You hear behind you, approaching, there's someone, walking towards you. You turn around and see your boss, and he says, “How are you?” How would you respond to that? He says, “How are you?” Fine. How are you? Fine, okay. Yes. Something short and simple. Something simple. That's the American mode Keep it nice and light and positive. Yes Nice and light and positive Exactly, right. In an American context that would be exactly what's happening. In a British context, maybe it's not that different. When I was in Britain I experienced and even shorter more efficient ritual. They would say, “How do you do?” No reply that contains any content at all, just a question back, “How do you do?” I quite like that because it kind of keeps both sides honest nobody is making any false declarations of positive feelings that might not exist. Mm-hm. I thought that was nice. Sometimes we say, if someone asks you, “How are you?” we say, “Yeah, how are you?” Which if you think about, Which if you think about, “Yeah” is not an answer to “How are you?” but sometimes we say that. It is communicative. I mean you are disclosing quite a bit of information that you don't want to say anything. I mean you are disclosing quite a bit of information that you don't want to say anything. In Russia though, there was a fun piece in New York Times, there seems to be a a strong tendency more towards the negative. That if you are asked “How you are?” rather than proclaim your happiness, “I’m outstanding!” the expectation would veer more towards negative. the expectation would veer more towards negative. Is that something that squares with your experience? I can talk about Hungary and Serbia not Russia but I think it's quite similar that, when they ask us “How are we doing?” We give an honest reply, and I think, when nothing very happy happened to you, usually you're saying something a little a more negative than positive. “Yes, it sucks, it's raining.” I mean, I'm not too happy. Yeah. But here, when they ask me in English, how am I doing, and when I actually want to give an honest reply, I noticed that people just don't care, they just want me to say I'm fine. Yeah. I’m well, and I can move on with my life. There are many theories, There are many theories, on how you could explain why different cultures go one way or the other. One that I like for the Russian or maybe its a more general eastern European thing, the tendency toward the negative. Clearly there is a higher value and honesty in the reply than there might be in a more ritualistic American version. In the piece in the New York Times, the theory that was suggested is actually going back to Dostoevsky, who is supposed to have, said that that's the nature of the Russian soul. They have this unquenchable thirst for suffering and so on and so forth. And you have to express that, that's how you express your Russianness, you're implying with the negative tale, when somebody asks you about that, right. Ho do you deal with that kind of question in a Russian context when you don't speak the great Russian? How do you communicate your anguish and anxiety without, speaking eloquent Russian to describe your misery? You don’t. Well you actually had a good example earlier. There’s a lot that you can say with just a sound; as you would in an American context, “meh.” “How are you? How are you doing?” “Meh.” The same works across cultures to some degree. Or a long pause then a big sigh. *sigh* *sigh* *sigh* That could also work. There are multiple ways to deal with that. Understanding the meaning of a phrase or even something as simple as a greeting always relies on your understanding of social convention and cultural context. In an intercultural setting that is the non-trivial issue because you might not understand the context very well, even if you spent quite a number of years embedded in that culture. Some of the deeper meaning of the information or the words that people exchange might elude you and, that can lead to misunderstandings, that can lead to tensions; and that's something of course, that stands in your way to be effective in those contexts as a leader. Let's look at what happens when we communicate. When we communicate, we do what? We exchange information. We exchange information. What could happen is that, I have an idea in my head that I want to articulate, such as leadership communication is a fascinating topic. I have this beautiful thought in my head. I try to encode that in what I say and I send that along to you, you try to decode what I'm saying and then, it turns up in your head, hopefully somewhat intact. We have a kind of particular channel in which that communication happens: Face-to-face. In this case, there's relatively little noise. If we had different channels, some of the misunderstandings could be more pronounced; if we were communicating through email or through a telephone, there might be more disruptions and more difficulty actually understanding things. that's the basic model that people have, and people use that all the time. In whatever you do as a leader, you rely on communication. Whether you, try to articulate goals, try to align people, try to coordinate what they're doing, you need to articulate very clearly and precisely what it is that you want people to do? If you try to motivate people, you also need to be very careful on how you phrase that so that you convey the right message. When you want to build or establish relationships it’s the same thing, You want to be very careful in your choice of words. Why is that so critical? Well when you talk to people, almost instinctively if, if you were in a leadership position, if you're leading a team for example. They will immediately ask themselves, basic questions about who you are. The first question is, and it's very fundamental is, “Is the person like me?” “Are they one of us?” essentially “Do you understand us?” is the second question “Do you understand what we need?” and the third question often is, “Are you going to work for us?” “Are you going to make things better for us?” Those are the basic assumptions people have when they face their leaders. Imagine you have your first job at Green Peace. It's your first non-profit job and it’s your first day at the job, you come in and maybe have a little speech prepared. You go there and talk to people. You talk to your co-workers. Dear associates. Dear associates. I know that our top line and bottom line performance is not in line with our projections. But I promise that we can jump start this organization. And, that will allow us to leap frog the competition. We will penetrate our markets more efficiently. And everyone, who will contribute to it will be rewarded. What do you think, Green Peace? Are you the Manager position, er… I don't understand. That could be, the first concern. Maybe you're just a team member. Yes, exactly. And you make this speech. What are you? You're putting yourself too high. That's a relationship problem. Where people interpret, “what is this?” I'm not saying that I'm actually leading you, I'm just saying hey, I think this what we should be doing. But, that's how it could be interpreted. Do you think that's the appropriate language for Green Peace? No probably not, especially because I think Green Peace a non-profit organization, is concerned about some basic main ideas, values. And when you want to motivate people, I think these are the ones you stress because these are the ones that are common in all of you, that you believe in