Communication across Cultural Barriers
January 10, 2009, Somewhere in the former Eastern Block
Anastasia unwillinglly walks into the meeting room but she greets everybody in her regular cheerful voice, she notices usual awkwardness on the faces of Yaroslav and Al Mehendi as Jack ‘the boss’ welcomes her with a kiss and pat on the back. Sukumarn gives her that confident smile of his which means there is nothing to worry about as he is in control of the project. Karim Masimov yet again tried to impress her with ‘ZDRAS-tvuy-tye’ and she smiles back, not even giving away her inner one-day-I-will-crush-your-head-with my heels feeling. They have also got Kim from the HQ who has this irritating habit of taking the calls in the middle of the meeting and speaking in his own language. Kim nods, neither smiling nor serious, no one can make out what is he about to say.
Does the above makes any sense to you? Maybe not in the present form, but yes it will, if one adds the nationality of all the characters.
How much are we known by the place that we come from. The life style that we follow may be similar to the people that we life with but the way we behave in our own peculiar manner may give-it-way to an expert as to the baggage that we are carrying unconsciously on our shoulders.
There is an interesting book, lets see if you can locate which one I am talking about. The book talks about putting people into different slots, other than the usual slots based on Sun sign, moon sign, zodiac animal etc. etc. These categories are : Universal, Communitarian, Individual, Neutral, Emotional, Achievement and Ascription
Universalistic people will have a tough time if they do not recognize the importance of relationship when they are dealing with their colleague from a certain part of the world where relationship form the basis of the trust that is necessary in order to do business. In a particularistic group, contracts are only a rough guideline or approximation.
Individualistic Bush had a tough time getting Ms. Merkel and Mr. Aso though there national interests were closely linked – compare to Blair’s who jumped at it without any consideration, at the drop of the hat. Highly neutral Anastasia is viewed by Jack as ice-cold whereas Jack is just an out of control guy for Ana.
Do you remember the Cartoon controversy involving a certain European country and a highly sensitive religion. The guys who printed it could not comprehend the-big-deal in it but for the followers of fastest growing religion in the world, it was blasphemous. And mind you, both the groups were right.
There is nothing right or wrong. There is no correct or incorrect way. There is not even an ideal middle path which can avoid any conflict what-so-ever.
Who has it? Everybody!
Even the Vulture have their own Culture!
What one needs to do is to understand that the other’s is just as important for them as her/his own.