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Intercultural Communications Consulting

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Have you ever felt that despite the help of competent interpreters, you and your Russian counterparts talk past each other? The reason for this is that cultural differences cause you to attribute meaning differently to the same words, behaviors, and events. Another source of misunderstanding is differences in communication styles and difficulty in interpreting each other’s body language. We bridge this gap by assisting you in making your written and oral communication truly effective.

While the majority of problems that we help solve are caused by cultural differences, there are others that transcend cultures. One such problem shared by Russians and Americans is insufficient information flow between the decision-makers and “worker-bees.” We communicate vertically as well as horizontally thus preventing delays caused by lack of communication throughout the organizational hierarchy.

 

Written Communication

The American communication style is direct and efficient. Americans require and provide only the information immediately related to the issue in question. A typical American business letter is short, straight to the point, and it often begins with the bottom line – the purpose for which the letter was written. The Russian style is indirect with high need for context. A typical Russian business letter is long, contains the history of the issue; and the main point usually does not appear until the very end. The Russians often view American letters as too aggressive and rude; and the Americans often view the Russian letters as not saying anything, even when the Russian authors intend to deliver a very strong message.

We prepare your correspondence to the Russian side and make sure that it meets the requirements of your partners. If there is a need for a Russian letter to come to the United States, we will help the Russians draft the letter in such a way that the US side will receive the intended message.

 

Oral Communication: Hearing what is said as well what is not said; understanding the meaning

There are many factors that can interfere with your ability to understand your Russian counterparts. The rich facial expressions, intense emotional reactions, and seemingly inappropriate use of jokes by the Russians may make you uncomfortable and hence hinder your ability to comprehend what they are saying. Because of the language and cultural differences, you may be unable to process the body language and side comments, which makes it impossible for you to “feel” what’s going on in the room. An easy trap to fall into is to rehearse your next statement instead of listening to your counterpart. This is especially true if you have a set of talking points that you must deliver. Emotional attachment to issues or feelings of anger and frustration can make it difficult to hear the other side.

Our interface consultants are dispassionate observers whose main responsibility is to listen, understand and analyze. We are professionally trained in processing verbal and non-verbal communication in both cultures. We take in facial expressions and side conversations. We then provide you with insights on the meaning and nuances of what really happened during the meeting. We will talk with your counterparts after the meeting, clarify misunderstandings, uncover what the Russians need, and bring the issues we are not qualified to handle to your attention. We will advise you on the best course of action to take to advance your agenda.

Communicating vertically as well as horizontally

Often, an agreement has been reached at the highest levels, but the implementation is lagging. The reason for this is often the breakdown in vertical communication between the decision-makers and people responsible for execution.

Our interface consultants work at all levels of the organizational hierarchy on the Russian and American sides – from administrative assistants to executives. We make sure that things are getting done, and we alert you to any potential problems.

 

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