Intercultural Competency

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2012

8 Pages, Grade: 1,0



What is Intercultural Competency?

Why is body language that important for intercultural understanding and commitment? Use the arguments in the text to underline your statements!

How can the use of body language influence negotiation success? Please illustrate the main key success factors for negotiations and work out the impact and influence body language has on them.

Your study material explains the different expectations to men and women in different cultures. Explain how body language influences these role expectations and how individuals could deal with it.

Body language makes things more complex – and maybe more difficult. How could you deal with different cultural expectations in situations which do not allow any body language, e.g. in emailing? Please work out the theoretical aspects first, and then give two examples out of the business world


What is Intercultural Competency?

One might think that intercultural competency refers especially to sociopolitical aspects. But as a matter of fact, “intercultural competence refers to the real world in which we live and act, the world we have created together and continue to re-create daily” [Dea06, p. 6], as Dr. Darla K. Deardorff defines it in her work “Intercultural Competence – The Key Competence in the 21st Century?” Therefore, and that’s how she keeps on arguing, “the acquisition of intercultural competence is a continual, dynamic process, one that moves through diverse dimensions while developing and enriching itself in an upward spiral” [Dea06, p. 6]. That means that it is an ongoing development which is not restricted to any kind of area or group. The premises for intercultural competency are according to Deardorff “a general openness for and appreciation of cultural diversity and an ability to encounter and deal with individuals from foreign cultures in an open, curious and unprejudiced manner” [Dea06, p. 8] . A cultural education, for example, would promote all these skills. Thus, it is not especially speaking a foreign language, but much more “an understanding of others world views; an understanding of the role and impact one’s culture has on behavior and communication as well as historical and religious contexts; and a sociolinguistic awareness of the relation between language and meaning in a societal context” [Dea06, p. 8], as Deardorff describes it. So, if you do not speak any foreign language, you can still demonstrate intercultural competency by presenting at least one of the mentioned abilities. And always remember, even in silence you are still conveying signals that communicate with others. It is impossible not to communicate. The most important thing, however, is not to be afraid of other cultures or even reject them. Then you will see, on the one hand, that every culture has its beautiful sides and you will get to know great people with ease and, on the other hand, they will appreciate your openness and thoughtfulness immediately. So we can say that intercultural competency is very crucial in our modern world of globalization.

Why is body language that important for intercultural understanding and commitment? Use the arguments in the text to underline your statements!

Since every culture has its own “rules” with regards to body language, it is extremely important to know how to act or behave oneself when meeting a person from another country, religion, society, and so on. But since this topic would pass the frame of this paper, we’ll just compare some greeting rules. Whereas the North Americans and the West Europeans greet with a stretched out hand, Latin Americans greet with a hug or even kisses, which would put some of the first mentioned in some sort of discomfort, as well as Japanese people who are used to bow for greeting. Some universally accepted greetings do, however, exist: A broad smile, flashing of the eyes and shooting up the eyebrows, with a wrinkling of the forehead.

But the body language does not only reveal something about the person’s cultural background it constantly reveals something about the person itself; “thoughts, emotions, feelings, attitudes, self-confidence, and more” [Hog08, p. 88], as Kevin Hogan describes it in his work “The Secret Language of Business”. As an overall impression Hogan subdivides all these images in six categories: “status, dominance, submission, uncertainty, confidence and personal identity” [Hog08, p. 88]. By explaining all those categories, however, we would, unfortunately, pass again the frame of this paper. But just to give a short example, as far as status is concerned, you have to make yourself as tall as possible, e.g. during a speech, which, at least, makes the others feel inferior to you that they will feel a kind of obligation to listen to you and to convey respect to you.

So we can say that if you get the body language wrong you will have problems to communicate in general with person in front of you but if you domain your own body language and know how to read the one of the others you will get through life, at least, a little easier.

How can the use of body language influence negotiation success? Please illustrate the main key success factors for negotiations and work out the impact and influence body language has on them.

According to Robert Phipps’ work “Body Language” there are three main ways we use body movements, signals and gestures: “as a code or instruction, as an emphasizer and as an indicator” [Phi11, p. 8]. That’s why, when negotiating, it is often not about what you are saying but how you are saying it. If your appearance is confident and convincing you can practically sell “everything”. By observing the other persons emphasizing signals, as clothing, the use of gadgets and items from certain brands you will get a first and mostly right impression about the person you are dealing with [Phi11, p. 9]. During a negotiation talk eye-to-eye it is, as the name already reveals, the eyes which are the main factor to the success. 82% of the information is processed through the eyes. You can put pressure on the person in front of you by simply going up, towards the forehead, instead of going downwards to the nose, mouth and chin, as we are used to do it (compare: [Phi11 p. 143/ 146]). This is when words and gestures respectively movements often begin to differ. That means saying “yes” but shaking the head or the other way around [Phi11, p. 9/10].

When the negotiation is not eye-to-eye but by phone you have to pay attention to sighs, voice tone, the other person’s breathing or/and if the other person is in the office or with other people. So, you might notice that they are in a good mood or not, if they are then try to negotiate (compare: [Phi11 p. 142]). All in all, body language has a great influence on the success of negotiations and therefore it is important to know how to read it and, even more important, how to use it to your advantage. Meaning that even if you are well prepared, for example, for an encounter with an important client but you do not know how to convey your knowledge convincingly you might lose your client. A short and seemingly unimportant gesture or movement can make the difference between leaving the encounter with or without an order.


Excerpt out of 8 pages


Intercultural Competency
LMU Munich
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ISBN (eBook)
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intercultural, competency
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Torsten Müller (Author), 2012, Intercultural Competency, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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