International business would not be possible without international communication. Ethnocentrism and cultural differences do have profound effects on our lives and diversity poses a growing challenge for managers.
Cultures differ not only in their verbal language but also in their nonverbal language. Also cultures differ in the traits they value:
· emphasis on individualism;
· time orientation;
· power distance (decisions are made by the boss only);
· uncertainty avoidance (people want predictable and certain future);
· formality (importance to tradition, ceremony, social rules, rank);
· materialism (the acquisition of money and material objects);
· context-sensibility (emphasizing the surrounding circumstances to build relationships and establish trust).
STRATEGIES FOR COMMUNICATING ACROSS CULTURES
Maintain formality. Most cultures value a formal approach to business dealings.
Show respect. Listen carefully; learn about your host country.
Communicate clearly. Avoid slang; be specific; encourage questions; use a variety of media; avoid attempts at humor; speak plainly and slowly.
Value diversity. Cultural diversity provides a rich environment for solving problems and for expanding horizons.
Developing listening skills
There is a difference between hearing and listening. For oral communication to be effective we require good listening skills because nearly 60% of all communication problems in business are caused by poor listening. The good listener is much more likely
· To receive useful information;
· To learn how to meet expectations
· To learn how to avoid career-limiting errors.
KEYS TO BETTER LISTENING
· Give the speaker your undivided attention: physical distractions; mental distractions; avoid dismissing a topic.
· Stay open-minded: listen objectively; be willing to accept new information; concentrate on the content of the message; don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.
· Don’t interrupt: interruptions are rude; they interfere with the speaker’s train of thought and hinder communication.
· Involve yourself: summarize to yourself what the speaker is saying; jot down points; concentrate on the main ideas; evaluate the validity of the overall argument.
The ability to conduct and participate in meetings is a crucial managerial skill. To use meetings as an effective managerial tool, you need to know not only how to run them but also when to call them and how to follow up afterward.
Planning the meeting. Managers must make sure they’re getting their money’s worth from a meeting, and that guarantee requires careful planning:
· identifying the purpose of the meeting;
· determining whether a meeting is necessary;
· preparing an agenda for the meeting;
· deciding who should attend;
· determining logistics.
Conducting the meeting.A manager must be a leader during the meeting, keeping the group focused on the point and encouraging participation. An efficient leader keeps in mind the following:
· following the agenda;
· leading the meeting;
· parliamentary procedure – the minority is heard and the majority prevails.
Following up the meeting. If the meeting was routine and informal, follow it up with a memo summarizing the major points of the meeting. Formal meetings or meetings where controversial ideas were discussed require formal minutes of what took place. Minutes are an official record of the proceedings; they summarize what was discussed and what decisions were made. While chairing the meeting, follow the guidelines given in table 1.2.1. While participating in the meeting, follow the guidelines given in table 1.2.2.
Table 1.2.1. Chairing the meeting
Ø Plan the meeting thoroughly: agenda, format, people, minutes.
Ø Begin by reviewing objectives.
Ø Encourage ideas from all the participants.
Ø Listen: clarify, summarize and focus the discussion.
Ø Impose control on strong personalities.
Ø Respect time: maintain pace but slow down for analysis.
Ø Guarantee result: identify the issues and find consensus.
Ø Summarize decisions at the end.
Ø Implement any action plan and organize the next meeting.
Ø Forget the environment: you may need name cards, flipcharts, refreshments.
Ø Dominate and bully people with your authority.
Ø Allow over-elaboration or irrelevance.
Ø Postpone decisions too quickly to another meeting.
Ø Close a meeting without reviewing decisions.
Table 1.2.2. Participating in the meeting
Ø Read the agenda before and bring supporting documentation.
Ø Speak with sufficient volume and clarity for everyone to hear you.
Ø Respect and support other speakers: develop their ideas.
Ø Be flexible and willing to improvise.
Ø Listen and check to make sure that you understand.
Ø Give direct replies: don’t digress.
Ø Build to a consensus.
Ø Leave meetings to make “important” phone calls.
Ø Interrupt too much or disagree too strongly.
Ø React personally to differences of opinion.
Ø Use over-complex language.
Ø Pretend to understand.
Ø Leave meeting without clearly understanding the decision.
Business etiquette is the practice of polite and appropriate behavior in the business setting. Each organization has its own rules about what is and is not considered fitting in terms of dress, ways of addressing superiors, importance of punctuality, and the like. In addition, every country and every culture has its own rules. Etiquette is important when
· meeting and greeting;
· giving gifts;
· dressing appropriately;
· around the office.
Etiquette of the business communication plays an important role in the success or failure in business. Good manners, being polite and considerate, using appropriate language and dressing are some of the traits which generally make people likely to succeed.