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Culture & communication

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1. Culture and Communication

1. Read the article about the interaction between culture and communication:

Webster defines culture as "the characteristic features of a particular stage or state of advancement in civilization."

Or, another definition: Culture is the way a people think, act, live, and communicate. Since this article is about communication, it seems helpful or desirable to get the word communication into the definition.

On the other hand, culture is communication; the two are very much bound together.

A culture develops as the result of interpersonal communication. At the same time, the form, the nature, the makeup of the culture results from the interaction of the people and the place and time in which they live. The "interaction of people" is just another way of saying "communication." Living together, working together, relating to one another is communication. We are always communicating—or attempting to communicate. An awareness of the relationship between culture and communication as well as an understanding of the differences between cultures is helpful—and at times essential—in communicating successfully. Perhaps the simplest way to explain culture and its relationship to communication is to say that people are different—we live, work, and play in different societies, environments, and climates, and we adapt to these in different ways. We are talking here not just about regional differences in our own country, but about even greater differences which are found in the numerous cultures of the world. As a result of living in different societies, environments, and climates, people develop special needs, acquire habits and customs peculiar to themselves, and have experiences which, in general, result in particular patterns and methods and forms of expression and relating (communicating) with one another. Many examples of this could be given.

People in a warm, tropical climate, for example, live quite differently from people in a northern urban area of Europe. We need to know about people and their background if we are to understand their communications. This has important implications for when you may find yourself doing business in a foreign country. It is important that you become acquainted with the local culture and be prepared to follow its rules while you are doing business there. For example, in some Latin American countries, men stand quite close together when talking—much closer than we stand in many western countries. If you, as a Western business executive, were to find yourself in this situation, find the closeness uncomfortable, and back away, you would very likely offend your Latin American business friend. Remember that people do things differently. Remember, too, that people communicate in terms of their own experiences. The situation may appear unusual to your frame of reference because it is not within the range of your experience; the situation may be perfectly "normal" to everyone else. It is small wonder that we seem always to be surrounded by wars and rumours of wars. In addition to the barriers of human behaviour and language, our communication attempts also are complicated by cultural barriers (which actually are linked with language). Many cultural differences take the form of nonverbal communications. The nonverbal area is relatively new and still is being studied and developed; however, most of us have had enough experience to be aware of its existence and importance. One must be careful to keep this area in perspective and to consider nonverbal elements as only a part of the total communication effort—while the nonverbal may be important, it is not always the whole story. If a person frowns while listening to you speak, it may indicate doubt or disagreement; on the other hand, the person may have a headache or the light may be bothersome. It is important for you to remain alert to nonverbal signals, but it is also essential that you decode them accurately.

^ 2. Complete the sentences. Use the best word from the box and pay attention at its form:

offend take define lie communicate meet search

  1. It is desirable to …………….the word ‘communication’.

  2. There is no point in ……………………..for the single definition of culture.

  3. People should …………into account a lot of factors when ………………….with one another.

  4. We have done business together since we ………….at the conference a decade ago.

  5. Pilcher was suspected of …………………. His face expression told everything.

  6. You are likely to ……………your Chinese client if you come up too close to him.

^ 3. Translate the text into English:

Общение - это понятие, которое описывает отношения между людьми и указывает на одну из основных потребностей людей – быть участником общественной жизни.

Термин культура не поддается однозначному определению. Из основных можно выделить три главных аспекта термина культура. Первый, культура - это область свободной самореализации каждой личности, сфера творчества. Второй, культура есть ценностное отношение к реалиям жизни. Третий, культура есть искусственный, воссозданный разумом человека, духом и руками мир, отличающийся от естественного мира.
Вы никогда не задумывались, почему так трудно иногда дается общение с тем или иным человеком? Почему с одним человеком общаться легко, а с другими - нет? Отчего с некоторыми мы ладим, а с кем-то периодически ругаемся? Возможно, Вы скажете культура.
В психологии общения один из важнейших моментов научить себя выслушивать и

понимать того, с кем вы ведете общение. Учитесь объяснять людям ваши намерения и мысли, из которых вы исходите, тем самым вы сумеете предотвратить множество недоразумений, ссор и конфликтов. Честность в общении с собеседником часто оказывается единственным выходом из кризисной, конфликтной ситуации.

