Culture is considered in this method as a set of patterns of thought, categorization, behavior and communication, which are both learned (during the individual’s growth) and inherited (the result of the genetic behavioral code). These patterns influence world perception, communication and behavior. Furthermore, following the theoretical perspective of Watzlawick and others, communication is considered as a process that occurs both intentionally and involuntarily, at any moment the behavior occurs in the presence of others.
From a semiotic perspective, the fundamental unit of analysis and the first component of communication perceived during interaction is the sign, the largest inclusive category of entities of meaning. Signs are what we emit, and they constitute the external communicative behavior perceived by a receiver or observer. Therefore, verbal behaviors, non-verbal behaviors (imagine for example the body posture we assume in front of an interlocutor, and its unspoken meanings), written communication, symbols, images we use to communicate are signs. The signs (used to communicate) and the meaning of the communication are linked by a communication code, which in turn is made up of subcodes.
A communication code is therefore intended as a system of rules used to connect expressions (any sign used to communicate, both verbal and non-verbal) to the underlying meanings. Awareness of the multiple codes of communication is essential for communication quality. Every conscious communicator / negotiator knows that his or her body emits signals all the time, and that these signals can be inconsistent or congruent with verbal signals (words or phrases spoken). We can say – in words – to be serene, but transmit with the body the feeling of being tense and nervous, and our interlocutors will notice it .. We can verbally express pleasure and unconsciously transmit repulsion.
The problem of communication codes is above all a problem of communication style, which requires the choice of the type of language to be used. What style, what language do we use to express the message? Let’s use a metaphor on the styles of sexual communication: … we currently know four different languages in sexuality, each of which gives a completely different imprint to the same situation.
For example, if she wants to be penetrated, a woman may ask:
“Insert the penis into the vagina” (technical language);
“I would like to feel you inside me, to see the stars” (romantic language);
“Fuck me and make me enjoy” (pornographic language);
“With the jade staff open my lotus flower” (poetic language).
Every negotiator, every communicator, consciously or not, uses a linguistic style. Style can be seen in every phase of speech and conversation, in every written communication and even in physical media (materials, objects).
A negotiator can open the conversation with a business interlocutor by stating:
«We are here to evaluate how it is possible to build a project together» (cooperative language);
“It is necessary to evaluate the feasibility and the possible break-even point of one of our joint ventures” (English-speaking managerial language);
“Ok, we’re here, now let’s cut it short, tell me your conditions and hurry up, I don’t have time to waste” (aggressive language);
“Let’s try to explore our common horizons and see if a dawn can rise between us, I hope not a sunset” (poetic-ironic language).
Awareness of the codes and styles used is essential, since codes and styles can be antithetical or similar, functional or dysfunctional with respect to the objectives.
Differences Between Sender and Recipient of Messages
The T2V method developed by the author addresses the problem of the “distances” that separate communicators – psychological and communicative distances, certainly not physical – and how these can or cannot be overcome. Feeling the “distance” between people is a common, daily fact. Feeling distant even when you are physically close, looking for a contact and not finding it, not understanding the approaching moves of others, the desires of a deeper relationship, or the signals that others send us.
It is a common aspect of life. We can, however, and this is the interesting game – try to reduce these distances, if and when we desire it inwardly – in the case of friendships and intimate relationships. In these cases, or when it is important in terms of business, it is possible to put in place devices that allow us to seek the approach, reduce the distance and remove misunderstanding. Among the main errors of communication is that of deluding oneself that people are all in all similar in terms of opinions, languages, attitudes, basic values, world views.
This presumption leads us to consider the transmission of an idea or concept that we consider obvious and simple, an almost “automatic” fact, while in reality this is not the case. A further illusion is that intercultural communication requires little effort or commitment. Some think of resolving relationships with wives, husbands, children, colleagues by talking on a cell phone for a few minutes. Even if it were hours, the communicative quality will still remain unsuitable for the problem. True intercultural negotiation requires time, commitment, dedication, interpersonal contacts and extensive “relationship work” that doesn’t end with an email or a phone call.
