An Introductory Workshop to Intercultural Communication: Developing Key Problem-solving Skills for the International Workplace Aims:






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An Introductory Workshop to Intercultural Communication:

Developing Key Problem-solving Skills for the International Workplace BSBWL-471/2

Alexia Petersen

This 2-day workshop is designed to introduce a key skills package in intercultural

communication to students heading into an internationally-oriented professional career path. The course is therefore open to and recommended for all students of business or inter-disciplinary subject fields with an international focus. The workshop provides undergraduate students of business administration with a solid conceptual basis for understanding how cultural background and referencing shape the tools we use in every aspect of business communication, problem-solving and management. The workshop looks specifically at examples of typical cross-cultural miscommunication resulting from

clashing assumptions, expectations and actions taken, such as when defining and solving problems, assigning and completing tasks, communicating critical feedback, making decisions, writing emails, co-ordinating teamwork, and providing leadership and

supervision. In developing and training the problem-solving skills necessary to cope with such specific workplace scenarios, the primary focus of the workshop is on transitioning from a diagnostic analysis of cross-cultural miscommunication and conflict to independent solutions and strategy-making.


 provide conceptual groundwork for how “cultural referencing” shapes different patterns of communication and work behaviour

 provide practice in applying analytical structure to diagnosing where and why predictable (and preventable) conflict interfaces occur

 train students in independently creating new (corrective and preventive) strategies by which to prepared for, minimise or avoid misunderstandings or escalations into conflict

Students of this workshop will learn:

 What typical cultural behaviours in business and academic communication are often mistaken as a personality issue in the way in which we teach, supervise, learn, talk about and solve problems, etc.

 How leadership style differs from culture to culture and how to deal with it.  Why the clear, factual “Red Thread” is not the primary tool in problem-solving in

most cultures but the primary risk.

 To recognise typical patterns of “German-English” and how these can lead to “hidden conflicts” with other types of English in cross-cultural dialogue

 To “upgrade” “German-English” to “English-English” and utilise the English more optimally as a mediatory tool

Course content:

 Introduction to a paradigmatic model for “fact”- vs. “face”-driven communication styles and major conflict interfaces

 Introduction of the “Cultural Onion” model as prescriptive model to “map out” divergent cultural logic paths that result in conflict


 Introduction of the “4-step Cultural Paradigm Shift Model” for systematic skills training in the analyses and resolution of miscommunication in workplace scenarios  Active skills and applications training via

• Group and independent work on case study analysis and strategy-making • Language transitioning exercises targeting specific “German-English”


• Role-play simulation

• Practice in independent creation of toolsheets • Assessing and responding to tricky emails Required reading prior to workshop*:

Geert Hofstede, I, We and They (p. 345 – 357). Readings in Cultural Contexts, Judith Martin, Thomas Nakayama, Lisa Flores (Ed.), Mayfield Publishing company, 1998 Peter Andersen, Cues of Culture: The Basis of Intercultural Differences in Nonverbal

Communication (p. 258 – 269). Intercultural Communication: A Reader, Larry Samovar

and Richard Porter (Ed.), Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2000

* Students will receive these articles by email directly from the instructor after registration for the course.


Seminar: An Introductory Workshop to Intercultural Communication:

Developing Key Problem-solving Skills for the International Workplace

Day One Programme I. Introduction

 Aims and approach

 A working definition of “culture”  Posing key questions

II. Reviewing the Cultural “Playing field”

 Warmer activity: Identifying typical problems in cross-cultural communication and key questions

Break 10.30 h – 10.45 h

 The basic communication Paradigms and their dichotomies: A cultural values-based model (conceptual foundation)

 The “Cultural Onion”: A model and tool for “mapping” divergent “cultural logic” (structural tool)

 The 4-step Cultural Paradigm Shift Model: Creating culture-appropriate strategies (skills training transfer)

 Key example: Different cultural approaches to problem-solving

• Different perceptions of “problem” and “solution”

• Different expectations of leadership and teamwork roles

• How can problem-solving communication be “sped up” but remove the risk of

direct confrontation? Lunch break 12.30 h – 13.30 h

III. Case Studies: Reassessing and “Mapping” Cross-Cultural Conflict Interfaces

 Case study 1: Conflicts in teamwork, leadership style

• Different cultural expectations of leadership and supervision • Different cultural meanings of deadlines

• How to deal with “rubber time” • Emailing: reading between the lines

Break 15.45 h – 16.00 h

 Case study 2: Diagnosis and Prognosis

• Fact + Face Solutions: Creating corrective and prescriptive solutions • Group presentation and discussions

IV. Wrap-up and outlook

 Review of Participants' Key Learning Points

 The role of language: Using language to create “face”


Day Two Programme

I. In plenary feedback round

 Warmer activity: The Key Learning Points

This activity challenges participants to recap the Key Learning Points from Day 1 from the point of view of a facilitator: how would do the individual pieces of the puzzle acquired the previous day link with one another to summarise a systematic illustration of the bigger picture for someone who has not attended the first day of such a training. This warmer also serves to make the transition into the second major application of the seminar on Day Two, the use of international English as a tool for mediating conflict in cross-cultural dialogue.

 Loose ends

Break 10.45 h – 11.00 h

II. “International English”: the Hidden Conflicts in Cross-cultural Dialogue  “High context” vs. “low context” communication styles

 Characteristics of low context “German-English”  Giving and receiving instructions

 Saying “no” and interpreting “yes”

 Fixing and re-negotiating deadlines in “rubber time” cultures  Creating a “sandwich”: How to use language to create “face Lunch break 12.30 h – 13.30 h

III. Practice: Assessing and responding to tricky “high context” emails  In plenary analysis and discussion

Break 15.45 h – 16.00 h

IV. Activity: Role-playing simulation for inter-group communication between mono-cultural teams (TBA)

This is a simulation game that uses “synthetic cultures” as scripts for the role-player. The aim of this role-play is not to practise negotiation technique per se, but rather to examine the dynamics and conflicts that mimic those in real cross-cultural settings. The act of trying to play by different cultural rules enables the player to put himself into the proverbial “other shoe”, and gain a sensitivity for the motivations and logic behind very different communication behaviour. Synthetic role-playing therefore is an effective analytical tool in facilitating the development of cross-cultural business communication skills. The concluding feedback and discussion session consolidates key concepts and learning points.

Trainees are divided into two “delegations” which encounter each other at an initial meeting to discuss and negotiate a basis for a possible business relationship. The game includes three levels of scripting:


is assigned a synthetic culture.

 Role scripting: participants play self-assigned specific roles within their teams, which they script themselves, e.g. delegation leader, diplomat, technical specialist, etc.

 Each delegation enters the cross-cultural meeting with a prescribed aim that makes the meeting conflict-prone.

Preparation: 30 minutes

Playing time: 30 minutes Debriefing time: 30- 45 minutes V. Wrap-up