(Here at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit praying for God to give me new insight to help me in leading with Operation Christmas Child. To learn more about OCC click here...)
The Culture Map
How cultural differences impact our effectiveness—
First example—Chinese client Bo Chan –hired by company in London—he prepared, greeted colleagues, said nothing at all during the meeting, as he overheard colleague say, “Bo has nothing to offer.”
Example of Sabine--French woman going to work in Chicago. Boss reported he spoke to Sabine several times about things she needed to change but she didn’t respond. I spoke to Sabine and she said things are going great. She said, “I had my first performance review and it was the best in my career.”
My example: raised in Minnesota and now living in Paris
Culture Mapping = helping people decode cultural differences
Three Dimensions of how to be a good communicator in different countries
When you look at the country positions, keep in mind there are many variances in any given culture.
It’s about how cultures respond to or understand one another.
First Dimension: Low Context vs. High Context Communication
Low context assumes low level of shared references = very specific communication necessary
High context assumes higher level of shared references = more nuanced or layered communication
Japanese = highest context culture in the world
Anglo-Saxon countries = low context (US is lowest)
Asian & African = high context
In low context cultures we tend to nail things down in writing more frequently than in high context cultures
Example of parenting: Nigerian woman said we raise our children to be high context. My daughter may ask, “Can I have another sweet?” and I will respond, “Of course you can,” but she knows by looking at me that she had better not touch that sweet.
High context people think low context people are condescending or unintelligent. Sending written confirmation is a sign of mistrust.
US (lowest context) vs. Japan (highest context)
1. global teams need low context processing
2. with low context people be as explicit as possible. Put it in writing. Repeat key points
3. With high context people ask clarifying questions, repeat yourself less.
Second Dimension: Direct Negative Feedback vs. Indirect Negative Feedback
US= lowest context culture in the world BUT not completely direct when giving negative feedback (go back to example of the French woman Sabine—she heard the positives at the beginning of the review and didn’t listen to the negative feedback given later)
Differences in education in US & France—in US teacher comments are positive and the comments from French teacher are more directly negative
Third Dimension: High Comfort with Silence vs. Low Comfort with Silence
Back to example of Bo Chan earlier who was quiet during a meeting. In the US or other low comfort silence cultures we fill up the silence. Chinese or Japanese would perceive the silence positively (good listener, thinking). Chinese can easily go up to 8 seconds of silence without feeling uncomfortable.
Overlapping Cultures—talk over one another
Perfect Timing Cultures—don’t like overlap and don’t like silence (US and Germanic cultures)
East Asian Cultures—pauses between conversation
Go to erinmeyer.com/tools for self-assessments and country differences