An Introduction to Managing Business Communication
Technology has fundamentally changed business communication by connecting everyone from anywhere at any time. With the internet, documents can be sent and received any time of day whereas before the internet, documents needed to be delivered by mail so business hours, weekends and holidays would have to be taken into consideration when determining whether or not a document would be delivered on time. Cell phones are another example of technology changing business communication. Before cell phones, a person was tied to their desk if a call was expected and if someone called them after business hours, the message may not be received until the next day. Now with cell phones, people can be reached regarding business at any time of day and anywhere so long as there is a cell phone signal. People must now make an effort to separate their business lives from their personal lives because they can no longer simply keep work at the office because the office has become mobile.
One major change that technology has brought about is the globalization process. For business, communications can now take place globally allowing for more efficient management of foreign entities. This communication advancement has allowed businesses to flourish across the globe that were once trapped in specific countries.
Adapting Oral & Written Communication For Cross-cultural Purposes
With technological advances, the globalization that has resulted and having a mix of employees from different cultural backgrounds, it is important for a business manager to adapt oral and written communication for cross-cultural communication purposes. Business managers can adapt oral and written communication for cross-cultural purposes by using the language necessary while also taking into account paralanguage, which is how something is said. A document or speech can be translated into the language needed, but it is important to remember where the emphasis is placed in the document or speech because it can change the overall message dramatically. For example, translating “We need your help” without any emphasis could be received as a general message of needing help, but emphasizing ‘your’ would give special importance to the audience that it is your help we need, not anyone else’s. International businesses also provide training to employees for language and for how to act when overseas in various cultures.
It should be noted that this is an important aspect of communication in business as the globalization process continues to create diversity in the workplace. The need to understand cultural language differences will be imperative to maintaining and improving productive and efficient work environments.
Nonverbal communication is any form of communication that is not spoken or written down, including eye contact, gestures, use of space and facial expressions. Different cultures have different views of what is acceptable with each form of nonverbal communication. For example, in the United States, it is customary in our culture to meet eyes with someone on the street as a greeting, maybe adding a nod hello or a smile. This person on the street is most likely a stranger, but if that person is the only other person around, it is considered awkward and rude or a sign of low self-confidence to not acknowledge their presence with at least a quick bit of eye contact. In contrast, middle-eastern cultures view eye contact as disrespectful and challenging. Hand gestures also differ across cultures. For example, the peace sign gesture in the USA, when flipped so the back of the hand is showing, is the European equivalent of giving somebody the middle finger in the U.S. A peace sign gesture could be taken very unkindly in the wrong culture.
Facial expressions in all cultures have different meanings and can illicit negative or positive responses. For international business people, being aware of their gesticulations is a must. Communications on this level can be overlooked because it is habit that we are mostly unaware.
Considerations When Writing For an International Audience
Standards for business communication in each country are shifting as a more global format is adopted, however, it is important to know the audience you are writing to, especially when it is an international audience. Style, diction and even punctuation needs to be considered when writing an international business letter. For example, the American culture is very similar to the English culture because the former is derived from the latter. However, our business habits and the way we communicate with each other in the workplace have become different in small but important ways. Americans are more blunt and direct when writing for business, making sure that the audience understands what is expected of them or can be expected from the author. Our overt and blunt writing style can be considered rude in England, where an intricate writing style is used in business that might be considered “flowery” in America. Also, Americans might miss cues, which would be obvious to business associates in England, because in England phrases such as “it would be fine if you could do this” is, in American diction, equivalent to “I need you to do this”. It should be said that cues are often overlooked in message writing at the international level because it is impossible to know all cultural distinctions.
Unanimity in a group is important because it signifies the agreement of all people in a given situation. When everybody is in the same mind about the situation, it is easy to act together as a team and effectively solve the problem. One method to use to reach a unanimous decision is to listen to all ideas on how to complete the task or solve the problem. The ideas should be objectively considered, listing the pros and cons of each idea without singling anybody out as the “winner” or the “loser”. Another method would be to look at the larger picture. If people are arguing about the best way to approach a certain task, it is good to remind everyone of the bigger picture and to unite with unanimous agreement that this task needs to be completed because it is important. Once the feeling of a team has been reestablished, the discussion involving specific decisions regarding how to complete the task can continue. The key with communicating in this type of group setting is to listen to each party’s positions and then try to reach a compromise. By listening to each person’s position one can find if there are any misconceptions or faulty assumptions that might be a barrier to the agreement process.