Information to help your business benefit from telecommunications

Have Zoom will Travel (or Skype…)

video conference 

One of the almost inevitable outcomes of these troubled times is that all of us will become more used to using virtual media for everyday communications. Zoom reported seeing a 540% increase in demand for their services within the first 10 days of lockdown and roughly the same has been true for Skype and the others.
Who, after all, hasn’t used Skype or Zoom within the last few days? 

Another outcome will be a greater awareness of our being a global village, All of us having been impacted by the news and suffering of what’s on our doorstop and thousands of miles away at the same. We’ll be aware, like never before, of common suffering, that ultimately we’re all human.

Where will that leave us? Almost certainly with an awareness of just how easy it is to communicate globally, which in itself will encourage us to spread our commercial wings. We’ll see more joint ventures, international partnerships, export attempts and international cooperation…which may sound counter intuitive given Brexit, but will happen nonetheless! What could possibly go wrong?

Those who read this blog know that we’re very hot on the subject of relationship; people buy from people, the importance of authenticity and trust, knowing your customers, all of that, but how important is this when dealing with other countries? Do the same rules apply in Germany as the UK, for instance? Or do we need to deal with and respond to partners in other countries different to those in the UK? The answer, almost invariably, is “Yes”.

A recent book, The Culture Map by Erin Meyer, lists eight areas of potential disharmony or misunderstanding. These range from how to give negative feedback to different nationalities, through how managers are perceived and treated to questions of how to earn trust and respect in different cultures. It’s all fascinating stuff, but in this blog we’ll look at the area that’s probably most immediate to anyone who travels or does business overseas, it’s that of communicating, of simply getting our point across.

It turns out that we humans tend to communicate verbally from somewhere between two extremes, these two being labelled low-context and high-context. Bear in mind that “context” here refers to what is left unspoken in communication, so a definition of low-context is one where communication is simple, precise and clear, and can be taken at face value. High-context, on the other hand, is communication that is sophisticated, nuanced and layered, where reading between the lines is important and understanding implications vital. Knowing this, where do you think you fit in? Or Brits generally?

It turns out that Americans are the lowest context of us all. They say it as it is, with no hidden messages. Australians and Canadians aren’t far behind, with other Anglo-Saxon speakers, the Dutch and Germans following. The British are next, and then comes a slew of  countries speaking the Romance languages, Brazil, Spain, Peru, France, Argentina, to Russian, the Arabic speaking countries and finally the Far East, topping off with Japan. Being more or less in the middle is probably what has made the British good traders and travellers over the years, more easily adaptable to the cultures we’ve met across the globe.

You’ve probably recognised the truth in this as you’ve thought of your own dealings with other peoples. Our mistake, though, is to make any judgement about another country or its people because of the way they come across, or to let our differences get in the way of relationship. There’s a reason for these ways of communicating. Think of the USA, a brand new country made up of people from dozens of different cultures and languages, all having to live together and make sense of each other. Suddenly one understands why they have had to develop such a simple, precise and clear way of expressing themselves. And then think of the Japanese with their many hundreds of years of being closed on a small island, getting to know every nuance of their national character, understanding every possible meaning behind each look and phrase, no wonder they’re inscrutable and no wonder they don’t have to say very much to understand each other completely. 

And so, understanding the culture of the person you’re communicating with is key. In the UK we might think it’s important to recap a meeting before it ends, to do so to a room full of Spaniards would be to tell them that you think they’re not up to their jobs because they didn’t ‘get it’ first time. There’s a lot more to going International than Zoom!

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