If we want to be effective on an intercultural level, we must use the right time and the right means of contact. Personal critical incidents analysis tutorial Critical incidents (critical cases, positive or negative) are extremely helpful in discovering some relationship mechanisms that do not work, or behaviors and attitudes that create difficulties in relationships and negotiations.
Analyzing some critical personal relationship incidents (critical, positive or negative events), in which we can assess that not enough time has been spent working on the relationship, clarifying differences, or the most effective means of contact have not been used from us or from others. Highlight:
people involved (who);
reasons for the criticality (why);
possible alternative lines of action to be taken in similar cases.
Differences between sender and recipient of messages
One of the main areas of intercultural communication is the study of the differences between the sender and receiver of the message. How are “I” and “you” different? In relations between companies, where are the differences between “us” and “you”? In our method we will use two primary variables that constitute differences between communicators – two main cultural differences, (1) the communication code and (2) the world-view. The union of the two variables will allow us to develop a matrix of communication situations or states (COMSITS).
From the analysis of the matrix, we will propose some considerations on the limits of communication. In particular, the implications concern:
(1) the technical aspect of the communicative quality, that is, the exactness or accuracy of the exchange of information between people of different cultures (understanding), and
(2) the result of the communication in terms of agreement on the contents and visions expressed between the communicators. The two-dimensional model will be further developed in a forthcoming publication through the introduction of the four-variable model (T4V).
In the previous paragraph, we began to mention the problem of the different conception of the world produced by cultural diversity. But the problems don’t stop there. In fact, in intercultural communication we find a further barrier, generally much more evident: a different language, a different language, an uncommon communication code, unknown sub-codes (dialects, professional languages).
It is enough to hear two astronomers or two physicists talking to each other, while dealing with their work problem, to feel completely alien after a few seconds, unable to mentally connect with what they are saying. Also in this case we must consider an important phenomenon: linguistic diversity can be evident (macrodiversity: eg, Chinese vs. Arabic), but also very subtle and difficult to recognize, creating situations of linguistic micro-diversity.
There are different professional languages within the same language, and different meanings applied to the same words. The problem of communication is not limited to the translation between different languages, but also touches the flow of words that exist between father and son, who grew up in two different generations, with different models and languages, or between managers of different sectors, whose problems and languages become separate worlds. Translating means carrying meanings into other languages, but also, and above all, allowing access to a different system of thought.
Let’s see the following case:
• for US Americans, “tomorrow” (in Italian) means from midnight to midnight;
• in Mexico, “mañana” (always “tomorrow” in Italian) means “in the future”, it has a general postponement sense, and absolutely does not include a precise time frame.
The two different conceptions are not purely linguistic, but refer to a different perception of time. A seemingly trivial act, such as writing a date, can cause misunderstandings and problems, e.g .: 05.02.2010 means February 5, 2010 in many European countries that adopt the day / month / year date format, but it means April 5, 2010 in the USA and in other systems that conventionally adopt the month / day / year format. When two generations or two religions dialogue with each other, the problem of cultural interpretation arises seriously. This problem also arises in the dialogue between two companies, regardless of the language used.
One of the most naïve mistakes of those who face the intercultural dimension is the presumption that it is possible to translate the meanings exactly, transposing verbs and words “as they are” and simply bringing them into the language of others. Translation is actually a much more complex phenomenon. Each word, each verb, has specific “semantic fields” (fields of meaning) that cannot be translated exactly into the language of others. In some cases, there are no translation possibilities – in many cases, words and verbs have no exact correspondence in each other’s cultures and languages. Let’s see an example. An Italian company is preparing to start a production activity in China. He is looking for on-site consultancy to train managers on the issues of quality-oriented leadership, commitment to corporate values (commitment), good internal communication.
