The Backbone of International Business is Communication, Let us now Discuss in Detail with the help of communication flowchart:- 1. Introduction to Communication 2. Functions of Communication 3. Meaning 4. The Need Factor 5. Effective Communication 6. Assumptions and Perceptions 7. Elements 8. The Communication and Mis-Communication 9. Two Way Process and Other Details.
Introduction to Communication:
Communication needs common language for propagation and has two streams, one written and the other verbal. The need for communication is the prime motives, which propels the communication. The quality of communication depends not only on the speaker but also on the background factor of the speaker and the audience, and writer and target respectively.
The effectiveness of the communication is measured from the feedback. The factors that affect the communication are the assumptions and presumptions of both the speaker/audience and writer/target. The sub-division of the communication process is the accurate listening and effective listening, communication and miscommunication.
The checkpoint of communication-effectiveness-measurement is “Communication sent is not communication received”. Those who take care of this point tend to deliver effective and purposeful communication. Communication is the backbone of business activities. It is the cementing force. It brings people together and makes them understand each other.
It helps the organizations to set goals and helps to achieve them. This is no doubt one of the most fascinating things known to us. Though it is used universally to express and to understand still there are numerous obstacles for smooth and perfect communication.
Expert communicators are amongst the most successful professionals. In fact it has developed as an art. Despite its usefulness it is also one of the problem areas for and between people and organizations. It has an inherent property of adsorption and distortion. Adsorption begins at the origin of communication and distortion in between.
“What we say and want to say” is the measure of good or bad communication. There are a number of factors, which affect the quality of communication. If we take care of such factors than chances are that we gradually develop the habit of good communication. Barriers in smooth & effective communication.
Perfect communication is a dream of every communicator but it is seldom that 100% correct, perfect and effective communication be done. There are various factors responsible for distortion in the communication both at the communicator and receiver end.
Filtering is a deliberate purposeful activity, which takes place at both the ends of communication. For horizontally managed organizations. This phenomenon is least and with vertically integrated organizations it is highest. Higher the number of stages through which the information travels increases the degree of distortion and colouring to the text of the information.
At first the sender or the communicator may manipulate the information, deliberately, so that the receiver responds to it favorably. From the receiver’s side, he too may filter it to suit his needs and purpose before he passes on to the next stage or person for receiving the information.
Selective perception refers to what we want to see and hear. We see and hear based on our needs, motivation, experience, background, and other personal characteristics. Receivers also project their interest and expectations into the communication as they decode it.
The receiver is a human being, influenced by emotions. How he feels at the time when the information is put in his hands will influence how he will interpret it. The same message received when he is upset is going to be interpreted differently when he is more stable mental condition.
Under such situations as emotional extremes, the receiver is bound to disregards his objectivity and rational thinking. Timing is very crucial for proper action and reaction for the communication to be effective.
Age, education, cultural backgrounds are the three variables that influence the language a person uses and the definitions he gives to words. Words mean different things to different people. The meaning of the words is not in the words but how we interpret them.
In large MNC the workers usually come from diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds and have different patterns of speech and connotations, which causes distortion in the flow of effective communication. The presence of vertical levels of hierarchy also causes language problem.
The best way to avoid distortion is to evolve two way communication at every stage the information passes so that any distortion that creeps up in it is tackled right at the source rather than after it has damaged the purpose.
Functions of Communication:
3. Emotional Expression, and
It acts to control member behaviour by specifying their liberties and limitations. It fosters motivation by clarifying to the employees what is to be done, how well they are doing, and what can be done to improve performance. The work group is our primary source for social interaction and means for emotional expression.
Communication that takes place within the group is the fundamental mechanism by which members show their frustration and feelings of satisfaction. It thus provides a release for the emotional expression of feelings and fulfillment of social needs.
Meaning of Communication:
Communication is a process that conveys acts of expressions between two points, which have the ability to act and react to the given stimuli. It means the ability of one person to make contact with other person and to make himself/herself understood. Language is an effective medium of communication.
For good communication to take place there has to be two separate identities, the speaker and the listener. Both have cause and effect relationship. The need and the background are the two factors, which gives meaning to the urge for communication.
