Purposive Communication.docx

Even our relationships seem to be based on a what

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return. Even our relationships seem to be based on a “what have you done for me lately?” pragmatism. Synchronic cultures have an entirely different perspective. The past becomes a context in which to understand the present and prepare for the future. Any important relationship is a durable bond that goes back and forward in time, and it is often viewed as grossly disloyal not to favor friends and relatives in business dealings. Cultures are either affective or neutral With much angry gesturing, an Italian manager referred to the idea of his Dutch counterpart as “crazy.” The Dutch manager replied. “What do you mean, crazy? I’ve considered all the factors, and I think this is a viable approach. And calm down! We need to analyze this, not get sidetracked by emotional theatrics.” At that point, the Italian walked out of the meeting. In international business dealings, reason and emotion both play a role. Which of these dominates depends upon whether we are affective (readily showing emotions) or emotionally neutral in our approach. Members of neutral cultures do not telegraph their feelings but keep them carefully controlled and subdued. In cultures with high affect, people show their feelings plainly by laughing, smiling, grimacing, scowling – and sometimes crying, shouting, or walking out of the room. This doesn’t mean that people in neutral cultures are cold or unfeeling. But in the course of normal business activities, neutral cultures are more careful to monitor the amount of emotion they display. Research conducted with people who were upset about something at work, noted that only some cultures supported expressing those feelings openly. Emotional reactions were found to be least acceptable in Japan, Indonesia, the U.K., Norway and the Netherlands – and most accepted in Italy, France, the U.S. and Singapore. It’s easy for people from neutral cultures to sympathize with the Dutch manager and his frustration over trying to reason with “that excitable Italian.” After all, an idea either works or it doesn’t work – and the way to test the validity of an idea is through trial and observation. That just makes sense – doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily to the Italian who felt the issue was deeply personal, and who viewed any “rational argument” as totally irrelevant! In today’s global business community, there is no single best approach to communicating with one another. The key to cross-cultural success is to develop an understanding of, and a deep respect for, the differences.
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  • Fall '16
  • Jeff Smith

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