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In an increasingly globalized world, we’re more likely to encounter people from other cultures than ever before. This diversity allows for creativity and innovation—but it can also be incredibly confusing. Why doesn't your Japanese colleague ever say what they mean? How come you’re the only person to arrive on time at a meeting in Nigeria?

In The Culture Map, cultural communications expert Erin Meyer presents a framework you can use to analyze how cultures differ from yours as well as practical strategies to mitigate any cultural misunderstandings. She also explains why these cultural differences developed in the first place.

In this guide, we’ll discuss these differences, Meyer’s strategies, and her explanations for how these cultural differences developed. We’ll also supplement Meyer’s ideas with external research—so you can understand exactly how cultural differences affect people and have the studies to back it up.

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Meyer contends that you can divide leadership styles into two extremes: egalitarian and hierarchical. In egalitarian cultures, everybody is equal​​—even in the workplace. Companies tend to have flat organizational structures, and people treat each other the same regardless of rank. Conversely, rank matters in hierarchical cultures. Companies have strict levels, which employees follow by deferring to the higher-ranking individual. In exchange for obedience, the boss protects and cares for her employees—especially in Asian cultures.

(Shortform note: So which one is better? Most people think that they'll prefer egalitarian leadership styles. But in actuality, one Stanford study suggests that people prefer hierarchical leadership styles because the familiarity of hierarchical relationships makes them easier to understand. Whereas egalitarian relationships can be confusing to navigate, in a hierarchy, everyone’s roles and level of authority are clear.)

Meyer hypothesizes that the leadership style of a culture reflects the ideals of the religions, philosophies, and empires that historically dominated them. For example, modern-day egalitarian cultures are historically Protestant (a religion that values the individual’s relationship with God), while modern-day Western hierarchical cultures are historically Catholic (a religion strictly governed by the hierarchical Roman Catholic Church). (Shortform note: Meyer’s argument is supported by the fact that several key features of Protestantism elevate the role of the individual, while, historically, even the rulers of Catholic countries had to answer to the Pope and were thus bound by hierarchy.)

Strategies for Leading Across Cultures

Meyer separates her strategies both by the culture’s leadership style and your rank in that culture. If you’re working in a hierarchical culture, pay attention to the various ways people express rank. Call people by their last name unless indicated otherwise. (Shortform note: Since many hierarchical cultures have language tenses that indicate politeness, when speaking English, using last names may be one of the few immediate ways you can show respect.) Conversely, if you’re working in an egalitarian culture, get comfortable speaking to everybody. (Shortform note: Comic visualization can help you feel less intimidated.)

If you’re leading in a hierarchical culture, mentor and protect your subordinates well—their obedience isn’t permission to treat them poorly. (Shortform note: This ideal may be universal, as one article attributes it to the American 1967 business book Organization in Action.) Similarly, understand that people won’t feel as comfortable around you as you might be used to. Strategies like informing people before a meeting that you’ll want their opinion will help them prepare how to present them in advance. (Shortform note: You could also try soliciting anonymous opinions with a dummy email account, so people can express their thoughts without fearing that they’ll disrespect you.)

Conversely, when leading in egalitarian cultures, work to establish that you’re “one of the guys.” You can use external cues to indicate this, like dressing more casually or using first names. (Shortform note: Social mirroring suggests that we unconsciously copy people we like, so subtly copying others can make them like you.) Meyer also suggests that acting as a facilitator both in meetings and when helping employees set objectives will help your employees feel more comfortable. (Shortform note: Meyer recommends facilitating goal-setting as part of the 5-step Management by Objective method, a framework originated by management expert Peter Drucker. Modern-day versions of this framework usually recommend setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, and Time-Bound) goals.)

Axis #5: Consensus vs Individual Decision-Making

Meyer suggests that decision-making styles range across two extremes: consensual (which we’ll call consensus) and top-down (which we’ll call individual).

In countries that decide by consensus, the group takes everyone’s opinion into account. All the relevant parties consider all the information, and they make a decision only when everybody agrees. (Shortform note: Meyer doesn't specifically define consensus, which is generally defined as almost unanimous with some dissenting opinions. Acceptable dissent differs by country, so learn what consensus means where you’re working.) So decisions take a long time but are final once made. (Shortform note: This long decision-making process could have serious financial detriment.)

