Archive | January, 2009

Is it as simple as a failure to communicate?

28 Jan
Abstract communication

Abstract communication

Every once in a while I realize the eternal truth of life – communication is king! When communication breaks down the cost is monumental in terms of money, hours, stress, frustrations, illnesses, wars, it goes on and on.

Communication is defined:

com⋅mu⋅ni⋅ca⋅tion   /kəˌmyunɪˈkeɪʃən/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kuh-myoo-ni-key-shuhn] –noun
1. the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.
2. the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.
3. something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.
4. a document or message imparting news, views, information, etc.
5. passage, or an opportunity or means of passage, between places.

It is interesting to note that communication is a two-way street – the sending of information is insufficient for communication – it must be imparted or interchanged – meaning that both the sender and receiver are involved in the understanding.

In this week’s cultural diversity training sessions, attendees have identified that it is often difficult to discern whether behavior on the part of an individual is due to the culture of the country of origin, or the culture of the industry, or the individual personality. Stereotypes are quickly reinforced if such individual follows the "assumed norms" of their ethnicity and home country, while a lack of stereotypical behavior may lessen the stereotype, but not remove it. Typically the "assumed norms" (stereotypes) are less than complimentary and questions arise when communication breaks down and one party to the exchange feels disrespected.

The result of poor communication is amplified whenever there are additional sources of diversity to which poor behavior (poor based on the other party’s perception of what constitutes "poor" behavior) can be attributed. As mentioned in a previous posting here, there are a number of dimensions to diversity including age, gender, industry, country of origin (culture), etc.

The key concept to remember – whenever working with someone new – is to assume the other person is acting "sanely" based on their own dimensions of culture and diversity. What is normal in one society (generation, gender, industry, country, etc.) may appear at first glance strange or even "crazy" to others. The best possible solution is to start asking questions whenever something appears to be disrespecting. While this may be risky – in terms of self-preservation – it is often the most respectful action to take. When one starts with the assumption of noble behavior, explanations and differences can flow more easily. Such assumptions are important if one wishes to achieve a level of true communication!

All we need to do is to glance at any daily or weekly news journal to see how much discord is created when we have is a failure to communicate. How much more harmony and mutual respect (and peace) could come about and be possible if we made positive assumptions of others rather than jumping to conclusions. Try it today, and see if in your own life, even without the complication of diversities, situations can be improved by overcoming such failure to communication.

Have a great week!

Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at or or visit for details.

Read Carol Dekkers’ second blog (about Software Development) at

——Copyright 2009 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ———————

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