It is therefore looking for trainers in communication. But how will you describe your need when the category of “trainers in communication” is not linguistically consolidated in the Chinese language? And are we sure that – if there is a similar term – the mental image that in Italy corresponds to the “trainer” is the same in the mind of the Chinese recipient? Thinking that the mental images between two subjects can match perfectly is a pure illusion. There are also intercultural problems when it comes to communication between the sexes.
If we only reflect on how much diversity exists between a Latin man and a woman on the concept of “having a relationship”, or “making love”, and other similar concepts, we can understand that the intercultural dimension is present in every moment of the day. But let’s go back to our Italian-Chinese dimension. What form of communication are we talking about? In Chinese there are at least two terms (ideograms) to describe “communication”, and at least three words that can vaguely approach the meaning of the term “trainer”. Are we sure we can translate correctly or that the translator does it? Let’s see some of these meanings in the following comparative table.
understand each other well between the parties
make yourself understood and spread your ideas
xun lian yuan
who helps to do exercises
a growth guide that takes care of both aspects of skill and motivation
spiritual guide – who lights the way – who assists you in your growth (ex: study mentor, religious guide, teacher)
Even very similar languages (Italian and Spanish) can give rise to translation problems, sometimes due to the similarity of the sound or the word. The word “embarrassed” in Italian has a meaning (roughly, to be uncomfortable), while in Spanish the word “embarazada” means to be pregnant. The same similarity in the root of the word generates problems in the American speaker who relates to a Spanish speaker by saying “I am embarrassed” (I am embarrassed), which can be decoded as “I am pregnant”.
The intercultural problem does not start only from the kilometer distance, but can occur within a few meters. Each dialect is full of words that cannot be translated into the official language. For example, the Ferrara dialect – like any dialect – uses terms that cannot be translated literally into the Italian language:
Tab. 2 – Some correspondences and problems of exact untranslatability from dialect (Ferrara) to Italian
Translations into English possible
Problems of semantics
Someone who “locks the plates”, who makes plates bang The cioccapiatt highlights the person who makes a lot of noise but does not produce concreteness, someone who talks a lot but does not, but also someone who claims to have done or to do, but then will not.
Chiacchierone does not contain the semantic dimension of stealth, of boasting, which “cioccapiatt” instead possesses Millantatore is very negatively connoted in Italian, but the “cioccapiatt” in Ferrara is only vaguely offensive, it is often a joking term.
Someone who “makes puffs”. Puffs are scams, escapes, broken promises
The puffarol makes scams, yes, but not graphs, it can do at most little damage
Shady person, someone who has “shady turns”
The Trabascan is much more negative than the Puffarol, it can also be criminal, while the Puffarol generally does not do serious damage, but is limited to “throwing bins”
Exercises on untranslatability Exercise: search for words within their own dialects (if known), which may be difficult to translate into the Italian language. Evaluate the problems and difficulties of a precise translation, using the example of the table above. Exercise: search for words within your own language that may be difficult to translate into another known language. Evaluate the problems and difficulties of a precise linguistic translation, and the alternatives to effectively transfer the meaning. Exercise: researching technical terms within your profession, selecting above all the terms that should be explained to new customers, and the terms that we cannot take for granted or simplistically translate into a different language. Above all, select the terms that require the client’s “acculturation”.
One of the first discoveries of those who venture outside their own cultural contexts is that the behavioral rules that work in their own culture prove to be fragile and not very productive when transposed into a foreign context. Let’s see some short examples: In your home: for a while you have wanted to discuss a topic with a family member, but every time you try it, the person escapes.
What is happening?
In your country: a customer would like to buy (a project, a product) but you know that the purchase is underpowered, the problem he would like to solve is big and the budget is not enough to give him a real result, how do you manage to make it understood?
Beijing. 9.30 am, Sheraton Hotel. The client company’s delegation has not yet arrived, the appointment was at 9.15 am. Can we interpret it as a tactical move, or a real delay? Did they want to delay, or did something happen?
Moscow. We offer the counterpart the exclusivity of our product on Soviet territory, the additional benefit of training the staff of their entire sales network, but the counterpart is offended and closes the negotiations. What happened?