In countries that decide individually, the decision-maker may consider others’ opinions, but ultimately, the individual (usually the boss) makes the decision. These cultures tend to make decisions quickly and early in the proces. But even after it’s made, the decision remains flexible and open to change based on new information or new opinions. (Shortform note: This may also be a feature of low-context cultures. Some suggest that low-context cultures are more likely to notice how objects differ, so they’re also more likely to believe that a ‘best choice’ exists. As such, they might be more open to changing their decisions.)

Mostly, hierarchical countries decide individually, and egalitarian countries decide by consensus. (Shortform note: Meyer also discusses some notable exceptions, like Germany and Japan, whose decision-making styles may have influenced the industries they dominate.)

Strategies for Making Decisions Across Cultures

Meyer’s strategies for working in cultures that decide by consensus mostly involve getting used to how much time decisions take and using that time to your advantage. She recommends building time for a longer decision-making process into your schedule and practicing patience when talks stall. She also suggests fostering positive relationships with your business partners so you’re not surprised by the decision, as well as making sure you’re comfortable with the process being used. (Shortform note: Make this process more comfortable by building trust with your business partners and holding your meetings in places conducive to reaching a consensus. And study how your unconscious assumptions might influence your comfort with the process.)

In contrast, Meyer’s strategies for working in cultures that decide individually mostly involve understanding your role on the team. If you’re not the leader, check your ego—don’t get offended when people don’t ask your opinion, and follow all decisions even when you disagree. If you are the leader, make decisions faster than you’re used to—others’ opinions are valuable, but if you wait too long you’ll come across as inefficient and weak. (Shortform note: Meyer recommends more strategies based on the culture’s leadership style here.) And no matter your rank, always remain flexible because decisions can almost always be changed. (Shortform note: Try becoming more flexible by practicing radical open-mindedness.)

Axis #6: Cognitive vs Personal Trust

Meyer divides trust-building methods into two extremes: task-based, which we’ll call cognitive, and relationship-based, which we’ll call personal.

According to Meyer, in cognitive cultures, trust develops based on behavior—like whether someone’s good at their job. Business relationships remain professional and don’t bleed into personal connections. In contrast, the cornerstone of business relationships in personal cultures is affective or personal trust—the trust that people of all cultures feel towards their family and friends. So while people build relationships slowly, this connection lasts across jobs. (Shortform note: Researchers suggest that trust has three parts: competency, honesty (or integrity), and benevolence, the idea that someone is acting in your best interests. It’s likely that although both types of cultures value honesty, cognitive cultures place a higher value on competence and personal cultures place a higher value on benevolence.)

Meyer suggests that the legal systems of cultures inform how they build trust. Cognitive cultures tend to have established legal systems: If someone wrongs you, you can sue them and reasonably expect justice, so your personal relationship isn’t that important. (Shortform note: Lawsuits aren’t common: People worry that if they sue their employers, they might never get hired again.) In contrast, personal cultures tend to have less reliable legal systems: Even if someone wrongs you, suing them wouldn’t help. By investing time into building your personal relationship upfront, you’re better able to assess their character and feel more confident that they won’t exploit you should something go wrong. (Shortform note: Other benefits of investing time into your work relationships may include more engagement at your job.)

Strategies for Building Trust Across Cultures

Meyer’s strategies for building trust in cognitive cultures mostly involve efficiency: Shorten your meals to under 90 minutes and pick efficient ways to communicate like emailing instead of calling. (Shortform note: Try choosing your communication method based on how quickly you need an answer.) However, her strategies mostly focus on building affective trust, which she contends are more generally useful: Personal relationships are better-suited to working cross-culturally because people are more likely to forgive and teach you about your inevitable cultural error. (Shortform note: Studies show that affective trust is beneficial in cognitive cultures, too.)

Meyer’s strategies for building affective trust mostly involve ways to connect with the other person. If you can, visit, and socialize by spending time on meals, finding mutual interests to bond over and turning your professional self off when you go out. If you can’t visit, spend more time on the phone and follow the other person’s cues by letting them direct how the phone calls progress. (Shortform note: Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been working remotely, making in-person visits difficult and presenting unique challenges for building affective trust. Some strategies include creating a virtual hang-out space or video chatting to feel more bonded to one another.)

Axis #7: Open Disagreement vs Disagreement-Avoidant Cultures

Meyer divides disagreement styles across two extremes: “confrontational,” which we’ll call open disagreement, and “avoids confrontation,” which we’ll call disagreement-avoidant.