what you do. True. I talked about values here, like efficiency and agility. But proficiency, or profitability and things like that, I think from a company's point of view of course they’re important, but in the end, individually, they’re not my main concern. And to make the company profitable, my basic idea is probably to change the world, to help it. Exactly. It's more, more an idealistic thing. For me, the competition and penetrating the market, having a bigger market share. I doubt that's what most people look for when they join a non-profit. So when you, use the wrong words, if you use the wrong language, in terms of conceptual terms, all of what you're trying to say here also applies to Green Peace. They have to do well they have to reach for their stakeholders and kind of make a difference in the areas that are there. But it's the wrong language for those concerns. If people hear that, they draw the conclusions you're not one of us. You don't understand what we care about, and whatever you're working for is clearly not going to matter for the things that are important to us. Yeah. That we care about. Clearly even through a simple communicative act, you immediately lose a lot of the support. In an intercultural context, a lot of these things become more complicated. The coding, the decoding becomes more complicated, striking the right, tone to establish the right kind of relationship is also trickier. So there's a great scene in Lost in Translation, the Sofia Coppola movie. Bill Murray is doing this whiskey commercial and the director is giving all these instructions of how he should behave in the whiskey commercial. He does this three-minute speech and, Bill Murray doesn't speak any Japanese, so everything has to go through the translator and the translator translates the three-minute speech into, “please, look in the camera and speak with intensity.” That is not very helpful. We have a double coding, decoding by the translator, re-encoding into English to Bill Murray and all that gets lost there in translation. hence the title. Mm-hm. What we see from that example is two kinds of problems. One is really just a basic language problem, You don't understand the words. That's a lexical or vocabulary problem. The second is actually a semantic problem, that yeah, you understand what words are being enunciated, but you don't fully understand the meaning. The first problem: not understanding the words at all is actually an easier communication problem, because you recognize that there is a breakdown of communication. It's easy to detect that. If you understand the words but you don't understand the meaning you might make different inferences from your own cultural vantage point. You attach different meaning to what's being said. That's a lot harder That's a lot harder to actually detect. Because everybody assumes the message has been passed on effectively, everybody understands. That is not just a problem in communicating in a foreign language that you have very little command of, it's also, if you all kind of agree on a lingua franca, If you all speak in English, the assumption could be well everybody understands English. Everybody speaks English. No problem. All of miscommunication problems fall by the wayside. That's not the case of course, because except for you, our understanding of English is imperfect. Whatever meaning we attach to words might not be exactly as originally intended. It's not just a matter of as originally intended, we could come from different sub-cultures or co-cultures as people call them now. That just have different intonations and different meanings given to particular words that change over generations. I experience that when I teach undergrads. I see that there is a kind of communication barrier and culture barrier just based on the generational membership. So that can be a problem. So if you encounter those communication problems, either the lexical problems with not understanding the vocabulary, or the semantic problem of not understanding the meaning. If you're talking to somebody else Mm-hm. And you suspect that there might be communication barriers what would you do? Mm-hm. Well I would start maybe using my hands as well. Well I would start maybe using my hands as well. Maybe you’d give some context to what you're saying with your hands. The universal language. Okay. Not as universal as you might think though. Then with my intonation I would try to maybe make him understand the mood or the context in what I'm talking.. Yeah, okay. ..In which I'm talking about. So you provide even more context to what you're saying. Yes. Yeah. How do you know whether that was successful? Maybe ask some questions and see how they react? Exactly. One of the things, that I use when I teach English to my students, they're called CCQs, Which are content checking questions. And you explain a concept or anything which can be applied to any kind of leading position and then you start checking with questions that don't repeat what you said but tackle it from different angle. Exactly, you're looking for feedback. You try to get feedback from the people that you have communicated to. That's the easiest way to get a sense of what actually arrived after this process of encoding and decoding at the other end. Clearly that feedback process, again, people have to think, what did I understand, they try to re-encode it, it comes back to you, you try to decode it again. But what it might give you is a sense of what is the, But what it might give you is a sense of what is the, basis of understanding of the person that you've talked to; What arrived there. You might draw some conclusions of where the discrepancies might come from either by vocabulary or by mismatches of meaning. So again, you get a sense of this field of experience of this person that you're talking to. If that feedback process comes back, chances are you can detect errors. And if that feedback doesn't come just once, I'd like you to give me short feedback, but actually it comes more often, then actually you would get to a point where you really have an interaction in the communication you have a dialog if you will. If the dialogue is sufficiently open and you get a lot of information, get to a point where you actually jointly make meaning. Where you can make small adjustments from either side of what things mean and jointly construct the meaning out of that dialogue. That is usually the point where you want to get to in intercultural communication setting. It’s not that easy though. In some cultures getting feedback is very easy. You say something to me, an American would say well, “I don't get that, can you say that again?” “Can you explain that little bit better?” So I almost put the burden on you. In other cultures it would be an absolute no-no, that I would, question your authority or lose face by conveying that I didn't understand, so getting feedback can be tricky in some circumstances. There's just not the social convention for that open communication, but that's the way you want to go to have that dialogue to get a sense of what actually arrived, what I said and can we find a way to bring maybe the discrepancies of meaning together? To get full advantage of that feedback and to get to the point of drawing, to meaning making, collaborative meaning making. We have to understand a little bit more about, how we actually share information? How we process information communicatively? We'll talk about that in the next segment.