The communication process has three steps between the communicator and the receiver. The Communicator initiates the using his skills, attitudes, knowledge, and socio-cultural system. The message is the actual physical product in the form of a speech, text, picture, gestures etc.
This message is affected by the codes or group of symbols that we use to transfer it. The channel is the medium through which the message travels. It is selected by the source depending on the purpose of the message. In an organization two types of channels are available.
One following the line of authority and is the formal channel, the other is the informal one which is used for personal or social form of messages. Before the receiver can receive the message, the symbols in it must be translated into a form that can be understood by him by using his skills, attitudes, knowledge, and socio-cultural system.
This is the decoding. The factor comprising of knowledge, attitudes and socio-cultural system form the halo affect at both the ends. Unless there is compatibility at both the ends for this factor, no communication can take place.
The feedback loop represents the check on how the message has been received. It puts the message back into the system, as a check against any possible misunderstanding, which if found has to be corrected to make the communication meaningful and purposeful.
The Need Factor and Purposeful Communication:
We tend to be motivated to do meaningful communication when it is purposeful for a specific need. This need factor is very important in purposeful communication. The communicator has to identify this need factor. This need for communication has to be present at both the ends, the sender and the receiver ends.
Without it the communication tend to be a purposeless activity beneficial neither to the sender nor the receiver and if this need factor is missing at any end the communication will not take place and even if one does it then it will not bring any results.
For any purposeful communication, it is essential that both the sender and the receiver have some common background based on mutual needs. This common link acts as a catalyst for the propagation of meaningful communication.
We can understand the concept of common background from this simple example. Let us represent the backgrounds of the communicator and the receiver by two circles, which are totally independent of each other.
These circles are made up of various background factors like:
iii. Educational level,
iv. Religious overtones,
v. Geographical unity,
vi. Organizational unity,
viii. Needs, and
ix. Adversaries etc.
If there are no common background factors then both the circles will stand alone and there will be no communication and also no feedback loops can be created (Fig. 2). In case there are some common factors than the circles will overlap to some extent on each other and some communication will flow and a faint feedback loop will also be created indicating that some form of communication has taken place (Fig. 3).
In the Fig. 4 there is perfect background and the communication process runs its cycle and creates a feed back channel. The extent of overlapping would depend upon extent of the common background.
In case they overlap on each other completely that would show the stage of 100% communication but it is seldom possible unless the sender and the receiver are the same in which case we cannot call it as communication, rather it would be termed as recitation or anything else like monologue.
Language no doubt is the most important of all the said common factors, unless communicator and the receiver have common language there cannot be any good communication. Communication has two basic segments, the verbal and the written.
The verbal segment is the oldest so old that even when the languages were not evolved communication still took place in the form of signs and gestures. These gave way to words and associated meanings. Meaningful collection of these words formed the basis of language.
Thus language is but a working system of communication within the confines of a community, a society and in broader terms the culture and it would be unthinkable to define a culture without its linkages to specific language(s). Different countries have different cultures and sub-cultures.
The environment, history, climate, politics and religion influence the people. All these factors have deep impact on the values, customs and traditions. People tend to have different attitudes and social values. Some are very open and some very reserved. Some may be found of exaggeration and some understatement.
Some may be very polite and may not be so polite. The variations between cultures are endless. These cultural differences create barriers to smooth communication. The most important point is to try to comprehend the differences between our own culture and other cultures and try best to make adjustments. If we were able to make the adjustments then only we would be able to do proper communication.
To communicate at inter-cultural level one has to find a common language and to be familiar with the connotations and meanings that an expression could mean as it travels through the cultural borders.
The most important thing to remember is that the language is the carrier of your thoughts ideas concepts and unless others can exactly understand them, they tend to lose their purpose and may create results contrary to expectations.
Communication has a purpose and so long we keep this in our mind the communication will be oriented towards that purpose. The communicator tries to either get the information or to give the information and in both the cases if he keeps the purpose for doing so well in his sight, he will be able to communicate.
The language factor is not so important when one is dealing within a specified geographical area like a cultural group a state or in broader terms an area where only one language is spoken but at national and international level where different cultural streams mingle give rise to multifaceted of languages.
