Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.
Review of The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working
EDITORS: Guilherme, Manuela, Evelyne Glaser, and María del Carmen Méndez-García TITLE: The Intercultural Dynamics of Multicultural Working SERIES TITLE: Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education PUBLISHERS: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2010
This edited volume explores the intercultural context of today's workplace, based on insights from the Intercultural Competence for Professional Mobility Project (ICOPROMO). The project involves an ''open-weave of dialogue, critique, and activism between academics, educators and trainers'' (67), and the volume walks the reader through it in three sections. Part I provides a theoretical backdrop and a review of the research that inspired and guided the project, Part II identifies eight themes ''for professional development and scientific research on intercultural cooperation'' (244), and Part III features ''on the ground'' experiences with ICOPROMO training models from multicultural training practitioners across Europe.
Part II, engaging a balance of theory and practice along the eight axes of the ICOPROMO project (Biography, Ethnography, Diversity Management, Emotional Management, Intercultural Communication, Intercultural Interaction, Communicative Interaction, Intercultural Responsibility and Working in Multicultural Teams), is the real core of the volume. The editors intend for the book to be a call to action, and a call to do more and learn more. According to the authors, becoming interculturally competent is a goal that can ''probably never be fully achieved. It is a process of continuous transformation that, ideally, never ends'' (244).
PART 1: In Chapter 1, ''Intercultural Conflict in Interaction Competence: From Theory to Practice,'' Stella Ting-Toomey provides a comprehensive review of the Intercultural (IC) conflict competence and IC adjustment training literature, by comparing different models by how they evaluate the competency of an IC trainer. For example, one model (called the integrative-threat theory) focuses on the facilitator's honesty about their own mental files and biased assumptions about the trainees and about his or her methods, while a different approach (the conflict-face negotiation theory) considers how honoring face in the training room leads to greater trust and facilitates openness.
In Chapter 2, ''National Occupational Standards in Intercultural Working: Models of Theory and Assessment,'' authors Anne Davidson Lund and John P. O' Regan describe the National Occupational Standards in the Intercultural Working (NOSIW or NOS) project in the UK. They provide an extensive historical background, including an overview of 16 models of assessment, with focus on the Intercultural Assessment (INCA) Project. Although deemed ''too academic'' by business practitioners, INCA elaborates six valuable dimensions which seem to resonate with linguistic training: 1) Tolerance for Ambiguity, 2) Behavioral flexibility, 3) Communicative Awareness, 4) Knowledge Discovery, 5) Respect for Otherness, and 6) Empathy. These would seem to be the mark of any useful training to help participants become capable of ''being aware of, appreciating and working productively with cultural assumptions, environments, and attitudes different from their own'' (43). The authors end with a call for more research into the cultural demography of national workforces and more sophisticated tools for universalized intercultural assessment.
Chapter 3, ''Training and Intercultural Education: The Danger in 'Good Citizenship','' written by Alison Phipps, is refreshingly honest and faces intercultural training at its worst, when it has the potential to do harm, and when it reinforces prejudices, advocates stereotypes, and serves as a vehicle for dehumanizing processes of 'othering,' or ascribing identity to social groups by highlighting and reinforcing difference and distance. Phipps challenges her readers to recognize that cultural dialogue is difficult, challenging, and not bounded by the classroom, thus calling for intercultural training that better prepares participants for the ''mess and struggle of dialogue, human trust, [and] subtleties of context-based understanding'' (65) rather than approaches that get lost in the measurement of outcomes.
PART II: Chapter 4, entitled ''Intercultural Responsibility: Power and Ethics in Intercultural Dialogue and Interaction,'' by Manuela Guilherme, Clara Keating, and Daniel Hoppe, explores intercultural responsibility, arguing that it involves cultivating ''full and reciprocally demanding'' personal and professional relationships among members of different ethnic groups. Requiring collaboration in a ''sound and committed manner,'' intercultural responsibility goes beyond intercultural competence or simply being able to ''communicate appropriately and effectively across cultures'' (79). Co-workers should expect ''no more and no less'' of each other than what they would expect of themselves or any colleague, regardless of background. 'Black is Not White,' the sample ICOPROMO activity described, focuses on identity construction and aspects of identity that get erased because of binaries of thought.
