BBA Business Communication Study Material Culture and Communication : Business Communication Notes Study Material in English Papers PDF Download 2019.
- All communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, uses signs or symbols mutually understood by the sender and the receiver.
- These signs/symbols/signal are deeply embedded in culture.
- Because of vast cultural differences and identities in the world it is sometimes difficult to communicate with all of them.
- Culture is not easy to define. Simply speaking it is the way of life of a group of people.
- Culture has important implications for both verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Without proper understanding and appreciation of the culture of a particular group of people communication may fail.
In the previous post we have talked about sign language as an effective tool of communication that conveys meaning symbolically. It means that the effectiveness of a message conveyed in this way depends on the receiver’s ability to understand the sender’s background, nationality etc. In other words, we have to go beyond what we perceive. In the words of Fred Luthans “communication is the understanding, not of the visible, but of the invisible and hidden. These hidden and symbolic elements embedded in the culture give meaning to the visible communication process.”
This point brings us to the importance of culture in communication. It is becoming more and more important in modern times as international business is fast gaining importance. People of different countries and diverse cultural backgrounds are meeting and coming in contact for various purposes by means of both verbal and nonverbal, oral and written communication. So the question arises as to how best to make our communication appropriate to the needs/expectations of a person/organization rooted in a different culture.
Everybody is aware of cultural differences of people across the world, or even across a lager country like India. We are also aware of the fact that, by repeatedly coming in contact, different cultures profoundly influence one another. But then, dealing with people of different cultures becomes a complex problem when different cultures insist on preserving their different identities. It is a complex problem both for the governments and business organizations spreading across countries or national boundaries. Alvin Toffler draws our attention to this problem when he says that “Under the impact of the new production system, resistance to the ‘melting pot’ is rising everywhere. Instead, racial, ethnic, and religious group demand the right to be – and to remain – proudly different. Assimilation was the ideal of industrial society, corresponding to its need for a homogeneous work force. Diversity is the new ideal, corresponding to the heterogeneity of the new system of wealth creation”. The net result is, as Toffler goes on to point out, “The ideal of homogeneity (in Japan, for example) or of the ‘melting pot’ (in the United States) is being replaced by that of the ‘salad bowl’_ a dish in which diverse ingredients keep their identity.” The clear message is that we have not only to recognize but also to respect and care for the diverse groups.
This is by no means a simple question. Different brands of researchers have tried to answer it in different ways. Perhaps the best way to look at it lies through anthropology. One anthropologist regards it as “the sum total of conventional meanings embodied in artifacts, social structure and symbols.” Victor Barnouw defines culture as “a way of life of a group of people…..the stereotyped patterns of learning behavior, which are handed down from one generation to the next through the means of language and imitation.” Naturally, an understanding of the behavior patterns and symbols used by different cultural groups play a crucial role in communication and acquisition of knowledge. It has wide – ranging implications for both verbal and nonverbal communication.
All communication is a representation of our mental images, thought patterns, and conventions of verbalization. In the sphere of international business communication we come across vastly different ways of expression, both oral and written. As a general rule we are told that all business communication should be precise and polite. But a large number of people, especially in Asian countries very often sacrifice precision for the sake of politeness, or quite often fail to understand/appreciate the western ways of being polite. Two Japanese authorities have this to say about written communication in their country: “For international business, Japanese businessmen write mostly in English. But their mother tongue, customs, manners concerning communication in general, and cultural back ground are so different from those of English – speaking people that they cannot get away from their native ways even when they communicate in English, unless they have thoroughly mastered English and other western habits of saying things.”
For illustration, these authorities point out that Japanese correspondence in English is full of ‘empty’ greetings and thanks, and unnecessarily lengthy reasons for refusal. Quite often and letter ending is ambiguous. To a question like “You are not a businessman, are you?” their single word answer is “Yes” while the intended meaning is “I’ am not”. Very often the same kind of answer is given by many Indians who have not seriously studied English. Indians are also in the habit of addressing the receiver of the letter as ‘Respected Sir’ or ‘Esteemed Sir’ if they have not been properly exposed to the globally accepted style of communication in English.
In oral communication, Americans are quite informal and very much like to call their colleagues by their first name. In fact, it has been pointed out that there is nothing sweeter to one’s ears than his/her first name. The British are not so informal, though they are fast falling in line with American. But Germans are offended when addressed by first name. In Germany, we are told by Hildebrandt, “Informal first names are reserved for close intimates, family friends, and relatives,” In business environment, Indians also have the same attitude, and therefore, generally, address their colleagues with the use of ‘Mr/Miss/Mrs’ as the situation demands. It must, however be pointed out that the informal habit of calling by first name is catching up fast.