Cross-cultural communication in business

The world is moving closer to being more global. People from diverse cultures are coming into contact with one another. We face the challenge of communicating effectively with people who have culturally based values, which emphasize their communication preferences. Advances in cross-cultural communication research are very important not only to help people of different cultures feel comfortable with each other but also to avoid misunderstandings that may result in negative stereotypes or premature judgments of “the other” speaker regardless of nationality or culture.

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In this assignment, a U.S. firm is hosting a team from Japan. The Japanese team consists of 5 men and their objective is to discuss the possibility of a joint venture between the two companies. Like I mentioned before, cross-cultural communication research is absolutely essential in this type of situation. The American and Japanese have different styles of doing business that could harm the transaction.

Self-reference criterion becomes very important in this type of situation. The self-reference criterion refers to the tendency of individuals, often unconsciously, to use the standards of one’s own culture to evaluate others. For example, “Americans may perceive more traditional societies to be “backward” and “unmotivated” because they fail to adopt new technologies or social customs, seeking instead to preserve traditional values.” If the Americans and the Japanese don’t research the others culture before the meeting, self-reference may occur.

High context/indirect vs. low context/direct is another important factor in this situation. High context/indirect means that most information is given in physical context or in person, but little in actual words. They don’t necessarily say what’s on their mind, but they suggest or imply certain things. Low context/direct means that most information is given through words. They tend to say things directly and in the open. “This is the case in the U.S.-if you have something on your mind, you are expected to say it directly, subject to some reasonable standards of diplomacy. In Japan, in contrast, facial expressions and what is not said may be an important clue to understanding a speaker’s meaning. Thus, it may be very difficult for Japanese speakers to understand another’s written communication.”

Individualism and collectivism is another important factor in this situation. When a culture is individualistic, it becomes classified under a stereotype where importance is on the individual and success is measured by each person’s separate accomplishments. In contrast, when a culture is mainly collectivistic and success is based on the group, individuals come together to work towards a common goal. When individual and collective cultures communicate with one another, each side needs to be aware of the differences that surround their cultures in order to break down any potential problems that may arise due to cultural differences.

The United States is an individualistic society. U.S. worker’s success is determined by his or her own individual work ethic. They receive individual credit for the work that they accomplished. The idea is to be distinctive from others, and achieves one’s own goals, often through competition. Japan, on the other hand is more of a collective society. Japan is defined in terms of relationships and the idea that individuals need to rely on one another in order to become successful. Success is not measured by the individual but on the performance of the group as a whole. “There is an emphasis on values such as belongingness, preserving public image, modesty, and conformity, and there is a favor for harmony and cooperation in interdependent situations among collectivists.” The idea is to work together towards a common group goal.

Another very import factor is process vs. outcome. The U.S. stresses the outcome or conclusion first then the process or details. The U.S. is interested in going in and getting the job done. Japan on the other hand stress the process first then the outcome. An American can get himself very stressed out if he is not aware of this cross-cultural communication style because he won’t be able to get his work done by his schedule, he has to work around the Japanese schedule.

My advice that I would supplement for my company would be to do their homework. Meaning that they need to be aware of all of these differences from one cultural to another in order to lead to success rather than failure. As we learned in class, there are steps to improve effectiveness in assessment; “check assumption about appropriate behavior in an interaction, state your assumptions about the interactions, use explicit questions and feedback, allow extra time, be aware of differences in style, do perception checking, use active listening, and learn to adapt your style.” If we were to follow these steps, we would definitely have a successful outcome.