Intercultural Communication

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”
---Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Four Sides Model of Schulz von Thun

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  • § Factual information: the plain facts or news.
  • § Self-revelation: information about himself, his motives, values, emotions etc.
  • § Relationship: expresses how the sender gets along with the receiver and what he thinks of him, and vice versa.
  • § Appeal: a wish or a command to act.

I have to discuss this with my team before agreeing to your terms
I can’t make this decision without speaking to my team first.
Make me a better offer
Your terms are not good enough for me to accept right now.
I don’t have the authority to make important decisions.

I don’t want any tea, thank you

Being Polite
The way to be ‘polite’ can be very different in other cultures. It’s important to learn a little about the specific country you’re dealing with before doing business. Because German communication tends to be very direct, a simple sentence can often come across as impolite, even if that was not the intent. Here are some general tricks to get your point across, while softening your speech.
Quick and easy speech softeners:
Would: “I don’t agree” à “I wouldn’t say that”
Could: “Call me back in 10 minutes” à “Could you call me back in 10 minutes?”
If: “Look at the contract again” à “If you could look at the contract again”
Tag questions: “We don’t have the budget for that” à “the budget is too small, surely/isn’t it?”
Please, Thank you, you’re welcome: Even if you don’t feel comfortable using all those modal verbs, simply adding ‘please’ to a even the most direct sentence will often do the trick. “Get the figures to me by 17:00” à “Please get the figures to me by 17:00”

Using Titles in English Language Business Situations
  1. Mr. + last name (any man)
  2. Ms + last name (married or unmarried woman; common in business)
  3. Dr. + last name
  4. Professor + last name (in a university setting)
*Miss (unmarried woman) and Mrs. (married woman) can also sometimes be heard in business, but Ms. is far more common.
* You may also see Jr., Sr., and Esq. written after names on business cards. These aren’t often spoken.

The Power of Positive Speech

Another way to encourage successful dialogue is to avoid using strongly negative words. Simply by changing your sentences around, you can improve the impression you make, and come across as less direct.
How can we turn these negative sentences into positive ones?

“We won’t be able to meet our deadline.”
“I won’t be available on Monday”
“I can’t agree to those terms”_
“I don’t drink wine”___

Some Examples of Graded Adjectives to Strengthen Your Meaning
Extremely, deeply, incredibly, fairly, hugely, immensely, pretty, rather, really, quite, reasonably, understandably, slightly, very, questionably, absolutely, completely, entirely, really, simply, totally, utterly
For example, “we were deeply shocked to learn about the product recalls”.

Here are a few examples of weaker vs. stronger adjectives.
Good àvery goodà incredibleàAmazing
Disappointingàbadàterribleàawfulà disastrousà cataclysmic

The Importance of Body Language
From Non-Verbal Communication Codes:
  • Used to repeat the verbal message (e.g. point in a direction while stating directions.
  • Often used to accent a verbal message. (e.g. verbal tone indicates the actual meaning of the specific words).
  • Often complement the verbal message but also may contradict. E.g.: a nod reinforces a positive message (among Americans); a “wink” may contradict a stated positive message.
  • Regulate interactions (non-verbal cues covey when the other person should speak or not speak).
  • May substitute for the verbal message (especially if it is blocked by noise, interruption, etc) — i.e. gestures (finger to lips to indicate need for quiet), facial expressions (i.e. a nod instead of a yes).

Reading List