Intercultural Communication


Intercultural communication is often referred to as the base for international business. The land bridge countries have to overcome political, economic and ideological differences and start to cooperate

- To be able to exchange meaningful information across cultural boundaries it is important to know how the behavioral codes of different nations are build up.

There are three main categories of behavioral codes:

1. Linear-active, Europeans, task-oriented

2. Multi-active, Eurasians, emotional

3. Reactive, Asians, listeners

1. EUROPEANS - LINEAR-ACTIVE - task-oriented

People to be task oriented, highly organized planners, who complete actions chains by doing one thing at a time, preferably in accordance with a linear agenda.

They prefer straight forward and direct discussions, depending on facts and figures they obtain from reliable, often printed or computer-based sources.

Speech is for information exchange and conversations take turns talking and listening.

Truthful rather than diplomatic

Linear-active do not fear confrontation, adhering to logic, rather than emotions.

They partly conceal feelings and value a certain amount of privacy.

Results are key, as is moving forward quickly and compromising when necessary to achieve a deal.

Linear-active believe that good products make their own way and sometimes fail to see that sales are based on relationships in many parts of the world.

They normally use official channels to pursue their aims and are usually not inclined to use connections, take shortcuts, or influence opinions through presents or undercover payments.

Normally law-abiding, have faith in rules and regulations to guide their conduct.

Their honor written contracts and do not unduly delay payment for goods or services received.

When doing business, they are keen on punctual performance, quality, and reliable delivery dates.

They are process oriented, brief on the telephone, and respond quickly to written communication.

Status is gained through achievements,

Bosses are often low-key

Money is important.

Rationalism and science dominate thinking more than religious does.



- Are emotional, loquacious, and impulsive people.

- They attach great importance to family, feelings, relationships, and people in general.

- They set great store by compassion and human warmth.

- They like to do many things at the same time and poor followers of agendas.

- Conversation is roundabout and animated as everyone tires to speak and listen at the same time. No surprisingly, interruptions are frequent, pauses in conversation few.

- Are uncomfortable with silence and can seldom tolerate it.

- In business, relationships and connections are seen as more important than products. The former pave the way for the sale of the latter.

- Relationships are best when they are face-to-face; they cannot be maintained over a protracted period simply by written correspondence or phone calls, although, the former has less effect with multi-actives than the latter.

- They much prefer to obtain their information directly from people and trade in rumor and gossip.

- Show less respect for official announcements, rules, or regulations. Although they have limited respect for authority in general.

- Strong bosses are admired and are also expected to protect their employees.

- Multi-actives are often late with delivery dates and paying for services or goods received.

- Less interested in schedules or deadlines, often move only when they are ready.

- Procrastination is common, punctuality infrequent.

- Concepts of time and discourse are decidedly nonlinear, and they fail to understand the importance that timetables have for linear-active people.

- Are flexible and frequently change their plans, which in themselves are not so detailed.

- Improvisation and handling chaos are strong points.

- Borrow and lend property rather freely.

- They are gregarious inquisitive, valuing privacy less than company.

- In business, they use charisma, rhetoric, manipulation, and negotiated truth.

- They are diplomatic and tactful and often circumvent laws and officialdom to take “shortcuts”.

- They entertain lavishly and give presents or undercover payments to secure deals and contracts.

3. ASIANS - REACTIVES –– listeners - Confucian

- They rarely initiate action of discussion, preferring to first listen to and establish the other’s position, then react to it and formulate their own opinion.

- Listen before they talk, leap, concentrating on what the speaker is saying and refusing to let their minds wander.

- Rarely, if ever, do they interrupt a speaker a discourse /speech /presentation.

- When the speaker is finished they do not reply immediately but leave a decent period of silence after the speaker has stopped in order to show respect for the weight of the remarks, which must be considered unhurriedly and with due deference.

- Even when representatives of a reactive culture begin their reply, they are unlikely to voice any strong opinion immediately.

- A more probable tactic is to ask further questions on what has been said in order to clarify the speaker’s intent and aspirations.

- The Japanese, particularly, go over each point in detail many times to make sure there are no misunderstandings.

- The Chinese take their time to assemble a variety of strategies to avoid discord with the initial proposal.

- Are introverts, distrustful of a surfeit of words and consequently are adept at nonverbal communication, which is achieved by subtle body languages.

- In reactive cultures the preferred mode of communication is monologue – pause – reflection – monologue.

- If possible, one lets the other side deliver his or her monologue first.

- In linear-active and multi-active cultures, the communication mode is a dialogue. The person speaking may be interrupted by frequent comments, even questions, which signify polite interest in what is being said. As soon as the speaker pauses, someone else takes his or her turn immediately. Many Westerners have a extremely weak tolerance for silence.

- Reactive not only tolerate silence well but regard it as very meaningful, almost refined, part of discourse.

- The opinion of the other party are not to be taken lightly, or dismissed with a snappy or flippant retort.

- Clever, well-formulated argument require – deserve – lengthy silent consideration.

- The American, having delivered a sales pitch, leans forward and says, Well, what do you think?”

- If a reactive is asked for an opinion, he or she begins to think – in silence.

- The reactive “reply-monologue” is context centered and will presume a considerable amount of knowledge on the part of the listener (who, after all, probably spoke first). Because the listener is presumed to be knowledgeable. Japanese, Chinese, or Finnish interlocutors will often be satisfied with expressing their thoughts in half-utterance, indicating that the listener can fill in the rest. It is a kind of compliment.

Strategies for successful international business negotiations: Cross-cultural factors will continue to influence international negotiations and there is no general panacea of strategies which ensure quick understanding.  The only possible solutions lie in a close analysis of the likely problems. There will vary in the case of each negotiations, therefore the combination of strategies required to facilitate the discussions will be specific on each occasion. Before the first meeting is entered into, the following questions should be answered:

Checklist for solutions in international business negotiations:

1. What is the intended purpose of the meeting? (Preliminary, fact-finding, actual negotiation, social?)

2. Which is the best venue?

3. Who will attend? (Level, number, technicians?)

4. How long will it last? (Hours, days, weeks?)

5. Are the physical arrangements suitable? (Room size, seating, temperature, equipment, transport, accommodation for visitors?)

6. What entertainment arrangements are appropriate? (Meals, excursions, theatre?)

7. How much protocol does the other side expect? (Formality, dress, agendas?)

8. Which debating style are they likely to adopt? (Deductive, inductive, free-wheeling, aggressive, courteous?)

9. Who on their side is the decision maker? (One person, several, or only consensus?)

10. How much flexibility can be expected during negotiation? (Give and take, moderation, fixed positions?)

11. How sensitive is the other side? (National, personal?)

12. How much posturing and body language can be expected? (Facial expressions, impassivity, gestures, emotion?)

13. What are the likely priorities of the other side? (Profit, long-term relationship, victory, harmony?)

14. How wide is the cultural gap between the two sides? (Logic, religion, political, emotional?)

15. How acceptable are their ethics to us? (Observance of contracts, timescale?)

16. Will there be a language problem? (Common language interpreters?)

17. What mechanisms exist for breaking deadlock or smoothing over difficulties?

18. To what extent may such factors as humor, sarcasm, wit, wisecracking and impatience be allowed to spice the proceedings? (Source: Richard Lewis: When cultures collide, London 1996)