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Which Culture Do You Communicate Like?


When it comes to manners, everyone has a different idea of what’s polite and appropriate. That’s a big enough deal in personal communication, but at the office, it’s essential to understand where other people are coming from.


(Photo Credit: hin255/

Over at Business Insider, Gus Lubin has excerpted some sections of British linguist Richard D. Lewis’s book When Cultures Collide.

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“Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception,” writes Lewis. “There is, however, such a thing as a national norm.”

For instance:

  • In American, people tend to put their cards on the table, and be direct — often in a way that might strike someone in other cultures as rude.
  • In Canada, businesspeople are also direct, but more low-key, and typically interested in achieving harmony.
  • In the U.K., they often open with small talk, and then casually introduce business, before making a reasonable proposal.
  • In Germany, you can expect to hear a review of the history of the project, and have it placed it in context, before hearing a frank proposal.
  • In China, businesspeople often negotiate behind the scenes, while seeming semi-confrontational in negotiations, but also aiming not to lose face.
  • In India, negotiators might begin with a long preamble, and ask for the other person’s side, and then make a deal — before proposing modifications and repackaging it.

There are also nifty charts of different communication styles over at Business Insider, for the visually minded.

Are all of these norms true for every citizen of those countries? Far from it. But if you do any work with people and companies in other countries, it’s good to understand what negotiation — and manners — look like somewhere else.

Furthermore, even if you tend to do business solely with people who all grew up in your hometown, there are plenty of individual differences from person to person. Being familiar with different communication styles can only benefit you in your career and life.

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your communication style? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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