In Chapter 5, ''Emotional Management: Expressing, Interpreting, and Making Meaning of Feelings in Multicultural Teams,'' author Alexandra Karr addresses the affective (making sense of team members' emotions and feelings) level of intercultural interactions. As she explains, when working in multicultural teams, the perception of difference may trigger emotional reactions, especially at the beginning stages of team formation. Furthermore, the display of emotion tends to be culturally determined, which may increase a sense of distance or alienation. As such, the author suggests the need for developing intercultural emotion perception skills and ''an awareness of when it is appropriate to show particular emotions openly'' (99). The ''Why Do I Trust You?'' ICOPROMO activity provides insight into how emotions feed into trust and cultivates the practice of recognizing emotions, understanding their causes, and managing their expression with 'Emotional Intelligence' in multicultural settings.
In Chapter 6, ''Intercultural Interaction: A Sense-Making Approach,'' authors Terence Mughan and Greg O'Shea engage the topic of interaction through 'sense making,' an organizational theory located in ''experiences and interaction and the individual's responses to unexpected stimuli or incomprehensible events'' (111). While they identify communication as being of central importance in showing how situations, organizations, and environments get talked into being, and point to the role of language in framing or constructing hypothetical mental models, they provide little analysis of communication in their case study of the 1994 purchase of Rover by BMW. Instead, the bulk of the chapter details the social, political, and organizational background of the failed merger, apparently from a business/human resources paradigm. In considering culture and language as interactional factors alongside elements such as strategy, leadership, politics, or personality in their training activity, the authors contend that intercultural actions are never simply intercultural, and that there are a range of other stimuli, constraints and imperatives which must always be taken into account (118).
In Chapter 7, ''Communicative Interaction: Intercultural Verbal and Nonverbal Interaction,'' María Luisa Pérez Cañado and María del Carmen Méndez García draw attention to linguistic differences across cultures in the areas of, for example, talk vs. silence, topic management and turn-taking, and direct vs. indirect styles. Additionally, they call attention to understudied non-verbal aspects of communication that they identify as being important, including Kinesics (facial, bodily, and gestural movement), Oculesics (eye contact), Vocalics (vocalic behavior related to accent, pitch, volume, tempo etc.), Haptics (norms around physical contact and touch), Proxemics (interpersonal spatial boundary regulation), and Chronemics (the understanding and interpretation of time). By introducing all of these factors, and through a description of ICOPROMO activities, the authors achieve their objective of raising awareness of communication, including asking participants to prepare a presentation about human communicative interaction while imagining an alien audience that uses telepathy to communicate. For this activity, students are asked to observe communicative interaction in public places for 30 minutes and write down all of the relevant aspects in a notebook. The ideas raised in this chapter would be enriched by inclusion of some of the interactional sociolinguistic literature that is positioned to offer examples of accessible yet challenging application of these concepts in intercultural exchanges (c.f. Gumperz 1982, Scollon and Scollon 2003, and Tannen 2005 ).
In Chapter 8, ''Ethnography: The Use of Observation and Action Research for Intercultural Learning,'' author Katalin Illes gives a useful review of ethnographic studies done in the business setting from an etic (outsider's) perspective. Exemplifying this position as an outsider to the social science research tradition, she reflects on presuppositions made by so called 'naturalistic' approaches, exploring the interpolation of method and methodology in ethnography. This is refreshing, as this approach is seldom adopted from within the disciplines of anthropology or linguistics. Concluding that ''it is rather difficult to give a practical feel for ethnography in the classroom'' (142), the given activities ('The Risks we Take' and 'Making Decisions') focus more on personality types.
In Chapter 9, ''Biography: The Role of Experience in Intercultural Learning,'' María del Carmen Méndez García and María Luisa Pérez Cañado argue that before an individual can engage with ''otherness,'' (an understanding of cultures that are not one's native culture) he or she must begin with a critical exploration of the self. The authors compellingly engage with the literature on narrative identity, locating their work within a theoretically informed conceptualization of identity creation. By critically engaging with the taken-for-granted aspects of culture, this chapter sheds light on the central role of individual biography in intercultural encounters. The ''My Biography'' activity is designed to raise awareness of the ''glasses'' that we wear, which are ''manufactured'' by experiences in our first culture, and how these are ''ornamented'' by individual experiences, which, crucially, filter our perception of reality (152).
