There are many more cultural differences in play than most people are aware of when communicating. When I used to teach international negotiations for executives, I was amazed at how even very experienced negotiators, who were effective in their own culture, were sometimes very poor when negotiating with people from other cultures.
Erin Meyer is professor of cultural studies and author of multiple Harvard Business Review articles. Her December 2015 article, “Getting to Si, Ja, Oui, Hai, and Da” addresses some of those cultural differences in negotiations. She compares, for example, the cultural propensity for emotional expressiveness with the comfort with open confrontation. Erin currently lives in France and describes the French as both emotionally expressive and comfortable with confrontation. While those in Mexico are seen as expressive, they tend to avoid confrontation. Germans are confrontational and comparatively emotionally unexpressive, though my German friends tell me that “It depends on which part of Germany you’re from.”
It’s certainly true that to generalize about communication profiles in the USA, it greatly depends on which area of the country you’re talking about. At the same time, looking at several different cultural dimensions can significantly enhance communications across cultures. To make things more challenging, individuals vary widely within any culture on many of these characteristics.
Looking at the Other Person’s Point of View (OPPOV™) allows one to look at cultural and personal profiles to maximize communication effectiveness. Meyer looks at cultural propensities in terms of communication context, direct feedback, persuasion approach, leadership style, decision processes, basis for trust, approach to confrontation, and time paradigm. These cultural dimensions, in addition to the individual’s personal uniqueness, help better define a person’s OPPOV profile.
The better we understand others and adjust our communication accordingly … the more effective our communication will be.