I always try to be diligent in explaining that cross-cultural
communication skills apply not just across national cultures but equally between organisations and industries – even departments within the same organisation – think here of the stereotypical mismatch between Sales and the Accounts Department! A fellow professional speaker, Dr Gene Griessman, recently told of his experience of how you can quickly show that you are not an insider if you misuse of mispronounce the jargon or vocabulary people are used to. His story begins: “If it looks like a truck…

“A number of years ago when I was on the faculty of North Carolina State University, I was asked to teach a series of short courses for UPS, which had a training arrangement with the university.  I knew my subject matter but did not bother to learn enough about the culture of the famous corporation that was paying me to teach their executives. I assumed that the brown trucks, which every American is familiar with, are called a truck.  Wrong.  Just because it looks like a truck and sounds like a truck doesn’t mean that UPS people call it a truck!  After my blunder, a senior executive called me aside and told me that they are called “cars” or “package vans” and the UPS tractor-trailers are called “feeders.”

So, what had happened? Why did Gene feel as though he had made a blunder?

The point of the story is that every culture creates its own distinctive vocabulary or jargon.  Your use, or lack of use, shows whether you are on the inside track and belong to the group you are talking to. You can often hear people in organisations complaining about ‘management speak’ and ‘jargonese’ which implicitly is expressing a lack of trust in the person/people using it.

If you want to create rapport and build trust between yourself and A.N.Other from a different community, whether it is with someone across the globe or someone in another office, then it’s down to you to try and express yourself in a way that reflects their communication style. In communication it’s always time to break the golden rule… So, don’t do as you would be done to; do as they would be done to!

As Gene Griessman adds: As a professional speaker, I now do background research before the presentation.  I will ask if there are words or concepts that are taboo. Knowledgeable insiders will tell me if there are land-mine words or phrases or expressions that I should not use. And to give a positive tone to this approach, I will ask if there are words, phrases, acronyms which will give me credibility with the audience. For example, if I’m doing a seminar or keynote for the hospitality industry, I will call customers “guests,” not customers. See www.presidentlincon.com.

What good advice. Thank you, Gene!

Tags: , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 7th, 2011 at 5:57 pm and is filed under cross-cultural communication, General, North America . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.