In Chapter 10, ''Diversity Management: Negotiating Representations in Multicultural Contexts,'' authors Clara Keating, Manuela Guilherme, and Daniel Hopper adopt a ''critically creative mindset'' in exploring concepts like 'diversity' at the personal, interactional, and institutional levels. The authors call for a ''different kind of education,'' one that creates ''spaces of multicultural intersubjectivity,'' and gives emphasis to ''partiality, uncertainty, exclusion, or difference'' (174). To illuminate the ideological work that comes up in 'managing diversity,' and what is made visible and what is erased in this context, the 'Cultural Layers,' activity visually conceptualizes the ''living, changing interactive space that requires constant adaptation and reframing from its participants'' (183). The authors conclude by calling for activities that further develop ''critical awareness of language, languages, and the semiotic representations at play in individual, group, and institutional interaction'' (169).
In Chapter 11, ''Working in Multicultural Teams,'' Evelyne Glaser shows how diversity manifests itself in multicultural teams in ''different communication and working styles, different ways of problem solving and different preferences for conflict resolution'' (186). This last chapter in Part II unites all of the aspects of the ICOPROMO project. As the author explains, to work in a multicultural team, members need to be self-reflective (Biography Ch. 9), keen objective observers (Ethnography Ch. 8), and effective communicators (Communicative Interaction Ch. 7). At the personal level, they need to be in control of their emotions (Emotional Management Ch. 5), at the interpersonal level, they need to be able to interact successfully with people from different cultures (Intercultural Interaction Ch. 6), and at the institutional level, they need to be thinking critically about diversity (Managing Diversity, Ch. 10). Finally, they need to have an approach that is socially responsible (Intercultural Responsibility, Ch. 4). Glaser ends by describing the ICOPROMO activity Chapter 4 entitled ''Intercultural Responsibility: Power and Ethics in Intercultural Dialogue and Interaction'' by Manuela Guilherme, Clara Keating, and Daniel Hoppe, explores intercultural responsibility, arguing that it involves cultivating ''full and reciprocally demanding'' personal and professional relationships among members of different ethnic groups. Requiring collaboration in a ''sound and committed manner,'' intercultural responsibility goes beyond intercultural competence or simply being able to ''communicate appropriately and effectively across cultures'' (79). Co-workers should expect ''no more and no less'' of each other than what they would expect of themselves or any colleague, regardless of background. 'Black is Not White,' the sample ICOPROMO activity described, focuses on identity construction and aspects of identity that get erased because of binaries of thought. 'Tension in Teams,' drawn from a collection of reflective essays written in English by American and Austrian university students over the course of a multicultural team project, which argue compellingly for the importance of skills-building and reflection in this arena.
PART III: Voices from the ''Real'' World In Chapter 12, ''Intercultural Relations at the Workplace,'' authors Guenther Zoels and Thomas Silbermeyr consider the results of interviews and questionnaires conducted with employees in the field of plant engineering and construction in the UK, US, France and China, when interacting with their Austrian colleagues. Their research uncovers many understudied aspects of social interaction well worthy of further linguistic attention, such as the ways that Russian businessmen exploit their awareness of the German relationship to time in forcing decision making, the unconscious ways that native speakers of English may dominate teams, and behaviors surrounding mistakes that promote silence.
In Chapter 13, ''Sharing Reflections on Intercultural Learning,'' Isabel Ferreira Martins describes her experiences with the 'Entreculturas' project in Portugal launched by the Ministry of Education. She maintains that intercultural learning should involve a perspective change and a paradigm shift, arguing that ''intercultural education and training addresses, respects, and challenges society as a whole. It is not a minorities', immigrants', or any other specific group of professionals' problem'' (217). This chapter also features a very useful review of the adult learning literature, including a list of personal skills required for dealing with adult learners. For example, the author states that facilitators must do work to elicit participants' experiences, actively listen in order to deconstruct and decode unexpected and contradictory information, and be prepared to deal with anxiety, stress, and frustration while always working to cultivate an environment of respect and trust.
