The Culture Map.
“When interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less. Listen before you speak and learn before you act.” Erin Meyer, The Culture Map, p. 27.
Europass Berlin usually hosts international training courses, with participants, mostly teachers and school staff, coming from different EU countries. Managing an international group of adults is certainly enriching on many levels, but also challenging.
When navigating through cultural differences, the book “The culture map” by Erin Meyer offers a great starting point.
The American, naturalised French author has identified eight so-called scales for international communication.
These are: Communicating (Low-context or High-context), Evaluating (Direct or indirect negative feedback), Persuading (Principles-first or Application-first), Leading (Egalitarian or hierarchical), Deciding (Consensual or top-down), Trusting (Task-based or relationship based), Disagreeing (Confrontational-avoids confrontation), Scheduling (Linear or flexible time). The content of the book and the many examples given are mostly taken from the business world, where the author is active, but some of the eight scales are particularly to be taken into consideration also in teaching and training.
This is the case with the third Scale, Persuading. In adult training, it is crucial to find the way to be the most effective and convincing as possible. The way persuasion works differs from culture to culture, according to the scale elaborated by Erin Meyer.
Principles-first reasoning (also known as deductive) derives conclusions or facts from general principles or concepts. On the other hand, with application-first reasoning (or inductive reasoning), general conclusions are reached based on a pattern of factual observations from the real world.
If we are talking to an audience who is mostly used to deductive reasoning, and we are on the opposite using a more inductive style, starting from our own experience and personal examples, there is the chance that our preparation and our professionality will be questioned. On the other hand, if we go too much in depth with theory with an audience who is more prone to inductive reasoning, we run the risk of boring them and not getting them involved. When preparing a training for an adult group, we should then take into account their culture and their persuading style.
How to handle mixed groups then, with people coming from more concept-first cultures and from more application-first cultures?
The author offers three simple, yet very effective pieces of advice:
- Cycle back and forth between theoretical principles and practical examples.
- Provide practical examples to capture the interest of your application-first listeners.
- Take the time to answer the questions from the principles-first participants well and then quickly provide a couple of practical examples to recapture the waning attention of the application-first students.
This is only one of the challenges of managing an international group in adult training, but in the next articles we are going to see some other ones and also some possible ways to overcome them.
E. Meyer, The Culture Map, 2014