4. Read two scenarios and comment on the problems two businessmen have. Finish the sentence using as many endings as possible:

  • If Mike and Miguel understood each other’s cultural communication styles …………


In a world where international business is becoming increasingly more common, communicators who don’t understand and adapt to cultural differences are likely to encounter problems that can disrupt their relationships. In this scenario, two businesspeople from different backgrounds fail to recognize and appreciate each other’s cultural norms. Mike is from the United States, and is used to a “time is money” task-oriented approach. Miguel is from Latin America, where personal understanding and trust must develop before business takes place.

they would have been more able to adapt to them and less upset by what seemed to each to be inappropriate behavior.


(To himself) Why aren’t we getting on with it?

(To himself) It’s a quarter to twelve. I’ve been here with Miguel for forty-five minutes already, and I haven’t even begun to talk business. I know that both me and this proposal are new to Miguel, but how can I count on this guy when all he does is ask me questions about myself, my background, my interests, my family, and my “philosophy”! Why does he have to be so nosy? I don’t know him well enough yet to get into that personal stuff. I know he’s just invited me to have lunch with him, but it’s a thirty minute drive to the one o’clock appointment I scheduled, and I have to be on time. All I wanted to do was run through this proposal quickly the first time, see if he had any interest and if he did come back again to see about doing business. Sometimes I think that all these Hispanics want to do is talk about anything but business.

(To himself) Oh, well, I’ve never had nay luck doing business with Hispanics before. Why should be any different this time?

Thanks for the invitation to have lunch with you, Miguel, but I’ve got to get along to my next appointment. Here’s my card. Maybe we can do business next time.


(To himself) Why aren’t we getting on with it?

(To himself) It’s a quarter to twelve. I’ve been here with Mike for forty-five minutes already, and I haven’t even begun to talk business. How can I know if I want to do business with him unless I know something about him and the kind of man he is? But I feel like a dentist pulling teeth. And he doesn’t want to know anything about me! Where I come from, we don’t like to do business with strangers. We like to know something about the other person and feel we can at least begin to trust them before we start to talk business seriously. It’s too bad he turned me down for lunch. I think I can trust him and really am interested in his product line. With a little more time, I think we could do business. But first I’ve got to feel at least a little sure about who I’m doing business with. Sometimes I think that all these Anglos want to talk about is business.

(To himself) Oh, well, I’ve never had any luck doing business with gringos before. Why should it be any different this time?

Oh, that’s all right, Mike. We’ll have lunch another time. Come back again. I’d like to get to know you better. Maybe we can do business next time.

^ 2. The Process of Communication

1. Fill in the blanks. Use the word in the correct form only once:

choose misinterpret get sent surround involve continue cause understand make

Why Communications Skills Are So Important:

The purpose of communication is to get your message across to others clearly and unambiguously.

  Doing this 1... effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver. And it's a process that can be fraught with error, with messages often 2… by the recipient. When this isn't detected, it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed opportunity.

  In fact, communication is only successful when both the sender and the receiver 3… the same information as a result of the communication.

By successfully 4… your message across, you convey your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you send do not necessarily reflect your own, 5… a communications breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals – both personally and professionally.

 In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in 6… managers. The survey, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School, points out that communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing to job success.

 In spite of the increasing importance placed on communication skills, many individuals 7… to struggle, unable to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively – whether in verbal or written format. This inability 8… it nearly impossible for them to compete effectively in the workplace, and stands in the way of career progression.