Take the case of former Soviet Russia or India. These countries are known to have variety of languages and for a trader to communicate at national level will be a nightmare. Suppose a trader living in Kashmir wants to communicate with a buyer living in Kerala.
Both understand totally different languages and just cannot communicate if they stick to their own language. This would mean death to the business and the trader cannot afford such a situation. So either he learns the language of the customer in Kerala or get his letter translated in his language or vice versa.
This is possible but would it be practical? For few selected situations it might work but as a routine it just cannot. So the only solution could be that either of them learn the language of the other or find a language which both can understand.
In major parts of the world, fortunately, we have one common language English that is more or less universally accepted in major trading blocks. Still there are cases when it becomes a big hindrance. Take the case of the Chinese and Japanese countries especially in the technical area both the countries have their own languages for technical teaching.
So whenever the situation arises for the technical and commercial negotiation, communication poses problems. In such situations either a translator is arranged or the negotiating parties have their own officials who can understand both the languages still the problem cannot be written off.
Communication with the Chinese traders has often proved futile.
They do communicate in English at international level but whenever the opportunity arises to communicate with specially the factory level workers, e.g., in the foundry industry many American buyers have faced frustrating experience to communicate with and in very extreme cases even to the extent of shutting off the business deal had been resorted to as a safe bet.
The market attractions sometimes force the exporters and/or importers to train their personnel in the language and culture of the others and this type of action prove their worth on a long term plan. Most of the global trading organizations follow this strategy.
Effective communication is very important for all the people in all walks of life. It is as important for the family as is for an organization. In global marketing operations communication is one of the most essential and effective tool. There are many barriers to effective communication. In fact many people do not even realize these barriers.
In effective communication the first thing is to be able to express one’s viewpoints in very clear and precise way. The second part is that the receiver of this message, written or verbal understands it in the same way as it was intended to be. Communication is considered effective if it induces reaction or some sort of feedback.
In oral communication it is very easy to know the reaction or the feedback since mutual communication is possible. But in this form it is important that the communicator is precise and clear in his thoughts and expression and the listener is responding to the required level of responsiveness.
This form of communication is not so easy, it requires special skills besides the natural ability for carrying the conversation purposefully, objectively and inquisitively with friendly postures tone and considerate nature.
Whether the mode of communication is face to face or by means of electronics media as long as the conversation is direct, all these qualities are imperative for a successful communication.
In this form of communication the communicator is directly exposed to the target or the listener and it would be difficult to roll back a statement or comment. This is in contrast to the written communication. Our assumptions and perceptions play a vital role for effective communication.
Assumptions and Perceptions:
Every individual is surrounded by his intellect, ideas, thought process, experiences, and most important of all by how he views the world around him through his assumptions and perceptions. That is why what we say and what we want to say might not be the same.
On the other hand, what the other person understands and what he ought to understand might also not be the same. This distortion is caused by a phenomenon called the Halo-Effect. The different backgrounds and ways of understanding is the main reason for this effect.
What we say is influenced by our background and thought process and what the other person understands is also influenced by his background and thought process.
Our perception of others is much influenced by our assumptions of others. The same is true of others about us. A communicator has to learn to be objective in his perceptions and assumptions. Perceptions are the impressions of the others that we draw through our sense organs.
The eye and the ear play significant role as to what we perceive like a conductor can easily perceive the slightest change in the pitch of a musical organ, a driver can perceive the incoming vehicle by its sound, by its appearance even if he has not yet seen it clearly.
Assumptions on the other hand refer to any assertion to any reality that is not proved or is debatable. Assumptions do not have any solid ground. They are what we think about the others without any explainable reasoning. They are just some sort of a statement, a hypothetical isolation devoid of any scientific explanation.
So a communicator must be able to understand clearly about his assumptions and perceptions in order to communicate positively. He has to understand himself and the others with whom he intends to communicate.
Elements of Communication:
It is easy to say so but difficult to follow. Whenever two or more people meet or intend to communicate in one form or the other the perfection in the action will be a far cry because both the sides, the communicator and the listener have their own halo of intelligence like two fingerprints, they rarely match.
The more they come closer the better would be the communication between them. In order to communicate effectively, we have to communicate properly, proficiently and profusely.