Buenos Aires. The negotiations to access the contracts of the ministry of industry are endless, incomprehensible, obscure. How to behave?
Jerusalem. Representatives of the Jewish, Catholic and Muslim cults, ministers and political representatives meet to negotiate a possible peace, you are called to lead the debate, how to avoid a conflict?
Budapest. The plant management fails to break down production defects, any attempt to intervene in depth is in vain. What to do? In each example situation exposed, we are faced with the problem of intercultural negotiation. The intercultural negotiation capacity is in the hands of those who are most skilled in managing communication in the field, applying cultural awareness (power of awareness) in every single contact.
But let’s see some other situations.
Bologna, beginning of the third millennium: a nine-year-old boy no longer wants to go to the football school he has been attending for two years, he prefers to play with his friends on the pitch, and he doesn’t want to hear more about football and league school. Why?
Munich: a 30-year-old husband, freelance, argues with his wife (same age) because he wants to have children only when they have a solid economic base, while his wife wants to have them soon. What’s up?
Your home: you wake up in the morning and you know you had a dream that hit you but you can’t remember the details. What happened?
In your office or company: with a colleague you have not been able to understand each other for a long time, you seem to speak two different languages, the more you try and the more you do not understand each other, you begin to be really tired of the situation. What is actually happening? In all these cases the intercultural dimension enters – at various stages.
A common denominator unites all these cases: language barriers are nothing compared to the different vision of the world that people bring with them, and to the differences that exist between themselves and others, despite appearances. We do not want to reveal or propose easy or immediate solutions for all these different cases (at most, we can propose hypotheses), but we want to give only a clue on the case that is certainly more strange and difficult to frame as intercultural communication: the memory of a dream.
Well, as various researches in the field show, even the dialogue within the same person (interior dialogue) takes on features of intercultural dialogue. When different states of consciousness have difficulty in communicating with each other, eg: the rational state of wakefulness versus the unconscious and subconscious state of sleep, internal incommunicability occurs.
These states are dominated by extremely different logics, and they manage to find moments of commonality only on rare occasions (such as in border states, of semi-sleep, the moments in which neither of them manages to dominate the other). Even on an inner level, therefore, we find symptoms of a condition of intercultural dialogue. Comparison exercise and search for alternative explanations. Attempt, in small groups, to give answers to the questions posed by the cases highlighted above.
Try to highlight
alternative hypotheses or alternative explanations;
the different hypotheses on the ground;
think about the probabilities that our explanations are really the causes of the investigated phenomena;
search for one’s own evaluative rigidity, the hypotheses that start from stereotypes or unverified beliefs.
Negative Non-Verbal Signals from the Interlocutor (Tension, Disinterest)
Non-verbal communication can reinforce the verbal message or be dissonant with it. Listening carefully and nodding can signal interest much more than just a verbal statement. Saying “I am interested” with words and expressing boredom or disgust with body actions produces a dissonant signal and creates suspicion or irritation. The coherence (matching) between words and actions:
increases the perceived honesty of the subject;
shows that we are in control of the situation;
produces a sense of security and solidity of the contents. On the contrary, the incongruity:
creates a sense of distrust;
generates feelings of lack of authenticity;
produces doubts and suspicions of falsehood on the verbal contents heard.
Each linguistic style (on an interpersonal level) is associated with a precise modulation of the non-verbal style. We can in fact have:
situations of communicative reinforcement (the non-verbal style reinforces the verbal style);
situations of dissonance or inconsistency between verbal and non-verbal: non-verbal communication proceeds on a different register than verbal communication).
The dissonances concern every semiotic system, every sign carrying possible meanings. A company that declares itself important and does not have a website, or has an amateur site, expresses an image dissonance, just as a negotiator forgets to bring essential tools with him (catalogs, calculators, and any other necessary and expected tool ).
