The International Business program here at USU is very popular. I have met many individuals who are excited about their business classes that emphasize international relationships. This is a great indicator for our future, because different countries have natural resources, products, services, and ideas that can benefit our own. Likewise, the United States has much that can benefit the world. We have already exported our culture and our philosophies all around the globe, but is there more that can be done to develop successful and profitable relationships with other countries? I’d like to know what some of the students in the international business program think about that question.
In my time here at USU, I have spoken with a few international business students who are unsure of what they want to do exactly with their degree. I would be open for anything overseas, or in South America, but they don’t have a real game plan for their future. I can relate to that, because I also have difficulty trying to specialize or focus on just one area in the field of technical communication. Well, while I work on that, I figure I would share a few ideas for some of the students who are considering international business, or even thinking about dealing with people from other countries in the workplace.
Cindy King, an international relations guru, recently wrote an article that offered tips for people interested in the field. In it, she offered the following advice:
# 1 Don’t be vague. She advises that students ought to be explicit about what they want to do in the future, and should let their passion show
#2 Don’t make everything about you. She says that developing relationships with potential employers is more important than asking for a job.
#3 Don’t show disrespect. This is obvious, and an easy way to avoid this is to do your research, and find out what might offend others.
#4 Don’t waste time going after the wrong people.
#5 Don’t use boring tactics. Many companies that work internationally are looking for creativity, so instead of just sending an email, think about making a video.
#6 Don’t stay stuck. Don’t be afraid to study abroad or move to a different country in order to show your interest in international business!
#7 Change your focus. Cindy believes that many students think too much about their studies, and they don’t take action.
These tips are good to think about now, and while they are general enough to apply to many field, I think they specifically apply to students interested in the future of international business and relations. USU has a great study abroad program, and there are several clubs that can provide us with exposure to cultural diversity. The Access and Diversity center is a great place to start. These kinds of experiences can help students develop a concrete plan for the future that they can explicitly communicate to future employers. They will be able to develop relationships with people from other countries. Who knows, maybe their parents own a business there? Most of all, it will help students develop cross-cultural communication skills that will be valuable in any workplace.
Can a communication medium that is as fragmented as a 140-character idea really help with bridging the cultural divides that exist in our world? Jessica Faye Carter seems to think so. As a columnist who writes about social media technologies in multicultural communities, she has a few things to say about the benefits of Twitter in cross-cultural engagement. In an article that appeared on Mashable.com, she says people all over the world are using the open architecture of Twitter to discuss just about anything, including culture. Since people from a variety of cultural backgrounds use Twitter to talk about their lives, there now exists a massive amount of information that allows us to engage in cultural exploration. According to her, there are a few main reasons why people who are interested in cross-cultural communication should be interested in Twitter.
# 1 It facilitates cross-cultural engagement. It can be easier to understand people when you remove body language, accents, and tone. There are also several programs that allow people to tweet in their native language or translate foreign languages into their own.
#2 Open design. With Twitter you can contact just about anyone from anywhere. All you have to do is search by interest or location, and you can find some people in Japan in order to chat with them openly about cultural taboos that you should avoid in your next business trip. With Twitter, most people are pretty comfortable with tweeting and messaging back and forth, as long as they don’t have to share any private information.
#3 There isn’t any predominant culture. Twitter isn’t a community, it’s a conglomeration of tens of thousands of communities that are chatting back and forth. Any culture can form its own community and attract like-minded folks to join the conversation.
#4 Anyone can receive attention on Twitter. Attention is an important part of our lives. It helps us feel important! By giving your attention to others (especially those of other cultures) you can help others feel important and develop friendships.
The bottom line is Twitter is a great place to network. Here in Logan (despite our decent level of diversity) it can be very difficult to find representatives from the many cultures in our world. Twitter becomes the perfect terminal for exploring other cultures by conversing with other people! What are your opinions about Twitter? Have you had any good/bad experiences?
I realize that every time I use the phrase “cross-cultural communication,” I am making the subject sound much more difficult and boring than it actually is. In reality, this concept that I am obsessed with is just about making friends with people from different cultures! That doesn’t sound so boring now, right? Maybe I need to change some of my jargon in order to form more palatable posts. However, in one of the articles I read this week, the author uses the phrase and makes it sound fun. Heather Farr spent a month in Zambia and shared a few of her keys to cross-cultural communication in an article she recently wrote. Here are 5 of them:
#1 Do you research. This is a perfect #1, because it should always be one of the first priorities. One common mistake is assuming that your techniques and experience can apply in every situation. Sometimes even the best have to adapt.
#2 Take an interest. People will open up their souls to you if you just take a little interest. Especially in Logan, where it can be easy to assume as a minority, that no one really cares about your culture.
#3 Be an active listener. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and clarify. It can be very frustrating for non-native English speakers when they try to communicate what is on their mind, but they can’t get the point across. Be willing to help them out.
#4 Stay flexible. Sometimes you just can’t use certain analogies or techniques, because they won’t translate well. Be willing to sacrifice these for the benefit of clear communication.
#5 Keep an open mind. What’s religion to one man might just be superstition to another. Some cultures have very different customs and beliefs, and we need to try to understand them and learn to work with them, rather than throwing them away as something inferior.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you are already either consciously or subconsciously aware of these keys, but it’s good to have them written down and fleshed out. It’s also important to try and work them into the collective consciousness of the community. How is that done? Well, maybe that will have to wait for another post.
While USU and Logan may not be a place commonly associated with ethnic diversity, we still have people from many places around the world and from many different cultures. While on campus, it is possible to run into students from Germany, Japan, China, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Libya, and the list can go on. While working at some of the factories, like Icon Fitness or Yesco, employees might encounter other employees from Central America or the Philippines. Just a few years ago, Cache Valley took in over 100 Burmese refugees who were fleeing from their war-torn country. This diversity is great, these people bring a rich culture and heritage with them and can influence others in remarkable ways.
With this growing diversity, we also need to be conscious of the challenges they might be facing. According to the website diversitydata.sph.harvad.edu, about 10% of our population is Hispanic, 2% Pacific islander, 0.5% African American, and 0.4% American Indian. That demographic report is pretty shocking, I imagine it could be difficult to live in a city where the dominant race makes up 86% of the population. And it doesn’t make it any easier that there is also an overwhelmingly dominant religion in the valley, that heavily influences the culture.
In being conscious of the challenges that minorities might face, we need to know how to communicate clearly. Whether we work together on a project or are employees in the same place, it is always important to have patience and understanding when it comes to communication.
The other day I found a great article on the website “6 minutes,” which is a speaking and presentation skills website. The article discussed 5 ways that speakers can communicate more effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds. They are:
- Don’t assume they can understand you.
- Be cautious of cultural jargon.
- Be adaptable to local style.
- Slow down.
- Watch your body language.
It’s a great article, and I highly recommend it. It is geared more towards the subject of professional speaking, but I find the insights to be useful in everyday communication as well. One tip that I think is so important is #4: slow down. That doesn’t mean dumbing down speech, but I do believe that speaking in a slow, calm, clear manner makes everything more easy to understand. Speaking slowly also allows the speaker to think about what he/she is saying, and helps in avoiding idioms and colloquialisms.
My big challenge is body language, I use my hands and facial expressions to communicate, and I know that can be difficult for people from other cultures to understand. What do you think you need to work on?