Social Networking and Cross-Cultural Competence

If you look at the stats below, you get a sense of understanding how important social networks have become in our lives. Interestingly, even more ‘private’ topics such as politics and religion are being discussed, even more so in countries like Tunisia, Jordan or Egypt.

Social Media use - PEW

Knowing how to build communities and to nurture them; more importantly, how to communicate across cultures and borders becomes an essential skill in today’s connected world. Relationships are becoming more complex as often people communicating with each other don’t necessarily have the opportunity to see themselves.

But: as I wrote in an earlier post about the components of communication, 55% of the non-verbal aspects actually contribute to the understanding of what your counterpart is saying and 38% of the paraverbal. Hence, when communicating in social networks where usually you cannot see your discussion partner, the tone of your message, character fonts, drawings, diagrams, colours, italics or highlights are extremely important.

Understanding your target audience and their culture plus choosing the right tone and message is a must when building relationships in the business world but also privately.

I am extremely happy to be able to speak about this exciting subject in London on the 21st of February. Looking forward to seeing you there and if not, please stay tuned as we will be setting up tailored webinars to follow-up on the conference around three major topics:

  1. Social networking across cultures and platforms
  2. How to use social media effectively across cultures for Internationalization, Marketing and Strategic Communication
  3. Using Social Media for Community Management

Jenny

Diversity not Always Leads to Innovation and Creativity: The Damaging Effects of Indirect Cultural Disharmony

See on Scoop.itMindful Leadership & Intercultural Communication

Jenny Ebermann | Communications | Services

Jenny Ebermann | Intercultural Communications | Services

Organizations strive to be innovative and creative. For that reason, they invest in diversity management, because innovation and creativity can be increased through diversity.

 

Jenny Ebermann‘s insight:

I completely agree! Diversity has to be actively managed to be able to harvest its benefits such as more creativity and innovation…

See on ingostolz.wordpress.com

Culture: a primarily physical experience

Do you know the feeling? You are traveling to a foreign country where the people speak a language that you don’t understand. You have come a long way to be where you are now, i.e. you traveled through time and covered many miles/Km. You feel tired and need some sleep to adjust to the time difference. The food you have eaten doesn’t taste the same and you feel somewhat uncomfortable, as you don’t really know how your body will react to the different spices and ingredients. You hear some really strange noises from the street, again very unfamiliar, which you cannot identify. And more and foremost, you cannot understand what people are saying although you are here to negotiate and your business partners already came to greet you at the airport.

I am pretty sure that you know what I mean and have already experienced it in one way or the other!

What is really important here though, is to be able to decipher these feelings so that the learning experience in the new culture can take place. Following Ida Castiglioni, “cultural experience is primarily physical”, hence “(…) by learning from the emotion of the body, one can have a deeper experience of ‘opening’ to an alternative.”[1]

The above has direct implications when working with Dr. Bennett’s DMIS in the field of intercultural training, teaching, coaching and consulting: the body should not be forgotten when striving towards enthnorelativism (acceptance, adaption and integration).

During the “Embodied Culture” course led by Dott. Ida Castiglioni that I attended last week in Milan, the participants had the opportunity to experience for themselves what this actually means and how to leverage the findings for building up competence while working with others. In fact, following Dott. Castiglioni, there are three main areas of intervention where working with the awareness of self and body in the cultural context makes sense:

  1. Developing Empathy
  2. Acquiring the ability to shift into a different category, to shift ‘frames’ and
  3. Constructing an integrated multicultural identity.

For our example at the beginning of this post, this means that once you are aware of your perceptions and feelings and once you attend to them, exploring and integrating them into your cognitive processes you are constructing the experience holistically. The felt experience allows a person to adapt his or her own feelings to a new situation and thus gives way to appropriate behavior in a new context.

If this post has made you curious about the reactions of your own body when dealing with difference, try to look inside yourself next time you are in an unfamiliar situation. What do you feel? How does your body react? What can you learn from it?