Non-verbal signals may indicate that the interlocutor is following the dialogue with a positive or negative attitude. Negative reactions in general are denoted by:
angulations of the body: shoulders retracted, distancing;
face: tense, shows anger;
voice: negative tone, sudden silences;
hands: movements of refusal or disapproval, tense movements;
arms: straight, crossed on the chest;
legs: crossed or moving away at an angle.
Exercises of consonance and dissonance between verbal styles and non-verbal communication styles. Initiate a dialogue on a random theme (e.g. where it is more pleasant to take holidays) and express – only through body postures – the following meanings:
I can’t stand you, you give me physical annoyance;
you are nice; my head is elsewhere, I find it hard to follow you, I am distracted;
I have doubts about your honesty. Second phase of the exercise. Let’s now modulate the styles, introducing some variations:
verbal expression: saying “I can’t stand you, you give me physical annoyance”, with non-verbal reinforcement (eg: grinding your teeth, clenching your fists);
verbal expression: “I can’t stand you, you give me physical annoyance”, with non-verbal dissonance (eg: smiling amiably). Following the scheme shown:
Verbal expression: “you are nice”, with non-verbal reinforcement;
verbal expression: “you are nice”, with dissonance in the non-verbal;
verbal expression “I have my head elsewhere, I find it difficult to follow you, I am distracted”, with non-verbal reinforcement;
verbal expression “I have my head elsewhere, I find it hard to follow you, I am distracted”, with non-verbal dissonance;
verbal expression “I have doubts about your honesty”, with non-verbal reinforcement;
verbal expression “I have doubts about your honesty”, with dissonance in the non-verbal.
And Use of Pre-Tests to Evaluate the Impact and Satisfaction
A further element of symbolic communication is given by the use of colors. The use of colors and the symbolisms associated with colors also vary according to cultures. Let’s see some cases: while in most Western and Arab countries the color white is synonymous with purity, in Japan and other Asian countries white is the color of death and mourning.
Yellow is associated in Western countries with signs of attention, while in China it represents wealth and authority. Purple represents in Latin America a funeral color (death) while in Europe it is associated with royalty, with the precious velvets of the courts. It is not possible in this volume to deal with a scale of associations for each color in each nation, but we underline the need to pay attention to the symbolisms associated with colors, whenever problems arise in the choice of colors and graphics, for example in packaging, gifts. of representation, in objects.
Blue is among the “safest” colors on a cultural level, but practically all colors take on some particular meanings in some countries, such as red, the color of the celebration in China, used in events such as parties, weddings or funerals, orange which in Ireland is the symbol of the Protestant religion, or the color Saffron (light orange tending to peach), sacred color of the Hindu religion.
Even the objects and symbols are not neutral. An Italian company used hand symbols (e.g. an open hand) to create company logos and key rings, producing a wave of protests from Greece (where the open hand symbol is used to offend), while still in other countries of the ‘Latin America retailers refused to display packages containing “ok” symbols in stores because they were considered offensive.
The basic principle to avoid macroscopic errors is the use of the pre-test, the “pilot test” on some subjects, small samples, representative people of the local culture who are able to give feedback on the appropriateness of colors, shapes and symbolisms , of messages, seen from within the culture itself. The pre-test method also applies to the choice of gifts, presents, and any other symbolic action whose impact may vary on a cultural basis.
Can we assert that a manager with long hair, earrings and colorful clothes is considered the same as a manager in a dark suit and tie, in the eyes of a European bourgeois traditionalist client? And again, having a picture of Che Guevara on the wall, or a photograph of the Pope, what does it convey to those present? We can know practically nothing about the real history of the subjects, except the symbols we see and from which we derive possible meanings and associations.
Symbolic communication concerns the meanings that people associate or perceive from particular “signs” that they notice in the interlocutor and in his or her communicative space. By communicative space we mean here any area of elements that is attributed to the subject’s “system”, to its possible expressions, whether aware or not, such as his car, or the background of his PC, and any other sign from which we derive inferences, meanings, interpretations.