 Getting your message across is paramount to progressing. To do this, you must understand what your message is, what audience you are 9… it to, and how it will be perceived. You must also weigh-in the circumstances 10… your communications, such as situational and cultural context.

^ 2. Read the text. As you can see the communications process consists of 7 parts. Insert them according to the content of the passage:

Communications Skills - The Importance of Removing Barriers

Problems with communication can pop-up at every stage of the communication process (which consists of sender, encoding, channel, decoding, receiver, feedback and context - see the diagram below) and have the potential to create misunderstanding and confusion.

To be an effective communicator and to get your point across without misunderstanding and confusion, your goal should be to lessen the frequency of these problems at each stage of this process with clear, concise, accurate, well-planned communications. We follow the process through below:



As the source of the message, you need to be clear about why you're communicating, and what you want to communicate. You also need to be confident that the information you're communicating is useful and accurate.

……… ...

The message is the information that you want to communicate.

……… ...

This is the process of transferring the information you want to communicate into a form that can be sent and correctly decoded at the other end. Your success in encoding depends partly on your ability to convey information clearly and simply, but also on your ability to anticipate and eliminate sources of confusion (for example, cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing information.) A key part of this is knowing your audience: Failure to understand who you are communicating with will result in delivering messages that are misunderstood.


Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal including face-to-face meetings, telephone and videoconferencing; and written including letters, emails, memos and reports.

 Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, it's not particularly effective to give a long list of directions verbally, while you'll quickly cause problems if you criticize someone strongly by email.

……… ...

Just as successful encoding is a skill, so is successful decoding (involving, for example, taking the time to read a message carefully, or listen actively to it.) Just as confusion can arise from errors in encoding, it can also arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case if the decoder doesn't have enough knowledge to understand the message.


Your message is delivered to individual members of your audience. No doubt, you have in mind the actions or reactions you hope your message will get from this audience. Keep in mind, though, that each of these individuals enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly influence their understanding of your message, and their response. To be a successful communicator, you should consider these before delivering your message, and act appropriately.


Your audience will provide you with feedback, verbal and nonverbal reactions to your communicated message. Pay close attention to this feedback, as it is the only thing that allows you to be confident that your audience has understood your message. If you find that there has been a misunderstanding, at least you have the opportunity to send the message a second time.


The situation in which your message is delivered is the context. This may include the surrounding environment or broader culture (i.e. corporate culture, international cultures, etc.).

^ 3. Read the text and think of any other barriers in the communication process. Discuss your examples with the group:


Have you ever been talking to someone and they misunderstand what you were saying? Why do you think that happens? At any point in the communication process a barrier can occur. Barriers keep us from understanding other’s ideas and thoughts. Barriers can appear at any point of the communication loop. There are two types of barriers—internal and external. Examples of internal barriers are fatigue, poor listening skills, attitude toward the sender or the information, lack of interest in the message, fear, mistrust, past experiences, negative attitude, problems at home, lack of common experiences, and emotions. Examples of external barriers include noise, distractions, e-mail not working, bad phone connections, time of day, sender used too many technical words for the audience, and environment. Barriers keep the message from getting through. When communicating, watch out for barriers. Monitor the actions of the receiver. Watch her / his body language; check to make sure the message the receiver received is the one sent - ask questions and listen.

^ 4. Read the text about types of communication. Give your examples:

Types of Communication

Self-Action or One-Way Communication is focused on getting the message to the receiver. Self-action treats communication as a manipulation of others. It is very message centered. There is no way to know if the meaning is shared between the sender and the receiver.

Interaction or Two-Way Communication. This approach recognizes the role of the receiver as a communicator through feedback. It is message centered and is a very simplistic view of the communication process. Feedback allows senders to see if their message got across.

Transaction. This approach focuses on meaning and sharing by accounting for all other factors in the communication process. It is concerned with the barriers that might affect the communication. Transaction is best described as effective communication. This is when the communication process is applied and carried out completely. The sender gives a message that is

passed on to the receiver. In return, the receiver can give clear feedback that allows the sender to know whether or not the message was perceived as intended. If the message wasn’t received as intended, then the sender will continue the communication process again in order to ensure effective communication.