According to Meyer, cultures that disagree openly view disagreement as good for the group. Disagreement is inevitable when ideas are freely exchanged, as they must be for innovation to occur. People disagree with you frankly and publicly, but these open disagreements aren’t viewed as personal attacks. (Shortform note: Just as cognitive cultures tend to have reliable legal systems, cultures that disagree openly may as well: If damaging your personal relationship doesn’t strongly affect your business dealings anyway, more open disagreement would likely be acceptable. In support of this, many cultures that disagree openly also develop trust cognitively.)

In disagreement-avoidant cultures, openly disagreeing with someone will harm your relationship. Disagreement is bad for the group and is viewed as a personal attack because it causes people to lose face. In these cultures, people express disagreement subtly and privately. (Shortform note: Stella Ting-Toomey, who developed face-negotiation theory in 1985, was the first to propose that all cultures care about their ‘face,’ or image, but use different behaviors to protect or attack it—an idea Meyer also expresses in her book.)

Meyer suggests that a culture's disagreement style reflects the philosophy that influenced it. Cultures that disagree openly teach the Hegelian method in school, which influences how they disagree as adults. (Shortform note: Meyer only cites the Hegelian influence in France, but the fact that other theoretical countries also disagree openly suggests the Hegelian influence on disagreement style is broader.) Similarly, disagreement-avoidant Asian countries reflect Confucian beliefs about society: people must follow their prescribed roles in society or else society breaks down. So to disagree openly with someone is to suggest they’re not being true to their prescribed role and is thus far more taboo. (Shortform note: Meyer doesn't discuss why Latin American and Middle Eastern cultures avoid disagreement, calling them only “sensitive and easily bruised.” Historically, both regions highly value honor and experience public shame, which may explain why they avoid public disagreement in the modern world.)

Meyer suggests that most cultures that disagree openly are equally open with their emotions, while disagreement-avoidant cultures are emotionally reserved. However this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: While all of us express emotions in our faces and mannerisms, their frequency and intensity is dictated by culture. (Shortform note: The rules that govern these norms are known by psychologists as “cultural display rules.”)

Strategies for Disagreeing Across Cultures

To evaluate where a culture lies on the disagreement spectrum, ask yourself: How much would openly disagreeing with someone harm your relationship? Ignore how emotionally open they are.

Meyer also suggests that different cultures have three different overarching ideas about the purpose of meetings, so you should adjust how you disagree accordingly. In cultures that meet to formalize a decision, disagreeing at the meeting is too late— do so privately well before the meeting takes place. In cultures that meet in order to make a decision, expect to leave with an answer even if some debate occurs. Finally, in cultures that meet to learn about what you're deciding on, expect vigorous, open debate. (Shortform note: Meyer’s idea that meetings have three purposes has limited outside support and is based on her own unpublished survey data. However, When Cultures Collide also suggests that different cultures have meetings for different reasons.)

Axis #8: Monochronic vs Polychronic Time Perception

Meyer divides time perception, which she calls scheduling, across two extremes: linear-time, or monochronic, and flexible-time, or polychronic.

According to Meyer, monochronic cultures value a fixed, linear schedule. These cultures focus on one thing at a time and value punctuality (although lateness is generally acceptable up to a point). They run on “clock time,” eating lunch at noon because it's noon. By contrast, polychronic cultures work on several things at once, adhering to schedules only broadly. They run on “event time,” eating lunch when they’re hungry. (Shortform note: A third way of perceiving time may be “cyclical time”: Time runs in cycles, so decisions aren’t as unique since the opportunity will always come again.)

A great way to evaluate how a culture perceives time is to look at how it approaches meetings. Monochronic cultures follow a previously defined agenda, remain engaged throughout the meeting, and disapprove of tangents. Polychronic meetings are more flexible: Topics change based on that day’s priorities. Multiple conversations occur simultaneously as tangents crop up and the relevant individuals discuss it. Participants aren’t expected to focus on the meeting at the expense of all other priorities. (Shortform note: Is one more productive than the other? Although studies argue that multitasking destroys productivity, they’re mostly held in the monochronic U.S. and may not apply to polychronic cultures. And monochronic meetings aren’t necessarily better: Death by Meeting presents several strategies for making meetings less tedious.)

Meyer suggests that cultures perceive time differently based on how industrialized they are. More predictable cultures tend to be more monochronic. In these cultures, governments run reliably and natural disasters rarely inhibit your business. According to Meyer, this is because the Industrial Revolution caused people to prioritize punctuality: if you were late, the factory didn't run properly and you cost the company money. (Shortform note: Hall originated the idea that monochronic cultures began with the Industrial Revolution.)

