Succeeding with Authenticity during Your MBA
US Culture | Direct vs. Indirect Communication
How to Succeed with Authenticity
by: Grayson Leverenz
There is a lot of talk about authenticity in US marketing circles today. Consumers demand their brands of choice be authentic in their communication; they want to understand what a brand really stands for before they add it to their shopping basket. As such, the job of the marketer becomes communicating authentically.
Americans value authenticity in part because our culture embraces a direct communication style. We like people to say what they mean and mean what they say. On the CultureWizard communication scale from RW3, the US rates a 2, with 1 being Direct and 5 being Indirect. What that means for International students is that most Americans communicate in a succinct, straight forward manner. We like to get to the point so much in fact that indirect cultures often consider Americans to be rude. When you’re in class or study group meetings, please take this into consideration before you label your colleagues. Americans appreciate content significantly more than context. Most of us do not consider how or when we deliver a message because the message itself is the important point. With that in mind, a midnight email from your American teammate may be every bit as critical as a statement made in your team meeting earlier that day. Focus on the words someone says in class, in meetings and during your job search to ensure you’re receiving the correct message. If you’re unclear, ask for clarification. A good way to do this is to say, “Would you say that to me in a different way?” Or, “Would you help me understand what you meant by…”
Non-verbal cues often slide by Americans unnoticed, especially silence. Most Americans have no idea that silence indicates disagreement in many cultures. They think if a teammate isn’t saying anything, they must not have anything to add to the discussion. Identify non-verbal cues you use in professional situations, and figure out how to articulate them. For example, if you would normally place a hand on the person you’re speaking to as a way to emphasize an important point, you might want to practice saying, “The thing I find most important here is…”
We wouldn’t be having a discussion about communication if conflict didn’t come up. Although very few people in the world actually like conflict, it always seems to be present. In general, Americans consider conflict a necessary factor in business; many Americans actually consider opposing points of view essential to discovering creative solutions. When a US teammate disagrees with you, don’t take it personally. They are most likely either weighing opposing opinions in their mind, or trying to look at all options to arrive at the best answer. Likewise, if you disagree with an approach or solution, you will not insult your US teammates by voicing your opinion. Remember to be authentic and be concise, and you will be well on your way to communicating successfully during your MBA in the USA.