We have to understand the mechanics of communication, we must know how it works, what are its basic requirements or in nut shell what are the basic elements of PPP communication, once our understanding of the basics is clear then our comprehension of the operations will also become clear.
We will realize the importance of the basic elements of communication; they are the building blocks of the edifice of communication.
Let us break down the communication system into smaller segments small enough so that though they can stand-alone but do not mean communication.
These elements when fused together provide the platform for proper communication:
A. The Communicator Side:
i. The background of the communicator,
ii. The purpose of communication,
iii. The feedback anticipated,
iv. The material to be communicated,
v. The format,
vi. The message formation, and
vii. The carrier of the message.
B. The Listener Side
i. The background of the listener,
ii. Need to receive this communication,
iii. Need to respond,
iv. Need for the material to be received,
v. Need for the material to be received in any specific formation,
vi. Need for the message to be received through any specific carrier, and
vii. Unspecified need.
Once we understand the above basic elements at both the ends of the communication spectrum, than the chances of better and effective communication are very high.
The Communication and Mis-Communication:
These are two inversely proportionate activities. When one increases the other decreases. We know about miscommunication because we know about perfect communication, like the light and darkness.
We know about the light only because we know about darkness. Whenever people communicate some degree of miss communication is bound to creep up and the degree of 100% communication will depend upon how much is the degree of mis-communication.
When mis-communication increases then not only the work is not done properly but its side effects also start showing up and loss of business is the major side effect besides it increases the volume of communication required to make the point clear, it increases total volume of communication which means more time and money to do a good job out of mis-communication.
As a matter of fact in other fields there is always a second chance to clarify one’s point of view but in international business circles it simply means loss of contact or business or even financial losses.
When we communicate it is not enough that only we understand ourselves but it is more important that the same text is understood in the exact way by the listener and gives a response as anticipated by the communicator.
That is why we must understand that communication sent is not always communication received. This is only the half of the process the other half is that the receiver has received the communication in the same way in which it was sent without any distortion and ambiguity.
Once the communication has been sent the next step is to get confirmation that it has been received and also check up if the receiver needs any further clarification and lastly around when he would be responding.
In normal communication the communicator would rest and await the feedback but if he understands that the receiver is not duty bound to respond, and that, to respond in any fixed time frame, the communicator has to make it a point to follow up the communication and induce the receiver for response. Otherwise the purpose of communication would be defeated.
Two Way Process:
Communication is a two way process, it is like an electric circuit apparently the current flows only if the circuit is complete. Similarly the communication is also a circuit. What the communicator says must have its feedback and in fact the feedback tells the communicator whether what he is saying is being received in the desired manner or not and this information he gathers from the feedback from the receiver side.
If he gets a proper feedback that would mean the communication is on the right track, and if he gets communication not up to the required standard that would mean there is something lacking in the communication, and lastly if there is no feedback at all that would mean the receiver is not motivated by the communication to make a feedback.
In all the above cases the fault would be at the sender side and not at the receiver side. The sender has to modify the message to suit the requirements of the situation because the situation has its well- defined parameters and is not subject of any modification.
Sometimes it might be possible that the receiver is just not available at the right moment or the communication has reached wrong hands and like this there might be many such instances when even the effective communication does not extract the desired response.
The only thing for the sender is that the communication that he transmits in any form has to be the right one and he must be satisfied for its effectiveness and his own judgment is the best yard stick and if still it is not producing the right response then the selection of the target may be wrong.
Oral and Written Communications:
In oral or verbal communication it is very easy to know the reaction or the feedback since mutual communication is possible but in this form it is very important that the communicator is precise and clear in his thoughts and expressions and the listener is responding to the required level of responsiveness.
This form of communication is not so easy. It requires special skills besides the natural ability for carrying the conversation purposefully and objectively with friendly posture and considerate posture and tone.
Whether the mode of communication is face to face or by means of electronics media as long as the conversation is direct all these qualities are imperative for a successful conversation because in this form of communication the speaker is directly exposed to the target or the listener and it would be difficult to roll back a statement or comments in the oral communication.
The oral communication is in contrast to written form of communication in which the communicator can review his statement before releasing it to the media or the target audience.