In contrast, cultures may become polychronic because their countries are unpredictable. When governments are unreliable and natural disasters shut down your business, companies and managers succeed by adapting to unpredictable circumstances and by keeping employees loyal in times of hardship. When relationships and adaptability take priority, schedules become less important and thus more flexible. (Shortform note: In fact, one paper suggests that polychronism may inhibit industrialization by contributing to corruption and inefficiency.)

Strategies for Scheduling Across Cultures

Meyer recommends several generally applicable strategies to use when working with cultures that perceive time differently. First, adjust your schedule to the other culture, especially when you’re the visitor. This may take time to get right, so experiment until you find what works. Secondly, If you’re leading a team, set clear expectations about scheduling among team members to reduce frustration. Finally, withhold judgment. Scheduling is particularly vulnerable to cultural superiority, as both types think the other’s way is wrong. But the only correct way to perceive time is the one that works for you. (Shortform note: These strategies are all applicable more broadly to dealing with other cultures. Meyer may pinpoint them here partly because adjusting your schedule is easier than adjusting other ways you do business or because people are particularly judgmental about scheduling.)

What to Keep in Mind to Work Effectively Across Cultures

In her epilogue, Meyer describes how you can use the axes to compare cultures. Specifically, Meyer recommends looking at all eight axes simultaneously. Evaluate where each culture lies on each axis. Then, ask yourself: On what axes are these cultures similar? Where are they furthest apart?

culture_map.jpg

In order to mitigate the frustration caused by cultural differences, focus your attention on the axes that lie furthest apart. Follow the strategies presented in this book to prevent misunderstandings from forming and/or address issues that have already begun.

(Shortform note: Meyer uses the visual of the “culture map” to help the reader combine these scales. While visual learners may find this helpful, it’s not necessary, and may be visually confusing, to draw a line connecting all the axes. It’s sufficient to look at each of the eight axes independently to evaluate which need the most attention.)

Meyer also recommends several general strategies for working across cultures. For example, she suggests that when people understand that their culture influences how they work, they become better at working with people from different cultures. So talk about these cultural influences, making sure to use grace, humility, and humor throughout the conversation. (Shortform note: If the idea of having such a conversation intimidates you, try explaining why it could be mutually beneficial.)

Of course, such a strategy only works if you understand your own culture. This is another essential strategy Meyer recommends: Only when we first understand how our culture is unique in some capacity can we appreciate and work with the differences in other cultures. (Shortform note: Meyer focuses exclusively on national cultures. But looking at what other kinds of cultures—our gender and generation, for example—have influenced us is also an essential business skill.)

Finally, remember that while culture is an essential piece of the puzzle, it is only a piece. Our personalities aren’t defined exclusively by culture, but we are all heavily influenced by the cultures we grew up in. So in an increasingly globalized world, the ability to discern between individual quirks and evidence of a cultural pattern is an essential leadership skill. While this can be greatly challenging, it can also be greatly rewarding, as you learn new practices and ways of thinking that enrich your life.

(Shortform note: If culture is just another piece of the puzzle, it follows that learning to become a better leader in general can also improve your effectiveness at managing people across cultures. But as we’ve seen, effective business leadership differs among cultures, so following traditional Western business advice may backfire. We’ve previously suggested reading business/leadership books from the country you’ll be working with. But for more generally applicable leadership advice, consider reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Since the original text is geared towards military conflict in Asia, you may find it easier to interpret these strategies to fit an intercultural context than you would a regular business book.)

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Here's a preview of the rest of Shortform's The Culture Map PDF summary:

PDF Summary Shortform Introduction

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Intellectual Context

Meyer isn’t the first to attempt to use a multidimensional framework to explain cultural differences. Beginning in 1959, American anthropologist Edward T. Hall published several books examining how various cultures viewed specific concepts differently. In 1980, Dutch management researcher Geert Hofstede examined this in a visual manner with Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. Finally, the Netherlands's Alfonsus Trompenaars and Britain’s Charles Hampdens-Turner popularized a framework of how these cultural frameworks affect business and management with their 1997 publication of Riding the Waves of Culture.

Meyer builds on and adapts all of these frameworks in her book. Her work is also sometimes compared to Richard Lewis’s When Cultures Collide, a 2005 tome by a British cross-cultural expert. Meyer doesn’t provide in-depth analysis...