Jenny



[1] Castiglioni I. (2013). Constructing Intercultural Competence in Italian Social Service and Healthcare Organizations. Research Series published by the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Pages 1-6.

 

 

Saying “I am sorry” is not only a matter of translation

To be sorry - different languagesWhile reading this article on how difficult it is to say: “I am sorry” in different cultures, it struck me that things which appear to be so simple on the surface can have a tremendous impact. This it not only true when speaking about image, communication/negotiation style and branding of organizations; it is also crucial when it comes down to the level of personal relationships (at work and in private). Whenever people from different cultures communicate, they have to be mindful about how and if certain emotions are transmitted.

In that sense it is already helpful to look inside yourself and your cultural background/worldviews to see how you are actually apologizing. Is it something that comes quite naturally to you? Do you use words or rather gestures? Or don’t you say anything at all? It already makes a major difference if you are a woman or a man but adding the cultural lens to the problem, doesn’t make things easier.

Next time you meet with your team or speak to friends from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, please be mindful about how easy/not that easy it is for them to acknowledge mistakes and say “I am sorry”. It can have a huge impact on the quality of the relationship and what it is build of: mutual trust!

Interesting posts on the subject:

Intercultural thoughts on Switzerland

I have been asked a while ago to contribute to the excellent site of Ute Limacher by writing a post on Switzerland. The post is called “Thoughts on Switzerland and the so-called “Röstigraben” and I invite you to read it here: http://tinyurl.com/d3tjhmg

What a journey: Intercultural Communications at its best!

Trail in Temperate Rainforest

Here I am again after three wonderful days in Italy; I have to say that I very rarely participated in a course where I felt completely at home and at the same time challenged by the subject. I honestly thought I knew a lot about intercultural communications and had to find out that much of what I actually knew needed to be seen in a completely different light and from a different angle. Did you know for example that following Dr. Milton J. Bennett:

  • Culture is an observational category constructed for the purpose of identifying various ways of coordinating meaning or action among people interacting within a boundary.
  • People within the boundaries see themselves as part of that culture.
  • Cultural identity is constructed by associating self-boundary with one or more cultural boundaries.
  • Culture as such does not exist in individuals; culture is a social phenomenon that exists in groups of people.

I therefore learned that because of my upbringing and background, I identify with different cultural groups, i.e. to name just a few:

  • European
  • Female
  • German/French

I also learned that stereotypes as “characteristics of society” don’t exist for groups or societies as they can only be applied to a particular type of person or thing. What we do see though are so-called generalizations, i.e. statements concerning the probability of a certain behavior in a certain context (the probability of patterns of behavior).

To give you one example: Americans have a higher probability of being individualists whereas Chinese have a higher probability of being collectivists; there are always deviants in the middle of the spectrum to which the probability does not apply. There can hence also be Chinese which are individualists and Americans who are collectivists.

I will definitely do my homework and read through all the materials that I have received so that I can already apply its principles to my day-to-day work. I will also certainly continue on that road as I really feel that the journey has just begun! Thank you IDRinstitute!

On another journey into intercultural communications

This afternoon when stepping into the train to Italy, I thought: “let the journey begin”. In fact, upon recommendation from Dianne from culturaldetective.com, I registered for a three day course about the constructivist foundations of intercultural communications. I thought that “some brain food” would do me a lot of good… so here I am now eager to begin my course tomorrow!

MC900433610

Well, in fact, my cultural “deep-dive” already started: I am usually having dinner very early as is normal in the French speaking part of Switzerland where I live. Now, going out with an Italian friend, the restaurant has been booked for 21h00 only… well, different country, different habits and behaviors. I actually feel lucky as 21h00 is not so bad; in countries like Spain, you would eat much later than that (I am trying to convince my stomach here).

So, stay tuned for new findings and interesting facts from the intercultural front! I am sure that the next days will bring a lot of interesting theory but also new views and acquaintances.

Ciao tutti,

Jenny