The written form of communication gives more flexibility to the communicator. It is like the dressing, the communicator gives to his communication. Its historical background is still not very clear as to when exactly it took roots in the society. The language evolved from the verbal phase, the oldest written proof this dates back to 4000 to 5000 years.
The earlier writings are the pictorial representations only. Gradually the language form started emerging and these gave form and substance to the thoughts and brought a revolution in the human values and inter relationships not only at individual level but also at community and social group levels as well.
These languages gave solid form to the religion and culture and so the humanity was classified in to different religious groups each had its own way of life and thought perceptions but still maintaining the life support activities the same.
Thus whether it is India or England, China or America, the basic life activities remained the same and that formed the common linkage amongst the people of the different nationalities and varying cultural colors. The basic needs were still there and the same.
The food shelter clothing are fulfilled through the communication channels. The written form of communication cemented the cultural fabric and gradually brought the different nationalities closer and accessible to each other. The continental distance shrunk, the Nations became the next-door neighbours and the common needs and purpose united and formed regional groups.
These groups mutually satisfied each other’s needs and stood together against the other outsider. This transformation was the result of explosion in the written form of communication.
Now more material in written form is available to multitude of people and like a chain reaction more became available and more was added. Communication no longer was the sellers’ market it was buyers’ market, the more it expanded the more was required of it.
One has to be very proficient in written and verbal communication if he is working at international level. The written form is more important for international level operations. In general the written form is the starter of the business communication.
What you write and what it conveys is very important. Your communication reflects your personality, character, integrity, confidence, values, believes, desires and your attitudes. The piece of paper that you write puts a stamp of class and identification. The other party receiving the communication will judge you. So make this piece of paper as perfect as you can.
In the written form of communication you have the time to think and re-write till you are satisfied.
But in the verbal form of communication no such facility is available. It is spontaneous. Once said cannot be rolled back, it only bounced back by the recipient. One wrong word will require hundreds of words for making it right.
So in verbal form of communication you have to be on your guard as to what to say, when to say, and how much to say. The only rule that can be applied to verbal form is that you should be clear in thoughts and conceptions. The golden rule is “be clear, candid and concise.”
Cross-cultural and inter-cultural communication takes place across cultures. The global traders normally undertake such communication. There is another term called the international communication. This means communication that takes place across political or national borders.
An international marketing organization can be doing all the three types of communication if it has employees of different nationalities and cultures working at one place and has offices in different countries. The inter office communication in such environment would be cross cultural and international communication type.
The scope of cross- cultural communication is extremely wide. It is multidisciplinary field of study with roots in anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognition and linguistics. It is known fact about the cultural differences between the west and east.
Though the differences are numerous but for a global trader it is sufficient to know about three main contrasts:
2. Relationship with nature.
3. The concept of truth.
The western culture is inclined to think in a linear fashion. A cause leads to an effect. But in eastern culture a cause can be an effect as well as that which leads to effect. The past, present and the future are interconnected and therefore they can affect one another.
The western culture tends to be oriented towards mastery over nature while the eastern culture seeks harmony with nature. Regarding the concept of truth the western culture views it as ultimate truth or reality based on scientific and empirical explanation. On the other hand the eastern culture is based more on the revealed truth.
Students of international marketing are advised to have some working knowledge of the different cultures and the special personality traits of the related people. This will be helpful to them during the communication and understanding phases of business.
Another area of concern in cross cultural communication is how temporal conception contributes to cultural differences. Hall in 1983 distinguished patterns that govern the individualistic and collectivistic cultures or monochronic and Polychronic.
According to Hall Polychronic stresses, the involvement of people and completion of transaction rather than adherence to preset schedules. Appointments are not taken seriously and as consequence are frequently broken down.
It is treated as less tangible than Monochronic. For Hall, Latin American, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, French and the Greek cultures are representative of Polychronic patterns, while North American and German cultures are representatives of Monochroomic patterns.
Monochronic patterns appears to predominate in individualistic, low-context cultures while Polychronic patterns appears to predominate in group based, high context cultures. People with monochronic cultures tend to be direct when communicating good news or natural news. People come to the point very quickly.
They tend to value quick responses in discussions with little introductory phrasing or politeness. By contrast oral and written communication in polychronic cultures can be more indirect or circular. A business talk can go off at tangents as business people view all information as having its proper place and functioning the whole context of communication.