In Chapter 14, ''Intercultural Education in International Management,'' Anneli Kansanen and Leena Voohlonen describe an evaluation conducted of the ICOPROMO learning activities and other material, suggesting practical limitations and solutions. They claim that activities need to be based on real-life situations and phenomena, with interesting and descriptive names to the activities that suggest their relevance. Additionally, they feel that more training should be conducted in web-based, virtual learning environments. Genre-based social media seem to be particularly desirable, for example, blogs, wikis, and 'Facebook.' Given that participants in training are often well-educated, multilingual, and already working in multicultural environments, the authors suggest that learning activities must be designed to attract interest and motivate involvement in something that might at first glance seem trivial to someone under all of the pressures that a manager faces.
Informed by both practice and theory, and indeed serving as a model for how one necessarily must feed the other, this volume is timely and deeply important. Its real strength is its ability to view intercultural training work in and of itself as an intercultural encounter among the practices of training and education, various academic disciplines, the fields of academia and business, and the worlds of theory and practice. Unfortunately, some contributors engage this dialectic more compellingly than others, and in places, the book fails to live up to the promise of the radical stance that the editors adopt in advocating for ''an ontological and epistemological shift whereby we look for the Other in ourselves'' (3). At moments, authors make statements like Asian cultures ''live by the principle of saving face'' (210), which begs further illumination (c.f. Yuling Pan 2000), or they conceptualize cultures to binaries of ''high context'' or ''low context'' or even reduce cultural interaction to a list of ''do's and don'ts.'' At one point, the volume even serves to perpetuate the oft-misused Eskimo snow myth (see Pullam 1991). However, those authors who do hit the mark are richly worth reading. Thus, the book demands an engaged and critically thoughtful reader, as does intercultural learning itself, as we see so poignantly argued by Alison Phipps in Chapter 3, when she suggests that ''intercultural training and intercultural education, at their best, offer a praxis of discernment,'' (65) representing a continual process, where the self is both the subject and the object of the learning.
The volume seems to have been written for an audience quite familiar with business practices, perhaps those already working as business consultants who are well-acquainted with the frustrations and limitations inherent in facilitating ''dialogue among academic institutions, professional training organizations, and communities of employers'' (6). As someone with only a bit of background and experience in the business world, I was at times left wanting more data and more examples, given the rich insight and perspective that these researchers are in a position to offer about the work context. Given ethnography's central concern with cultivating awareness of the perspective of the researcher, the project as a whole would have benefitted from a greater integration of ethnography, illuminating how theoretical frameworks and research paradigms come to life in practice. Finally, although practice-based insights are likely to be most immediately accessible to all audiences, the last section: ''Voices from the 'Real' World,'' is unfortunately by far the shortest in the book. I found myself jumping to it almost immediately so as to ground my understanding of the context surrounding the work. For a reader with little to no background or experience in the business context, it may be quite difficult to make sense of the remarkable interdisciplinarity and the real achievement of the editors in putting these disparate voices into conversation.
Gumperz, John. 1982. Discourse strategies. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pan, Yuling. 2000. Politeness in Chinese face-to-face interaction. Stamford, CT Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Pullam, Geoffrey. 1991. The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. University of Chicago Press.
Scollon, Ron and Suzanne Wong-Scollon. 2003. Discourses in Place: Language in the Material World. London / New York: Routledge.
Tannen, Deborah. 2005 . Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends. Oxford University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Anna Marie Trester received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University in 2008,
where she is currently the Co-Director of the M.A. in Language and
Communication (MLC) in the Department of Linguistics. Her work for the MLC
involves exploring professional applications of linguistics and analyzing
language use in professional contexts. Her research interests include
language and performance, ethnography, combining approaches to style,
intercultural communication, and stancetaking in interaction. Her
dissertation focused on a group of improvisational theater performers and
currently she is working on a project exploring the framing of silence at a
Quaker vigil for peace.