PDF Summary Introduction: The Eight Ways to Measure Cultural Differences

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Meyer has developed scales, which we’ll call axes or spectrums, as a way to visualize the degree of difference in each category. On each axis lies a potential spectrum of behavior, and each end of the axis is the direct opposite of the other end. For example, on the Disagreement axis, one end of the axis represents “confrontational,” while the other end represents “avoids confrontation.” Similarly, on the Feedback axis, one end represents “direct negative feedback,” while the other end represents “indirect negative feedback.” Meyer positions countries on each axis based on anecdotal evidence and her research at INSEAD.

(Shortform note: As discussed, Meyer asks for a huge amount of trust from her readers: She doesn’t reference any peer-reviewed studies from INSEAD. A potential reason for Meyer’s lack of research is the difficulty of empirically measuring cultural differences. Any study methodology would likely be flawed because the methodology itself would be influenced by cultural factors. Furthermore, studying every country in the world is a colossal undertaking.)

Meyer visually represents the axes in a “culture...

PDF Summary Chapter 1: Communication Across Cultures

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High-Context Cultures

Defining a High-Context Culture

Meyer defines high-context cultures as cultures where communication doesn’t occur at only face value. To communicate effectively in a high-context culture, you must read between the lines.

Meyer explains that people from high-context cultures have a shared cultural understanding, etiquette, and norms that influence their communication style. So both the speaker and the listener act under the assumption that not all relevant information has been explicitly stated. They assume that there is an underlying message and that the listener must look for it.

In a high-context culture, the onus for communication is shared between the listener and the speaker. If a misunderstanding occurs, the fault lies with the speaker for not communicating effectively, but also with the listener for not interpreting the message correctly.

According to Meyer, Japan is the highest-context culture in the world. (Shortform note: In contrast to the low-context U.S., high-context Japan has relatively little signposting—[even in big cities like Tokyo, there are streets without names and buildings without...

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PDF Summary Chapter 2: Feedback Across Cultures

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Direct Negative Feedback

According to Meyer, people from cultures that prize direct negative feedback state negative feedback clearly and explicitly.

Meyer also states that these cultures tend to use strengtheners, which are words that strengthen the feedback, such as “totally” or “clearly.”

Furthermore, people from these cultures may deliver feedback publicly or jokingly. But someone who’s used to indirect negative feedback might perceive direct negative feedback as overly harsh or cruel.

(Shortform note: Negative feedback of all types offers benefits. A Harvard Business Review article points out that negative feedback improves your argument, especially when it comes from different fields: You’re forced to adjust and clarify your idea, which strengthens it. Negative feedback may also help you realize how much an idea matters to you. If you remain neutral when someone challenges your idea, it may not be as important or as good as you think.)

Indirect Negative Feedback

According to Meyer, cultures that use indirect negative feedback tend to deliver their messages in a subtler manner. They...

PDF Summary Chapter 3: Thinking Across Cultures

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In business, this focus on relationships is evident in longer responses to questions. People might present related information first before getting to their answers. As such, people from other cultures might find that dialectical thinkers are missing or unable to find the point. At worst, they might think dialectical thinkers are doing so deliberately.

According to Meyer, most Asian cultures think dialectically.

How Western and Asian Dialectical Thinkers Differ

According to Nisbett, dialectical thinkers are more accepting of contradiction as a fact of life, so they often try to find the middle ground. Sounds great, right? But an acceptance of contradiction could be problematic in business. For example, you might have to convince dialectical thinkers that a problem needs solving at all.

But this acceptance of contradiction may be a feature of East Asian dialectical thinkers instead of Western ones. Although Westerners are also capable of thinking dialectically, studies suggest that [Westerners and East Asians do so...

PDF Summary Chapter 4: Leadership Across Cultures

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Defining Egalitarian Leadership

In an egalitarian culture, the power distance is low. In other words, everybody is equal​​—even in the workplace.

Companies in egalitarian cultures tend to have a flat organizational structure. People speak as easily to the CEO as they do to the lowest-ranking employee. (Shortform note: Another feature of egalitarian cultures that Meyer doesn’t mention is that its members are more likely to act on their own and ask for forgiveness instead of permission.)

In meetings, everybody’s ideas have equal value. The boss’s rank doesn’t protect his/her suggestions from criticism. Problems are pushed down to the people who know them best. (Shortform note: International management consultancy Sinickas adds that meeting participants speak informally and from the heart. In contrast, hierarchical cultures prefer scripts in meetings and presentations.)

The boss uses external cues to indicate that he/she is ‘one of the guys,’ such as by dressing casually or forgoing an office. (Shortform note:...

