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  • Communication between cultures – is it still important in the era of Google and Big Data?



    Hi all,

    Today is time for another story and this time it is going to be about communication.

    Jennifer Roberts and me are organizing a couple of her workshops here in Ukraine. And the main topic there is communication. I am excited to market that event, because I actually think this is almost the most important thing in business.

    Yes, it is an old, well-tried, but still very actual phrase, that people speak to people, work with people, conclude agreements with people, make stunning projects with people, pay money to each other for the work they like and experiences they enjoy sharing. So yes, communication is really the key. We think we make decisions with our logic. We create a lot of nice schemes, procedures, everything to ensure smooth mechanisms. But in the end it still comes to personal likes or dislikes, feeling of friendship, understanding. We spend at work minimum 1/3 of our life and we naturally tend to pick the people we really enjoy working with. Especially this is true for IT, where people, their creative energy and synergy, which CEO gets from a well-formed team, is huge.

    When you sell to another culture, or work when the project has already started, it is very true, that the more professional you and your team are, the less problems you get out of cross-cultural mix. Or at least less problems you are aware of, because if you take into account also your subconsciousness and decisions, taken on its influence… Anyway, it is better to be aware of these things. A bad joke, wrong word, not right wording can kill the whole negotiation and cooperation.

    Let me give you a couple examples from my own experience. Once I was agreeing with one person about meeting. He couldn’t make it. I wrote him back saying that I am very sorry, but maybe I get luckier in my next visit. A local friend of mine, who saw this conversation, got totally crazy. It appeared, that “get lucky” has another (not known by me!) meaning of rushing into some sexual experiments. When I heard that, the hair on my head was up. I was horrified and embarrassed. I only prayed the person whom I was communicating with, didn’t know about this meaning or understood that I was not aware of it.

    And this is just one example. How many more we do, just not knowing enough cultural background of our partners? Sometimes a person just stops answering you and you don’t understand why. And he could be just pissed with what you just said without you even being aware that you said something not right! Or all these small manners, like ways to eat, dress, open doors, greet each other in e-mails. For example, I still do not quite understand how to greet people right. Americans seem to be very friendly and when you say HI or Hello to them, it is ok, whereas if you say “How do you do, Mr. Smith”, you will most probably look a bit strange (or am I mistaken?). On the contrary, Germans usually frighten me with their Dr., Mr. and Herr. It feels there I should be more formal. I also know one much respected Egyptian, who was offended by greeting “Hi there” of one of my colleagues. They probably picked that from American way of greeting each other. In Russian and Ukrainian languages we also are having a crazy mess with greeting. You sometimes use just a name for friends or business partners with Western influence. However, for a more formal communication we use Name + Patronymic, which is father’s name. For example, I am Natalia Anatolievna, because my father’s name is Anatolij and I am his daughter. And this still is used (though, since I am very young, I will be called like this only if I go teaching in schools, I suppose.).

    So you see, how many different nuances our communication has. And it is ok, if you just talk to people. But when you sell to them… You need to KNOW whom you are selling to. Because it is also about understanding another person, speaking the same language, establishing cooperation. It is sometimes a challenge to do locally, and when you speak to another culture, it is a double challenge.

    For those of Ukranians who want to sell more to other cultures, there is our 2-day Workshop in Kyiv and Lviv, which is totally dedicated to cross-cultural communication and its nuances. We are sure it will be exciting and great fun. Here are the details –

    For those who are not from Ukraine but still is interested in working with another culture (for example, with Ukrainians, the Rising Technology Nation, as was stated in the latest report, contact me and I will be happy to share some lifehacks and even help you choose the right partner.

    In both cases – the best of luck to you in everything that you do.

    Sincerely yours,


    PS. All these “regards” and “sincerely yours” are other things I do not really understand how to use and I hope Jennifer will help here too. I understand the theory, but what native Americans or Englishmen FEEL when they read that – I do not quite feel yet. Do you?