanding Cultures (Chapters I-IV)

The four chapters in Part I summarize the research on what differentiates cultures.

  • I. Relationships: Individual or Collective? Some cultures value the group and harmony over the individual and personal competitiveness, and stress relationships rather than actual transactions. Knowing about these differences can help you establish successful intercultural partnerships.
  • II. Social Framework: High Context or Low Context? Some cultures require explicit, content-rich, direct statements when communicating; others rely on an indirect, implicit, unspoken (but generally understood) and accepted context. Learn where particular cultures fall on the high context/low context continuum and how to tailor your communication to meet cultural needs.
  • III. Time: Linear, Flexible, or Cyclical? The view of time itself differs vastly among world cultures. In the U.S. business culture, time is defined as a linear and precious commodity to be used, not wasted; other cultures see time as circular, repetitive, fluid, and subordinate to people and relationships. In this chapter, you'll discover how to recognize these different attitudes toward time and communicate your organization's expectations as they relate to on-time delivery and other time-related issues.
  • IV Power: Hierarchical or Democratic? Many world cultures view the organization of companies differently from the power-sharing, flat structures of most U.S. businesses. We'll examine ways to establish effective business presence when communicating across hierarchical and democratic power structures.
Part II: Communicating Across Cultures (Chapters V-VIII)

Part II will help you apply what you've learned about cross-cultural differences by discussing how to write, speak, and negotiate in different cultures.

  • V. Using Language: Even when everyone in a meeting speaks English, misunderstandings occur because of semantics, connotations, idiomatic expressions, industry jargon, and untranslatable slang expressions. This chapter discusses how the major international cultural groups use language differently and how these differences can have a profound impact on your bottom line.
  • VI. Writing: Because miscommunication can be especially potent and long-lasting when written, we provide guidelines for developing sensitive cross-cultural writing skills. This chapter addresses the slippery issues of acceptable formats and tone.
  • VII. Communicating Nonverbally: The cultures of the world communicate by more than language. In fact, experts believe that 85 percent of all communication is nonverbal. In this chapter, you'll learn what constitutes effective eye contact, body language, personal space, and use of silence.
  • VIII. Negotiating: Cultures vary in their interpretation of business agreements and contracts. Some value specific and detailed written contracts; others prefer to conduct business through verbal agreements and view legal contracts with distrust. This chapter provides guidance on how negotiating techniques and legal concepts affect communication, and discusses ways to establish credibility.

The book ends with a conclusion, a cultural questionnaire to develop personal awareness, a bibliography listing the sources that shaped the academic and research backdrop for our discussions, and suggested readings and films for your continuing growth in effective cross-cultural communication.

Throughout the book, we use proverbs to illustrate major points. Proverbs reveal the wisdom and character of a people, or, as they say in Sweden, "A proverb says what a culture thinks." We also introduce each chapter with a set of proverbs that crystalizes the different cultural characteristics covered in that chapter.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction xv

Part I Understanding Cultures

Chapter I Relationships: Individual or Collective? 3

Characteristics of individualist cultures 5

Characteristics of collective cultures 7

Guidelines: Individualist or collective? 11

Chapter II Social Framework: High Context or Low Context? 13

High-context cultures 15

Low-context cultures 19

Guidelines: High or low context 24

Chapter III Time: Linear, Flexible, or Cyclical? 27

Linear time 28

Flexible time 30

Cyclical time 32

Guidelines: Attitudes toward time 36

Chapter IV Power: Hierarchical or Democratic? 39

Hierarchical cultures 41

Democratic cultures 44

Signs and symbols of power 46

Guidelines: Attitudes toward power 50

Part II Communicating Across Cultures

Chapter V Using Language 53

English: a language of action 55

Sino-tibetan languages: A rich contrast 56

Guidelines for using language 58

Chapter VI Writing 63

Preferred channel 65

Directness 66

Immediacy 68

Clarity and conciseness 69

Guidelines for writing across cultures 71

Chapter VII Communicating Nonverbally 75

Eye contact 77

Facial expression 81

Hand gestures 83

Space 86

Silence and the rhythm of language 89

Guidelines 90

Chapter VIII Negotiating: Process, Persuasion, and Law 93

Analyzing the negotiation process 95

Enhancing your persuasiveness 101

Understanding international law 105

Guidelines for negotiation 109

Conclusion 110

Cultural Questionnaire 113

Bibliography 117

Suggested Readings 120

Suggested Films 123

Index 125

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