Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Communication and Cultural Stereotypes
Communication in the context of international business is really important. This impacts on relationship between different countries with various customs and social mores. Each country stereotype other countries with outdated information which mostly end up in conflict. I have been studying Mr Edward Hall and Geert Hofstede researches on cross culture communication and prepared an article as below. Hope this may be effective for your need.
Communication and Cultural Stereotypes
Communications are generally influenced by culture. Culture mainly shares beliefs, ethics, mores and similar behaviors of individuals or groups in a society. These cultural values decoded into stereotypes, which are not always accurate and inmost circumstances lead to misunderstanding. Cultural stereotypes are vital and will impact cross cultural communication, but not necessary effective in all circumstances. Cultural stereotypes are generalizations of a culture that categories the characteristics of a culture and transmit a broad message.It is not always precise because not every one in a group or culture lives with the same perceptions. Cultural stereotypes could be positive and negative, depending on the purpose of usage. However, further down, the connection between culture and communication, efficiency of cultural stereotypes in communication; approaching of communication with cultural stereotypes have been discussed in both, positive and negative aspects. Hofstede and Hall, the two famous writers also elaborated the elements of culture and communication with their cultural dimensions.
There is a relationship between culture and communication and each culture has characteristics which categorize into cultural stereotypes . These stereotypes provide insight information about different countries' groups or cultures; For example, Americans admire achievements, practicality and freedom, whereas Saudi Arabians, admire honor, patience, and group harmony, or, in some Arab countries equal opportunity for women is a negative valence; however it is positive valence in United States. An important issue to consider in the mechanism of cultural stereotypes are developed by Hofstede and Hall. Hall believes culture is communication and communication is culture. Eunson (2008, pp67-468) discusses Hall’s framework through two dimensions, low-context cultures and high- context cultures.
For example, Arab, Japanese and Chinese cultures are high-context cultures, and American and Swiss cultures are low-context cultures. Hall’s model has some strengths and weaknesses. It allows people to identify the differences in communication which cause difficulty in communicating. It provides suggestion to why communication works or does not work when people meet from different cultures. However Hall’s approach in terms of research is relatively undeveloped and has exceptions to the rule; For example, in Arab countries, touching behaviour is oriented high culture context, but it is not so in other countries like Japan, or Taiwan. Japan relies more on non-verbal communication and US and Germany rely more on verbal communication. Whereas, Hofstede defines culture as collective programming of mind, which differentiate people of one group from another. Hofstede argues that each culture has similarities and differences to identify and those can be identified through cultural dimensions. For example, individuals take priority over groups in collectivistic cultures; groups take precedence over individuals, so there are systematic differences which can be explained by Hofstede cultural dimensions. Hofstede five cultural dimensions are powerful and provide extensive possibility in understanding an individual’s culture. However, it is imitated to IBM survey and narrowed in one organisation in 72 countries. The IBM survey may not be relevant today, because culture is not static and a lot has changed since 1973. Hence, to compare those two models, Hall research seems effective to approach communication, because it provides differences between cultures clearly. Whereas, Hofstede’s model is based on IBM survey, and is not accurate overall, because IBM survey was done between 1960 to 1970 and a lot has changed since then. On the other hand, cultural stereotypes can lead to in-effective cross-cultural communication. It is a perception about a different culture which is not accurate in most circumstances. In Cultural stereotypes mistakes could occur in interpretation of others’ behaviours, because people base their judgements about a culture on stereotypical information. Generally when stereotypes are given about a culture, it is a serious statement about all people who belong to that group, which is not always exact. For example, as a result of failing a test, cultural stereotypes may give a wrong perception to observers that such a failure is subject to laziness, if the failure is Asian, but if it is low ability, the failure is black. Thus, cultural stereotypes can not be precise always; it could give a false statement about a group of individuals. Like the incorrect statement just given; not all Asians are lazy or not every black individual is unable to perform a task. If people take these incorrect perceptions, they will treat all Asians or blacks with pre-existing view of stereotypes unfairly and communication will end to misunderstanding. Cultural stereotypes are an in-effective way to approach communication. They lead people to base their reactions, and convey their messages on false assumptions. For example, Indians stereotype Americans as always in a continuous hurry and they never treasure life’s enjoyments. Japanese stereotype Americans as never silent and always having something to say, and whatever they say is not always correct and stupid. So these perceptions are not always accurate because cultural stereotypes refers to a group from a culture which not everyone in a culture is with the same beliefs, and this can not be exact. Despite those misperceptions, cultural stereotypes can be helpful and influence the way people process the information. It is vital to consider that all cultures stereotype people from other cultures. It sometimes assists to get overall information about a new culture. For example, Germans often see Americans as friendly, open and resourceful, and Americans find Germans, well-organised, careful, and efficient. So cultural stereotypes can be helpful and provide people with background information about a culture, or community. This could be handy for businesses, and travellers to maintain relationship with new culture. It could be a guide with basic information about cultures’ values and mores. Cultural stereotype can not be static; because culture is changing with development of globalisation. People are in constant travel from one country into another and it is changing by generation. Culture adoption will impact on both, initiating new relationship and maintaining existing relationship. For example; Germans can not approach Indian with outdated cultural stereotypes to initiate or maintain business relationship; because Indian culture has changed and this will have a negative impact on business relationship. So cultural stereotype is not static and is changing by generation. It strongly impact’s on maintaining or initiating new relationship. In conclusion, cultural stereotypes are a generalisation about a culture. It is a source of information about individuals in a group as well as what characteristics individuals possess in a group. Cultural stereotypes can be effective and in-effective depending on circumstances. However studies demonstrate that cultural stereotypes do not always provide accurate perceptions about a culture, because culture and most of its elements are changing, and using outdated resources could lead misunderstanding. Hofstede and Hall also drew their researches on culture and communication. Hall’s model seems more effective because it categorised the differences of individual cultures clearly, whereas Hofstede’s model seems to be of one organisation and the IBM survey based an employees’ knowledge. In short, cultural stereotypes are an in-effective way to approach communication and may lead to in-effective cross cultural communication. It is an incorrect perception about a culture and mostly leads communication to misunderstanding, because not every one in a culture thinks and lives the same way and shares the same value
Posted by Tahera Nassrat