From the semiotic point of view, every element from which a subject draws meanings becomes a “sign”, whether the bearer is aware of it or not. Look, clothing and accessories are among the most incisive factors in building a personal image. Differences or similarities in clothing make a subject fall within the professional ingroups (“one like us”, the “equals”) or outgroups (“one different from us”), whatever represents “we” for the subject .
Among the primary elements of symbolic communication we find clothing, hair and hairstyle, jewelry, watches, professional tools (telephones, laptops and other computer tools), but also the marks on the body (cuts, abrasions, tattoos) , the condition of the skin (care, presence of beard and its condition, make-up, body and face hair, skin color, tan, sweat). In a system of enlarged signification, the symbols that express the brands used, the type of car (work, city, off-road, sports, luxury), the designer labels, and even the furniture of the offices, the paintings hanging on the walls, furniture.
Chronemic behaviors (the following of actions over time) are also broadened signals, such as the frequency we notice in changing clothes, punctuality, tranquility or nervousness in the way of driving, the times a person takes in eating or drinking (slow and calm vs. fast and voracious). Even the time it takes a person to answer a question can be significant: slow or too meditated answers can be interpreted as insincere in Western cultures, or on the contrary wise and thoughtful in “high context” cultures such as Eastern ones. It can be said that in the field of intercultural communication nothing escapes the observation of the interlocutor, and every “sign” contributes to its classification and evaluation.
The use of ties, dark tailored suits, high-quality shoes in shiny leather, is one of the emblems of the Western manager and represents one of the cornerstones of “image sales”. The problem at an intercultural level is given by the perception of others within the systems of personal signification. Some managers, insurance salesmen, and corporate executives in career, thinking of “loading” on the front of professionalism, are taken by the temptation to hyper-flaunt brands, luxurious shoes, designer and eye-catching ties, precious watches, unknowingly creating a greater distance than it would be desirable.
The same problem of “status anxiety” applies to the ostentation of excessively flashy cars or to any other accessory that communicates excessive superiority and produces distance. In terms of intercultural impression management (strategic image management), some behaviors – eg: arriving by helicopter – can be implemented voluntarily, to create a status barrier and create feelings of inferiority.
Some clichés on multicultural college campuses are that whites “taste like chicken”, Asians “smell of garlic”, blacks “taste of sweat”, and other curious stereotypes. The olfactory differences on the ethnic and genetic level are really existing, but the perceived sense of smell is largely determined by cultural factors such as nutrition, cleanliness or the use of perfumes. Personal olfactory emissions are a communication tool.
It is certain that the sense of smell affects perception, and that nutrition produces essences that exude from the skin and breath. These aspects are to be taken care of for those who want to manage every aspect, even the smallest details, of intercultural negotiation and more generally of human contact The answer is not to become a hyper-perfumed manager wrapped in clouds of strawberry essence, but a conscious management of conscious and subconscious smells.
Even the smell of the room in which you negotiate, the olfactory perceptions encountered along the path, in the corridors, in the parking lots and squares, form the overall “people perception” (the image of the other). Anything that can be attributed to some extent to the subject or to the corporate environment affects perception and image. Some clothing chains have resorted to the targeted odorization of the stores to create a more relaxed and pleasant atmosphere (environmental olfactory marketing).
Smell is a remote sense of the human being, partially abandoned in favor of senses such as sight and hearing. Animal “noses” are able to pick up smells that signal sexual emotions or predispositions, while human noses seem to have lost this trait, as Hall points out: The consequence of the loss of importance of smell as a means of communication, was an alteration in the type of relationship between human beings, which has probably endowed man with a great capacity to resist crowding. If humans had noses as powerful as rats, they would forever be tied up and involved with the full range of emotions and mood swings that people around them need.
