Can you be a chicken and still be a good intercultural communicator?*
The short answer is “no.”
I was having an amazing conversation today (or as I said, let’s talk about something really interesting, let’s talk about me!”) with Marti Barletta of Trendsight today.
Marti is the premier provider of ‘marketing to women’ insights and ideas, a dynamic keynote speaker, author of two books, Marketing to Women and PrimeTime Women and a frequent commentator on marketing to women on NBC, the Economist and the like.
For Women vs. Men, there’s an 80/20 rule. 80% may follow common characteristics, and 20% may not, but that doesn’t preclude you from talking about trends that will help you market to the 80%.
Our natural instinct is to group and categorize like with like, and to be an ‘expert’ in a paticular area, you need to be able to do that in a way that’s actionable, as in “here’s how women generally behave, and here’s how you can use that to best market your product.”
As Marti pointed out, it’s nice to be nice, but at some point you need to interpret the data and insert/assert your own position.
It reminds me of an episode of Murphy Brown, basically making fun of political correctness. The TV station had convened a Town Hall meeting (remember, this was circa the late 80’s–probably different tone for Town Hall Meetings today!). No matter what was said, someone took offense. “Well, I’m African American and I take offense at that…” Well, I’m xyz and I take offense at that…” Finally Murphy screams “Oh, you’re all acting like children!” At which point a child stands up and says “well, I”m a child, and I take offense at that …”
The point is that I probably will offend someone, sometime. But, I also know who I am. If I offend, it will be unintentional.
With intercultural communications, while individual characteristics ultimately trump cultural generalizations, you can’t teach or write a book called “6 billion people and here’s how you reach them individually.” At some point you need to identify common traits, customs or behaviors by culture (or even…gasp…race) to be able to start a dialogue.
The good intercultural communicator will not be afraid to do that. The trick is to also have the confidence in your own identity to be able to take an unintended offense, and turn it into a doorway for communication and growth.
Who have you offended lately? How did it turn out?
* Speaking of intercultural communications and marketing to women, I”m using the US connotation of Chicken, as in being afraid, as opposed to the Brazilian connotation of Chicken, meaning a promiscuous woman.
Photo credit: Forbes Nutritional Services