Tuesday, November 13, 2012

L08: Cross-Cultural Literacy and Communication

L08: Cross-Cultural Literacy and Communication


These days, because of the globalization, multicultural and highly diverse workforce, leaders are required to understand the cultural diversity, which is called cross-cultural literacy. Understanding cross-cultural literacy means being literate or knowledgeable about the fundamental differences across cultures. It is very important that leaders have to realize the value of cultural differences, which is a key component of emotional intelligence. In today world, organizations seek diversity to become competitive, and leaders need to be better educated about culture to lead effectively and to take full advantage of the value diversity provides. In addition, understanding the cultural differences enhances leader’s ability to interact appropriately with internal and external audiences, as well as greatly improves leader’s interpersonal skills and ability to communicate effectively with today’s diverse workplace.

Having said that, leaders first need to know what the meaning of culture is. For anthropologists, culture is ‘the way of life of a people, or the sum of their learned behavior patterns, attitudes, and material things.’ It is the way people make sense of and give meaning to their world. It is also the frame of reference and the behavior patterns of groups of people. It includes social and physical characteristics, gender, age, profession, organizational function, and company structure and style. Therefore, when taking about communicating across cultures, culture is a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioral conventions, and basic assumptions and values that are shared by a group of people, and that influence each member’s behavior and his/her interpretations of the meaning of other people’s behavior.

Then, after learning the definition of culture, leaders also need to recognize major cultural differences, which they encounter in leading organizations in order to better understand the diverse audiences they are communicating with in the universal level. In this chapter, there are provided frameworks and questions to help easily recognize major cultural differences. There are seven variables, which are important to and applicable across all cultures and help leaders making distinctions about culture as followings:

Context: context emphasizes on what is going on outside and inside individuals
That influences the way they interact with others and understand the words and behavior of others.
Information flow. The importance of context in a culture, high or low, influences
How individuals approach exchanges of information and determines how messages flow between people and levels in organizations. It also controls who initiates communication and with whom, what kinds of messages are sent, what channels are preferred and how formal or informal the exchange of information will be. 
Time Language. Language has been described as the ‘central influence on culture and one of the most highly charged symbols of a culture or a nation.’ In international business negotiations, we should always consider hiring our own interpreter; even if we feel fairly comfortable with the language, to avoid any misunderstandings or a contractual agreement we did not intend.
Power and equality Cultures differ tremendously in how they view power and
Equality. Some believe in strict hierarchies with clear distinctions between levels and formalized respect for people at the higher levels of an organization. Other sees everyone as equal.
Collectivism versus individualism Cultural emphasis on context, on how
Information is shared, and how power is viewed is influenced by how individualistic and collectivistic a culture is.
Spirituality and tradition: include religion and traditional values. The religion
And tradition value is an important variable in determining behavior and how individuals will communicate and interpret messages.

Understanding each of these variables would provide leaders the platform on audiences’ analysis and help leaders to determine the strategy for communicating and interacting effectively with people from other cultures. 


1.What is the importance of Culture literacy?

Realizing the importance of cultural literacy is a key component of emotional intelligence. Finding the standard, reliable frameworks to use in learning about cultural differences, as well as exposure to some guiding principles, will aid you in establishing a foundation on which to build a better understanding and appreciation of culture and its impact on the way we interact and communicate.

2. Define culture and its layers?

Culture is the way of life of a people, or the sum of their learned behavior patterns, attitudes, and material things.
There are six layers of culture:
  • A national level according to one’s country,
  • A regional and/or ethnic/or religious and/or linguistic affiliation level,
  • A gender level according to whether a person was born as a girl or as a boy,
  • A generation level associated which separates grandparents from parents from children,
  • A social class level associated with educational opportunities and with a person’s occupation or profession,
  • For those who are employed, an organizational or corporate level according to the way employees have been socialized by their work organizations.

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