Other people’s anger, for example, would have been something we could smell. In homes, the identity of any visitor and the emotional connotations of the various objects and their history would be subject to public registration and dominion as long as their smell lasted: psychotics would drive us all mad, and the anxious would still dilate our anxiety. To say the least, life would be much more complex and intense: it would be less controlled by consciousness, because the centers that preside over smell in the brain are older and more primitive than the visual centers …
Hall’s question is what sense is capable of generating interpersonal trust. Hall points out that in animals the sense of smell is still decisive, while in humans sight and hearing have assumed greater importance: the passage of the body’s confidence from nose to eye, the result of environmental pressures, has given a completely new face to the human condition. The typical human design ability has been made possible by the wider reach of the eye that encodes immensely more complex data, thus encouraging thought and abstraction. The sense of smell, precisely because it is so intimately connected to emotionality and sensual satisfaction, pushes man exactly in the opposite direction.
The evolution of man has received the mark of the development of “remote receptors”, sight and hearing. The signals of trust and distrust, the perception of the emotions of others, are therefore to be refined above all in the negotiator’s ability to grasp the emotionally uncontrolled facial movements, the vocal timbre and the breaks in the tone of the voice that signal vocal and emotional stress.
Other studies, however, argue that the olfactory capacity has only diminished and there are continuous olfactory exchanges at an unconscious level, for example the analysis of possible sexual compatibility between men and women.
At the interpersonal level, negotiation olfactory strategies capable of recognizing emotions on a pheromonic basis (hormones secreted by human glands) are not possible at the moment, but targeted and strategic personal odorizations are still possible. There are practical implications for a conscious personal odor – avoiding foods that can give rise to strong emissions through the breath, avoiding excessive personal fragrances, being aware of personal smells (eg, sweat), considering the importance of adequate olfactory environmental marketing.
In broad terms, non-verbal communication also includes the behaviors held during the negotiation interaction, actions on objects, use and manipulation of tools. For example, during a sale in which you demonstrate how a tool works, the skill and skill with which you manipulate an instrument represents a message (and therefore a form of communication). And again, when taking notes, our interlocutor can pay attention to the care with which you write, to the ticks on the pens, to the precision shown in drawing a diagram.
Paralinguistics concerns all vocal emissions that are not strictly related to “words”, and includes:
the tone of the voice;
the rhythm of speech;
the interjections (short emissions, like er, uhm …).
Paralinguistics establishes the punctuation of speech, and helps convey emotional information. Messages such as “I am tense”, “I am angry” or “I am well disposed” ooze more from the paralinguistic system than from the linguistic system. A sentence can carry completely different meanings that depend on the emphasis on words and tone of voice.
Exercise of modulation of meanings through the non-verbal and paralinguistic system
The exercise involves the modulation of meanings through the non-verbal system, gestures, intonations. Convey the different meanings associated with the following sentence: “Our company may be very interested in your proposal”. Possible formulations to be interpreted:
Our company may be very interested in your proposal (emphasis on ours; meaning to be conveyed: “other companies less”)
Our company may be very interested in your proposal (emphasis on can; meaning to convey: “we don’t know, we’ll see, doubtful”)
Our company may be very interested in your proposal (emphasis on a lot; meaning to convey: “really interesting”)
Our company may be very interested in your proposal (emphasis on interested expressed in a doubtful way; meaning to be conveyed: “interested, but it’s all yet to be seen”).
Non-verbal training and formation
Training in the use of paralinguistic requires training on the strategic use of pauses and tones. In general, training for the non-verbal includes access to all repertoires of theatrical and actor techniques, the Stanislavskij method and other theatrical training methods, the only ones truly capable of acting in depth on the transformation of expressive behavior.
Adequate training can be useful to train the negotiator to grasp the trembling of the voice of others (symptom of nervousness and stress), and the non-verbal reactions to one’s statements, to act “theatrically” through movement, pauses and alternating rhythms to give emphasis parts of the speech and key points to emerge. As with any other managerial task, without adequate preparation the chances of being competitive on a negotiating level decrease when the balance of skills is unbalanced.
As the gap between our training and the level of training of the counterpart increases, the risks of an unfavorable outcome of each negotiation increase.
