Category Archives: biomedical engineering

In the last blog, I introduced how we conduct effective communication in our daily lives. Here, it is the second part of communication skills, mainly focusing on intercultural communication. Today, we live in a global village, and we might have colleagues and friends from different countries and cultures. Sometimes the difference between cultures might be challenging when working in a diverse environment.

What is culture?

The definition of culture is very broad; for example, the definition of culture from Wikipedia is that culture is an umbrella term that encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Culture often originated from or is attributed to a specific region or location. In my aspect, I prefer the definition as “Basic truths about identity and relationships, time and space, ways of thinking and learning, ways of working and organizing, and ways of communicating.” In other words, cultural differences would highly affect communication efficiency in a diverse environment. We need to understand cultural differences better before we initiate conversations with people from different countries/cultures to minimize misunderstanding.

Culture is like an onion, layer by layer.

Culture is like an onion composed of multiple layers. In the surface layer, we might think that food, holiday, music, language, art, and fashion are the culture; however, if we dig into the inner layer, we might find that other components represent the culture, for example, eye contact, personal space, body language, manner, friendship, gender, family role or cooperation/ competition. All these combine into one culture. The only way to understand a culture is actually to experience it. For instance, if we would like to learn about Italian culture, the best way is to live in Italy and hang out with local people.

Variables in Cultures

Cultures have several variables, such as context, information flow, time, power and equality, language…etc. These variables would allow us to communicate effectively with different cultures, so we need to learn these variables to avoid misunderstanding.

Context

Context is the additional words in the communication to express the meaning. Moreover, high context is when people would add extra words to decorate the sentence and make it complicated, and low context is when people express their meanings with straightforward sentences. For example, “I don’t like your product.” is a low-context way of communication. Still, in high context, ” You have a great product with beautiful design. However, I have a limited budget. I cannot afford your product.”. The low context sentence is simple, but the high context style requires people to read between the lines carefully. Here, I could divide the countries into three levels of context. Generally, Germany, the US, UK, and Scandinavia are in the low level of context; France, Spain, Italy, Central/South America, Greece, Russia, and India are in the middle level of context; Japan, China, Korea, Arab Countries, Africa are in the high level of context.

Information flow

Information flow is how the information is exchanged. Similar to context, some countries prefer to share information indirectly, for example, Japan, South Asia, and China. But people from Germany, Russia, and eastern Europe prefer a direct way to exchange information.

Conclusion

We live in a global village, and the diverse environment is the trend. Therefore, intercultural communication will be required to become a successful leader.

Relevant Blogs

Become a successful leader (5)-Importance of communication (1)

Become a successful leader 4: Be an inspiring leader, The Golden Circle Theory

Become a successful leader (3): Know who I am, and what personality I have.

Become a successful leader (2): Self-Awareness

Become a successful leader (1): Everyday Leadership

In my previous blogs in leadership development, I intrdocued “Become a successful leader (1): Everyday Leadership“, “Become a successful leader (2): Self-Awareness“, “Become a successful leader (3): Know who I am, and what personality I have.“, “Become a successful leader 4: Be an inspiring leader, The Golden Circle Theory“. Here, I would like to discuss another key component, “communication” in leadership development.

Communication is an art of understanding

Communication is an art where we need to keep creating understanding to deliver the right message between the talker and the listener. The communication process includes encoding our thought/ideas into words and behaviors and decoding this information into meaning. Misunderstanding occurs when the listener decodes the words and behaviors into a different meaning. To avoid the misunderstanding, we need to know 7C’s (correctcompleteclearconsistentcredibleconcerned/connectedculture) and 1 V (Volume). Moreover, what we do not say in the conversation and how we say it is very important to achieve effective communication.

Information transmission

Communication is a process of information transmission. Talker/Writer express ideas and thoughts in words or behavior, which encodes the message by one brain. The audiences decode the message to collect the information; however, each audience’s brain might translate it into different information. Also, in the human mind, emotions usually come faster than thoughts. Therefore, if you are in the mood, do not say anything or reply to any email because your emotion might highly affect your communication. In other words, we should always communicate with others in an adult-to-adult way.

Curse of knowledge

Cognitive bias usually occurs when an individual in a group unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand the message. For example, when we learn something new, such as cancer biology, we start to talk with professional words. Even if we are talking to other people without a biological background, we forget to explain the information or switch to simple terms to transfer the information. This is what we call the curse of knowledge. Therefore, we should always assume that we are not talking to experts if we do not know the audience.

Unconscious Communication

Sometimes there is a hidden message in our verbal or non-verbal expression. For example, intonation is a way to express the hidden meaning within a sentence. If someone said that “I didn’t say you broke my equipment,” we could try to stress a different word in the sentence to see if there is any difference.

  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment
  • I didn’t say you broke my equipment

Another example is body language. It is an interesting topic that sometimes we might unconsciously express our emotions through body language. If you found out that someone stands with folded arms when talking, you could assume this person disagrees with what you said.

Communication is based on trust

To have an effective communication, trust is an important factor to connect individuals in a group. There are 5 elements to build up trust: consistency, openess, loyalty, competence, and integrity.

  • Consistency: How often do you change your mind?
  • Openness: Do you share information about yourself or do you just expect others to do so?
  • Loyalty: Do you support people only when everything is great or also when they are struggling?
  • Competence: Do you know what you are talking about?
  • Integrity : Are your actions matching your words ? 

Communication Strategy for a good leader

A good communication strategy for a leader is to include both positive and negative aspects in your message and be specific and concise. An excellent example is that both U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Massachusetts governor Edward Everett gave a speech after the Gettysburg battle in 1863 (Civil War). Everett’s speech was 2 hours long, and Lincoln’s was 2 minutes. However, everyone only remembers what Lincoln said in the address. Therefore, good communication should be short and specific.

If you are interested in Lincoln’s speech, it is the links for the speech and transcript.

Conclusion

Communication is very important not only for leadership but also for everyone in daily life. In the next blog, I will introduce how we communicate with people from different cultures and how we lead an effective meeting.