PDF Summary Chapter 5: Decision-Making Across Cultures

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People who aren’t used to deciding by consensus often think they'll like this style of decision. But in practice, they tend to find it frustrating. For example, if they don’t have strong opinions about a particular decision, they want someone else to make the decision instead. (Shortform note: Still, many businesses consider implementing consensus decision-making styles because the process “often leads to innovation and creativity, legitimizes minority perspectives, and keeps hierarchy and bureaucracy in check.”)

Other criticisms of deciding by consensus include that it takes too long, that the decisions aren’t flexible or adaptable to new information, and that it prevents individuals from being held accountable.

Generally speaking, countries that decide by consensus fall on the egalitarian end of the leadership spectrum. However, there are some exceptions.

(Shortform note: Interestingly, another criticism of consensus decision-making is that it’s not actually consensual. It’s possible that the junior team members pick up on subtle cues delivered by...

PDF Summary Chapter 6: Building Trust Across Cultures

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(Shortform note: For example, people in cognitive cultures might consider hiring a relative or somebody who you were introduced to through a relative to be a conflict of interest. But in other cultures, this might be the only way you got the interview in the first place.)

Meyer contends that a key element of cognitive cultures is what happens after the professional relationship is severed. People from cognitive cultures still work to establish rapport with their colleagues and clients through icebreakers and socializing. But if somebody at your company is fired in a cognitive culture, this tends to signify the unceremonious end of your relationship. (Shortform note: This is usually due to people feeling awkward, but can be a more official ending. One American woman found herself struggling to remain friends with a former coworker because their ex-boss had asked them to cut contact. This is an extreme and awkward case in cognitive culture, but would be absolutely unthinkable in certain places around the world.)

People view members of cognitive cultures as superficial and inauthentic because knowing...

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PDF Summary Chapter 7: Disagreement Across Cultures

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How Cultures That Disagree Openly Develop

Meyer suggests that just as the Hegelian method used in the French educational system influenced how they persuade people in business settings, it also influenced how they disagree. In other words, the French disagree openly in business settings because that’s what they were taught to do in school.

(Shortform note: Meyer doesn’t explicitly cite the Hegelian influence on education as a factor in why countries other than France also disagree openly. However, many other countries that practice theoretical thinking (Germany, Italy, and Spain, for example) also disagree confrontationally. This suggests that these countries also disagree openly due to Hegel’s influence on their educational systems. This point is supported by the fact that the Anglo-Saxon countries which practice empirical thinking all lie in the middle of the disagreement spectrum.)

Disagreement-Avoidant Cultures

Defining Disagreement-Avoidant Cultures

In some cultures, openly disagreeing with someone will harm your relationship—sometimes seriously and potentially to the point of irreparability.

In these cultures, Meyer states, disagreement is...

PDF Summary Chapter 8: Time Perception Across Cultures

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(Shortform note: In many cultures, including monochronic cultures, starting work on time is much more important than ending work on time. In fact, in some cultures, it's still acceptable for employers to email their employees in the middle of the night (and expect a response). However, this may be changing. In recent years, France and Germany both made international headlines for considering laws that would prohibit employers from sending emails during non-business hours.)

One of the best ways to evaluate whether a culture is monochronic is to look at how it approaches meetings. In monochronic cultures, meetings have a fixed start and end time. Meyer states that usually, a detailed agenda is sent out to participants ahead of time. Each topic may be allotted a particular number of minutes on this schedule.

If participants begin to discuss a topic not on the meeting agenda, it’s considered to be going off-track. Someone will point out that this topic is not on the agenda and suggest that it be...

PDF Summary Epilogue: What to Keep in Mind to Work Effectively Across Cultures

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Why? We tend to assume that everybody works the way that we do because our way is the ‘normal’ way. It’s only when we first understand how our culture is unique in some capacity that we become more able to appreciate and work with the differences in other cultures.

(Shortform note: Meyer focuses exclusively on national cultures, so in this strategy, she’s referring to understanding only how your country’s culture has affected your work. But this finding is also true for other kinds of cultures that we may be parts of. In addition to understanding our national culture, looking at what other kinds of cultures—our gender and generation, for example—have influenced us is also an essential business skill.)

Be wary of lumping cultures together for the wrong reasons.

Many of us assume that cultures that are geographically close to each other must be similar. Sometimes, this is true—Japan and South Korea are both high-context cultures. But we’ve seen several examples throughout this summary that don’t fit that pattern. For example, France and Germany share a border. However,...