Communication is a two-way process that involves getting your message across and understanding what others have to say. Communication involves active listening, speaking and observing. Now that you have learned the communication process, you can begin to evaluate your communication skills. Begin to watch yourself in action. Each time you communicate observe what you do, how it went, what went well, and what could have been better.

^ 3. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

1. Learn the information about verbal and nonverbal communication:

Nonverbal communication has several important characteristics:

  • Unlike verbal communication, it is always resent when people encounter one another and in many situations where they aren’t physically present.

  • It has great value in conveying information about others, and much of that information isn’t something others intentionally want to reveal.

  • It is especially useful in suggesting how others feel about you and relationship, although nonverbal messages are much more ambiguous than verbal communication.

While much nonverbal communication is universal, some factors do shape the way we express ourselves and understand others.

  • Culture shapes many nonverbal practices.

  • Gender plays a role in the way we communicate.

Nonverbal communication serves many functions, when compared to verbal messages:

  • It can repeat, complement, and accent spoken words.

  • Sometimes it can substitute for speech.

  • It can regulate spoken conversation.

  • It can contradict spoken words, or even deceive others.

There are many types of nonverbal communication including

  • Posture and gesture

  • Face and eyes

  • Voice

  • Touch

  • Physical appearance and attractiveness

  • Distance and territory

  • Time

  • Physical environment

Table 1

Types of Communication

^ Vocal communication

Nonvocal communication

Verbal communication

Spoken words

Written words

^ Nonverbal communication

Tone of voice, sighs, screams, vocal qualities (loudness, pitch and so on)

Gestures, movements, appearance, facial expression and so on

Table 2

^ Some differences between verbal and nonverbal communication

Verbal communication

Nonverbal communication


One dimension (words only)

Multiple dimensions (voice, postures, gestures, distance, etc.)


Intermittent (speaking and silence alternate)

Continuous (It’s impossible to not communicate nonverbally)


Less subject to misinterpretation

More ambiguous


Has less impact when verbal and nonverbal cues are contradictory

Has stronger impact when verbal and nonverbal cues are contradictory


Usually deliberate

Often unintentional

2. Use the data from the text as well as from the Tables 1, 2 and prepare a presentation about verbal and nonverbal communication. Don’t forget about numerous examples from your own experience.

^ 4. Body Language

1. Read the article.

Learn to speak body language

When we go for an interview, most of us think carefully about what to wear and what to say but hardly ever about how to act – in other words, what our body language is telling the interviewer. So how can we appear cool when we are feeling so nervous?

Judy James, a body language specialist and author, says that most interviewees who ask for advice are told ‘Just be yourself’. This, she say, is the wrong approach. “If you are just going to be yourself, why not turn up in an old tracksuit? You would never do that, so why just “be yourself” in body language? Instead, by marketing your body language, you can control your own success.”

According to experts, body language accounts for 55% of the effect we have when communicating. Tone of voice accounts for 33% and words for just 7% - so what you say matters much less than how you behave.

Employers nowadays are cautious about the fast-talking interviewee who has learned certain words and phrases but who may be hiding a basis lack of knowledge or simply lying. So they look increasingly for other signs which will show a person’s character and ability – such as body language.

You will be more impressive at an interview if you have prepared by doing a ‘dress rehearsal’ of your facial expressions and hand movements in front of the mirror. It sounds ridiculous but it works.

When it comes to facial signals, you should always smile when you enter the interview room and when the interview has finished, because first and last impressions count. Try to smile from the eyes first – if models can do this, so can we. There nothing worse than a painted-on smile and terrified eyes.

You should also try to maintain eye-contact with the interviewer, but not for too long. If you are in front of the panel of interviewers, look first at the person who has asked you a question, and then at each of the other panel members in turn. Looking just at the questioner is a common mistake.

