The Culture Map Book Summary, by Erin Meyer

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1-Page Summary of The Culture Map

Overview

The culture we’re in has a huge influence on how we behave. We are conditioned to see some communication styles as more desirable than others. This can lead to conflict when you don’t understand a person’s cultural background and worldview.

Erin Meyer’s eight scales will help you do this. In these key points, you’ll learn how to get along with people from different parts of the world. For example, in Paris, if you see two people shouting at each other, it might not mean what you think. You’ll also learn about Swedish democracy and how that relates to the Vikings’ democratic style. You’ll also learn how to criticize someone without offending them too much or hurting their feelings.

Big Idea #1: Being a good observer is sometimes more important than being a good speaker.

Why is it so hard to communicate with people from other countries sometimes? We have to deal with different temperaments, values and senses of humor. To navigate these situations, we should try not to be kuuki yomenai, which means someone who “cannot read the air.”

There are two types of cultures when it comes to communication. The first is low-context, and the second is high-context.

Western cultures, such as the USA or Australia, are known for their clear and precise communication. Contrastingly, Eastern cultures like Japan and Korea have more subtle and layered forms of communication that require reading between the lines to understand what is meant.

No country is all high-context or all low-context, but some are more so than others. For example, French managers tend to be more high-context than German managers, but they’re less so compared to Chinese managers.

Different countries have different contexts, and the reason is that they each have a unique history. Japan has had a homogenous population for thousands of years, so people became skilled at reading subtle cues in communication.

American history is much shorter than other countries’ histories. It’s also been influenced by immigrants, so it’s important for them to be clear in their communication.

In order to work well with other cultures, you need to strike a balance between listening and speaking. You should pay attention to body language when working with high-context cultures because it will give you insight into what they mean even if they’re not saying anything explicitly.

When communicating with low-context cultures, you should be as specific as possible and take time to explain yourself clearly.

When people from different cultures work together, misunderstandings are more likely to occur. Therefore, it is best to use a low-context communication style in order to reduce the number of misunderstandings.

Big Idea #2: Be careful with your feedback; it can be offensive.

When people from different cultures work together, they may have trouble understanding each other. For example, one person may think that another is being rude when he or she is only trying to offer feedback. To better understand how this happens, let’s look at the scale of evaluating behavior:

It’s important to be direct in giving feedback. Some cultures do it better than others, such as Russia or Israel. In addition, they use absolute descriptions known as upgraders to emphasize their point and criticize in front of a group.

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In some cultures, like Japan and Indonesia, people are indirect communicators. They use gentle feedback and downgraders (words such as ‘kind of’ or ‘maybe’) to get their message across, which is very different from the direct style found in other places. In these cultures, criticism is given privately instead of publicly.

The Culture Map Book Summary, by Erin Meyer
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