Conflicts may arise when a business person from a monochronic culture interacts with another from polychronic culture as the later may consider the direct approach preferred by the other party as being rude.
An understanding of the cultural differences will not only assist global traders to bridge the communication gap between cultures but also helps them to communicate in a better way.
Students of global trading are advised to have some working knowledge of the different cultures and the special personality traits of the related people. This will be helpful to him during the communication and understanding phase of his business.
Be a Good Listener:
The communication is a two way process one way for the sender and the other for the receiver. The return loop is as important as the delivery loop. The importance of the sender and the receiver is equal. They have to be properly balanced for the smooth communication.
A trader is a good communicator and a good listener as well. A good trader is one who takes more than he gives; it is true in communication as well. A trader would try to extract more information from you than what he would be giving to you. This he achieves through training himself as good listener.
How one becomes a good listener? It is said that good listeners are trained and not born. Through proper conditioning of mind and following simple common sense one can become a good listener and improve his stature as a successful trader.
There are no golden rules but following points can assist you to become a good listener:
1. The simplest method to test and improve your listening power is to ask a friend to speak any three numbers, than try to repeat them. May be you can do so but gradually go on increasing the digits and see up to what level you can do it correctly.
Keep on adding one digit as you practice. You will find that in just one week your listening and retention power has increased and as you further practice the perfection comes automatically.
2. The next step is to do the same exercise but in this session you repeat the digits in the reverse order.
3. From digits switch over to text portion and as your friend reads you can listen and then to repeat or write whatever you have listened. Try to come as close to the actual text as possible.
4. Try to improve concentration skills.
5. Try to listen to longer and longer speeches and try to keep your concentration at full alert.
6. When in conversation try best to induce others to do the maximum talking. The more he talks the more he would be opening up and more he would be giving.
7. Never question the integrity of the information that the other person is giving during the conversation. It is totally up to you to accept it or reject it. The moment you interrupt his flow of speech the other person goes to his defensive mode and puts brakes that would in many cases mean the end of the session.
8. During the conversation if you find the other person is trying to go in circles, give him another lead and steer him back to original track.
9. Keep your mind fully tuned to the essentials.
10. Keep record of the critical points or information that the other person is divulging. Never depend on your memory. Any delay in noting would result in loss or distortion of the information.
11. Keep your mind and eyes open and show attentive posture.
12. Resist distractions: mental and physical.
13. Never commit yourself to a judgment. Remember your judgment might be offensive or it might put an end to the communication, or the other party might go on the defensive posture and kill the conversation.
14. Always try to give importance to the other person and let him feel that you are in fact interested in what he is saying or describing.
15. Try to look easy and defenseless.
16. Try to convey your interest to whatever the other person is saying and that you are in fact enjoying his deliberations.
17. Try not to show your superiority rather identify yourself with the speaker.
A good speaker at the most can speak about 150 words per minute but a good listener can absorb at least three times that speed. So in any situation the listener has the advantage of being ahead of the speaker.
This time advantage the listener can utilize to digest what is spoken and plan what is the other person is going to say or make a note of what has been said. Lastly discriminate the useful information from the padded wordings or the sugar coatings the speaker might put on to the main wordings.
Accurate Listening and Effective Listening:
Accurate listening and effective listening is pole apart. A stenographer requires accurate listening but the trader requires effective listening. When you are listening as a trader you are not trying to find faults or traps but you are trying to extract information.
You are not sitting for judgment at that moment of time and even if you have to pass a judgment defers it as much as possible till the time you are dead sure the speaker has finished and he himself is looking for the verdict.
Even at that stage weigh your words and make sure what you say has a room to roll back, and whenever you say no say it in no uncertain terms but with positive overtones. This way you always leave behind a bridge to go back and come again rather than to burn the bridge and leave no chance to roll back. These bridges are for your defence that is a natural instinct.
We always build our defences under any given situation and even when we are listening to others our defence mechanism automatically sets in. IT is up to us to prolong its setting in as much as possible in order to allow the other party to put forward their point of view.
As we lower our defences we become more sensitive to what others are saying and the other party also reciprocate in the same fashion by not putting up their defences and the communication proceeds to culmination and climax in a happy note.