Once you are sitting down, your hands should generally stay loosely in your lap. Use them to make appoint occasionally but never raise them above shoulder level, and do not play with your hair, watch strap or jewellery.

Tell-tale signs that the interview has gone well are increased eye-contact, the repetition of your name and perhaps some closer body space. A look of relief may also be a giveaway sign – the process of choosing a candidate is stressful for interviewers too.

If you have not been impressive, the interviewer will be trying not to behave in a familiar fashion. Tell-tale signs are avoiding eye-contact and a parting handshake which is firmer than the one which you were greeted with.

Body language is a subject that we have all heard about, yet we are not aware of the effect that our own body language has on others. In fact, it is vital – and after someone has noticed it for the first time, even subconsciously, they are unlikely to change their opinion because of what you say. So, at an interview, take the trouble to get it right.

^ 2. Choose the statements (5) which reflect content of the text:

  • We rarely think about how to behave in an interview.

  • People going for interviews are generally given useful advice.

  • You could learn to ‘sell’ your image by using suitable body language.

  • Employers take more notice of body language than prepared interview language.

  • Practice your interview technique by watching others in action.

  • Learn to smile throughout the interview.

  • You need to make eye-contact with everyone interviewing you.

  • Use your hand to communicate as often as possible.

  • It is sometimes difficult to tell if you have made a good impression.

  • You will be able to tell if you have not achieved what you wanted to in an interview.

  • We must realize how important it is to use suitable body language in an interview.

^ 3. Make a list of useful tips to give someone going to an interview for the first time:

Example: Spend some time thinking about how to act.

4. Read these pairs of sentences. What do the words in italic mean in each sentence?

1. a) This way of behaving is a completely new approach.

b) As I began to approach the building, I suddenly felt nervous.

2. a) Suddenly the tone of the man’s voice changed completely.

b) If you pick up the receiver, you will hear the dialing tone.

3. a) There was a panel of four people interviewing me.

b) The workman had broken the glass panel in the kitchen door.

4. a) It was at that point in the interview that the phone rang.

b) What is the point of giving you advice if you never take it?

5. a) Mary was behaving in a very strange fashion yesterday.

b) I like clothes but I’m not very interested in the latest fashion.

^ 5. Match the expressions with their meanings:

1. turn up a) are important

2. a dress rehearsal b) do something properly

3. When it comes to c) appear unexpectedly

4. last impressions count d) in the case of

5. take the trouble to e) the last practice

^ 6. Do you agree with this statement?

  • Body language changes according to which country you are in and what you are doing.

Use these ideas to help you talk about it:

- how you greet people at home, at university or at workstation

- how close you stand to other people in public

- other kinds of body contact, e.g. arms around shoulders, holding hands, linking arms

- good table manners

^ 7. Read this extract from a newspaper article on body language and fill in the spaces using the following verbs:

are are deals have have to help is revolves says says touch use work

‘Background and profession 1) … key influences to how well we 2) … body language,’ 3) … body language expert Gordon Wainwright. People in the world of show business 4) … famous for shouting ‘dahling!’ and kissing all and sundry, while people who 5) … in London do not 6) … any more than they can 7) … - a brief handshake 8) … their limit. Mr. Wainwright 9) …: ‘Entertainers 10) … interact with their audience, and anyone who 11) … with people – doctors, nurses, teachers, shop assistants, will 12) … better body language than someone whose work 13) … .’

8. Write the suitable verbs and adjectives to the following nouns: hands, arms, legs, eyes, head, whole body, etc.:





to close


To sum up:

  • What is the definition of communication?

  • What is the link between culture and communication?

  • Why does misunderstanding between people occur?

  • What does the process of communication involve?

  • What barriers are common in the communication process?

  • What types of communication are there?

  • What are verbal and nonverbal communications?

  • What does body language mean?

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