This activity is based on an article by Erin Meyer titled How to say “this is crap” in different cultures. Meyer recycles some material from an old Internet meme about British-Dutch cultural differences. Nevertheless, it demonstrates differences in how people convey feedback linguistically quite well.
Image attribution: Meeting by Howard Jefferson | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0
Raise awareness of the cultural gap caused by direct vs. indirect approaches to giving feedback and allow learners an opportunity to discuss ways of mitigating risks arising from these differences
Make copies of and cut up the table titled ‘Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide’ in this article. You don’t need to use the entire table as participants might take too long to unjumble it. Select four rows that your learners might find interesting.
- Board the phrase “this is absolute crap” and ask participants if they would ever use this phrase while giving feedback to a colleague about some work they’ve done. Ask them to discuss the reasons for their response with a partner.
- As you take whole class feedback, you’ll find some participants articulating a softer response such as “this is sort of what I was looking for”. Board these.
- Derive that some cultures are more explicit or direct in communicating feedback.
- Upgraders: These direct cultures tend to use upgraders such as absolutely, strongly, or totally before negative feedback to strengthen it such as “This is absolutely inappropriate”. In these cultures, “this is absolute crap” may be perceived as acceptable.
- Point out that other cultures are more implicit or indirect as perhaps with the utterances shared by the participants for softening the message.
- Downgraders: These indirect cultures tend to use downgraders such as kind of, sort of, a little, a bit, maybe and slightly to soften the blow. They might also use a type of downgrader called an understatement such as “We are not quite there yet”.
- Ask participants to categorize some national cultures based on whether they are relatively direct or indirect (bear in mind that indirect cultures like India often perceive themselves as more or less direct).
- Board participants’ suggestions and circle the UK & the Netherlands.
- Signpost the cutouts and state that the cutouts belong under three headers: What the British say, What the British mean, and What the Dutch understand. Ask participants to work in groups to put them in the right categories.
- Get participants to identify the gap between what is being said/meant and what is understood and the problems this might create.
- Ask participants to think about the kind of culture they come from – indirect/direct – and consider their own personal orientation to giving feedback. Do they use upgraders or downgraders?
- Have them imagine a situation where they are working with someone who has a different preference to feedback than them, what could they do to ensure that they are not misunderstood or don’t end up damaging the business relationship.
Reference: Meyer, E., How To Say “This Is Crap” In Different Cultures in the Harvard Business Review, Feb 2014.
I haven’t done a single MOOC since the start of the year but I can dream right?! Here are some upcoming courses that might be up your alley. All free.
Have you done any MOOCs this year? Which ones do you recommend?
A matrix activity or game is an instructional strategy for getting learners to categorize, come up with solutions, or discuss points presented within a grid. This particular activity is based on research presented in the ‘Defend your research’ section of the Harvard Business Review.
Image attribution: Phone by HanZhan | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0
Redundancies (such as the one in this activity’s name) are seen as a sign of a poor communicator but a study in this area reveals that there may be a strategic purpose behind repeating yourself. The activity challenges learners to question popular perceptions about redundant communication and reflect on how they assign tasks to their team members.
It might be a good idea for the T to read this HBR article – Defend Your Research: Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More)
You’ll need copies of the activity handout for each participant.
- Lead in to the activity by asking participants to discuss in pairs how they go about assigning a task to a team member. You may want to give them an example such as “You need your team member to create a report for you” – how will you go about assigning this task?
- Distribute the activity handout and ask participants to read the two caselets individually and fill the communication matrix. You may need to signpost the example and demonstrate that they need to do two things. First, put ticks and crosses based on which modes of communication they’d use in that situation. Second, rank their ticks based on what they’d do first, second, third, etc. Point out that they don’t need to necessarily have more than one tick.
- Ask participants compare their matrices in pairs and discuss the rationale behind the modes they’ve selected.
- Ask participants to now read the summary of the research provided in the handout. They should compare their own ideas to the findings of the study.
- Get participants to discuss some reflection questions on whether they agree with the study and why managers might be increasingly using redundant communication.
You may want to conclude the exercise by getting participants to do some action planning. In light of this research, are there any changes they would want to make to their approach to assigning work?
Reference: Neely, T. & Leonardi, P.M., Defend your Research: Effective Managers Say the Same Thing Twice (or More) in the Harvard Business Review, May 2011.
Last year, I blogged about creative grouping techniques. It was a post that was specifically meant for a group of teacher trainers I’d worked with. Incidentally, I don’t use these techniques very often because I usually have an LCD projector so I prefer using a random or automated group generator, which I find a lot more efficient.
How does it work?
Select a random group generator that fits your classroom (WiFi or no WiFI) and budget ($$$ or are you kiddin me). Feed in your participant or student names, hit enter or group or whatever and voila.
- Smart Notebook: This is the one I use. Dated UI but it’s got a random group generator as well as a random word generator which can be repurposed to select a person. I learnt to use it from this Youtube video.
- Triptico: This is a fab app with much more than just a random group generator but connectivity is often an issue for me so I can’t invest in something that constantly requires an Internet connect.
- Random group generator in Excel: Here’s one version and here’s another. A bit dull but they do the job. You’ll need to do some learner training though because the grouping happens in a single list with numbers, participants are perpetually confused.
Do you know or use any automated group generators which I haven’t included? Add ’em in comments.
This post’s a long time coming but here are some upcoming webinars.
Lesson ideas & activities
Business & corporate topics