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Procrastinate Me At The Next Stop
Bus Culture - The story is told of a visitor to the U.S. who was riding a city bus and asked the driver to procrastinate him at the next stop. Much confusion ensued from this request until the visitor showed the driver his pocket dictionary and its definition of the word procrastinate - "to put off." Cultural differences in communication go well beyond misunderstandings around word choice.

Different cultures communicate (and value) using varying amounts of directness. Those communicating using a direct approach are seen on a good day as being clear and concise, but on a bad day are perceived as rude and abrupt. Those valuing an indirect approach are seen on a good day as being friendly and accommodating, but on a bad day are perceived as vague, unclear, and not committed to an answer.

It's More Than The Side Our Shirt Buttons On - Men And Women Are Different!
Gender - Studies indicate that men and women often communicate differently. The self-help books are full of the basic idea that many of our relationship problems are caused when we don't communicate effectively because we communicate with such different patterns as to create confusion. Women tend to be indirect, process-based communicators and men tend to be direct, main point based communicators. They typical exasperation seems to be that women don't get to the point (not clear and concise and too many details), while me don't give enough detailed information (too direct, abrupt, and too few details).
Successful business women seem to have mastered this concept and will often say that they communicate one way (deductive) at work and a different way (inductive) at home. They may not even realize that they make this switch but simply say "that is how you get things done at work." Successful business men for the most part have never recognized there's an issue.

The Plural Of "You All" Is "All You All"
Region - Different regions of the U.S. are well known for variations in communication patterns. The Northeast is known for a very direct "in your face" approach that is seen as abrasive to those accustomed to a more genteel pattern. In sharp contrast is the South where even high-stakes business negotiations are likely to be prefaced with a chat about family, football, and bird dogs before getting down to the brass tacks. Other parts of the country can be placed on a continuum between the frenetic "in a New York minute" pace and sharpness found north of the Mason Dixon line and the more leisurely pace and rounded style experienced south of the line.

Just The Facts Ma'am, Nothing But The Facts
Occupation - What we do for a living also influences communication patterns. People who are engaged in the service industry, like sales people, beauticians, and clerks, are more likely to exhibit and be tolerant of an indirect approach. People trained in scientific and technical fields tend to be focused on solving problems and generally favor a direct approach that doesn't support a climate of idle chit chat.

Just A Simple Yes Or No Will Do
- Experts (when discussing their area of expertise) favor an indirect approach. When asked for a simple yes or no answer, they often launch into a complicated response because they realize the complexity of the situation and that a simple answer grossly oversimplifies the situation. Those on the receiving end of the complicated answer respond much like the teenager, who when told to get help from this engineer father with a math assignment said: "I don't want to know that much about it."

Can I Get The Reader's Digest Version?
- People in a hurry favor a direct approach while those with more time are tolerant of an indirect approach.

Does "LOL" mean "Laugh Out Loud," "Lots of Luck," "Lots of Love," OR "Little Old Lady?"
Generation -
In studies conducted among hiring managers, "Millennial" workers are thought to be creative strong networkers and motivated employees. However, these same employees are so accustomed to the structure of creative writing that hiring managers often find them to be weak in writing skills when compared to more mature workers. When communicating in writing both in house and with clients, Millennials' messages are often judged as being unclear, ineffectively organized, lacking in necessary detail, conveying inappropriate tone, relying heavily on jargon, and inattentive to mechanics (spelling, punctuation, grammar).

The reasons for these deficiencies have been blamed on a lack of training in schools and colleges. They are also blamed on Millennials' pervasive use of social media, which relies heavily on short-hand messages filled with abbreviations, acronyms, emoticons, and displaying mechanics - optional rigor. While the causes of the problem may be open to debate, the impact upon Millennials is not. Their weak writing skills reduce their ability to communicate in the workplace, decrease the likelihood that they will be hired over older workers, and limit their chances for promotion and advancement once hired.

So What's A Body To Do?
Given the significant variation in communication patterns preferred and practiced by people engaged in business, we need to adapt our default patterns to those of the person with whom we are interacting. We mirror the communication behaviors of the person on the other side of the interchange, being more or less direct, seeking for as much common ground in our world views as the circumstances allow.

Now we understand why business communication differs, we can move on to how we do it efficiently and effectively using two time-saving business communication tools.

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Unit I - Page 3 of 9
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