The body speaks, expresses emotions and feelings. Even attempts to block these emotions and feelings are themselves “meta messages”, seeing a person expressing no emotion, acting as an “emotional mummy“, is itself a signal that leads to specific reflections. Body language concerns:
facial expressions and facial expressions;
nods of the head;
the movements of the limbs and gestures;
body movements and distances;
touch and physical contact.
Cultural differences on these points can be very large. Cultures vary a lot on the type of gestures. In an Italian-Chinese negotiation, clear differences can be seen between the Italian gestures (on average wider) and the Chinese one, more contained, as well as in the facial expressions, more evident for Italy and more contained for China.
A negotiator operating in China can therefore choose to contain their gestures and their emotional expression, to “dampen” the stereotypical image associated with their culture, or rather increase it theatrically, to “play a part” and amplify their stereotypical identity. . There are no golden rules on what is best to do, each choice is strategic and linked to the context of the moment, to “contextual appropriateness“.
Physical contact is one of the most critical and difficult elements to deal with on an intercultural level. While some Western standards of physical contact are spreading throughout the business community (eg: shaking hands), each culture expresses a different degree of contact in greetings and interactions. Managing hugs, kisses, touching the body, knowing who can touch whom, remains a difficult point, to be solved above all by resorting to an analysis of the local culture. In general, if it is not possible to gather accurate information from local culture experts, it is advisable to limit physical contact in order not to generate a sense of invasiveness.
Proxemics defines “the observations and theories concerning the use of human space, understood as a specific elaboration of culture” (Hall, 1988). In his studies, Hall highlights how distances are a highly cultural elaboration, and are managed by each culture in a different way. On the negotiation front, the implications are numerous: being close to or far from the interlocutor is a precise negotiating message.
Standing in front or to the side, or even on the same side, is another form of message. Every culture has unwritten rules for delimiting the boundaries of acceptability of interpersonal distances and people’s dispositions. Also in this case, the principle of resorting to the knowledge of experts of the local culture is valid, while a valid rule in case of lack of knowledge is to let the counterpart define their own degree of distance, without forcing neither an approach nor a removal.
The main awareness to develop is that of the “critical distance” (Hall), which defines the interpersonal distance within which a subject feels vulnerable, exposed to the risks of aggression. Human critical distances have an animal basis and a strong cultural variance, with Arab and Latin cultures often more “close” and Anglo-Saxon cultures very “distant”.
Personal distance is like “an invisible bubble that surrounds the body” Beyond the intra-cultural rules, some attitudes relating to distances are transversal to cultures because they are anchored to the human animal root. For example, “leaving your seat”, giving space to someone, is a tool for assigning status and recognizing the importance of the interlocutor. As Hall points out: stronger, superior individuals tend to establish greater personal distances than the specimens occupying lower positions in the social hierarchy, while it is known that weaker, subordinate animals give way to superior animals.
Therefore, at an intercultural level, “leaving the place” will be a move towards rapprochement, a recognition of status. For the conscious negotiator, it is not to be understood as pure submission, but it can also take on the function of a tactical move, an act of relational courtesy that precedes the actual negotiation confrontation. Making people uncomfortable, on the contrary, is used to establish great distances.
Some negotiators use tactics specifically aimed at upsetting the emotional balance of the subject, making people wait in excessively hot and narrow waiting rooms, without bathrooms or with distant services, for a long time – it is an example of a breakthrough move. Especially when the subject has made a long journey, the temptation to leave will be blocked by the thought of having made a useless journey, and of any repercussions.
The appropriate tactic is to require a higher degree of comfort, but only if you have the almost mathematical certainty that a specific move is underway, and those are not the real maximum reception conditions that the subject is able to offer. The frontal disposition of people is generally considered confrontational, while on the side it is considered more collaborative, and on the same side “between equals“. As Hall points out, “every animal needs a critical space, without which its survival is impossible”. In terms of negotiations, the space to be considered is both environmental and psychological.