19 September 2013

A Russian smile for better business

Encouraging Russian business executives to smile

International borders are not necessarily policed with armed guards and barbed wire, armless smiles and barbed comments can be the barrier to international communication. Larissa Zelezinskaya of the Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University knows this only too well. As a post-graduate student of History, Philosophy and Cultural Studies she is attempting to understand how humour and a smile might lubricate business between an apparently unsmiling Russia and international associates. As such, she has reported 14 characteristics that feature prominently in social interactions that misinterpreted a seeming unfriendliness may well have been the demise of many a business transaction over the years. It’s not that she is suggesting Russians should “lighten up” or change their ways, but she does

  1. In Russia a smile is not a sign of courtesy instead constant “polite” smiling is considered a sign of insincerity, secrecy and an unwillingness to show one’s true feelings.

  2. Russians rarely smile at strangers.

  3. Responding to a smile with a smile is not common.

  4. Russians will avert their gaze rather than smile following a chance meeting of eyes.

  5. Russians do not often smile when looking at small children or pets.

  6. A smile in Russia is a sign of personal favour, so Russians usually only smile at friends.

  7. Smiling when doing serious business is unacceptable, whether executive, bank teller or waiter.

  8. When Russians do smile it is sincere, reflecting friendship and a good mood.

  9. Russians must have a good reason to smile.

  10. Decent (and in fact the only) reason to smile in Russian business communication is to reflect the current financial wellbeing of person.

  11. In Russian culture smiling to cheer someone up is not accepted.

  12. Russians take their time to smile.

  13. A smile must be relevant to all parties and should correspond to the communication.

  14. In Russia there is no clear distinction between a smile and a laugh, in practice, often these phenomena are the same.

Of course, cultures change…where once Russians were once considered a gloomy, unsmiling nation jocularity even in the workplace is becoming increasingly common and especially in international business relationships. “Humour plays a great role in personnel management,” says Zelezinskaya, “it helps to create a favourable work atmosphere, to increase productivity and profits of the company, it relieves distrust and tension, and generally facilitates social adaptation to the new environment.”

Research Blogging IconZelezinskaya, L. (2013) ‘Humour as a means of management’, Int. J. Qualitative Research in Services, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp.173–181.

A Russian smile for better business is a post from: David Bradley's Science Spot

via Science Spot http://sciencespot.co.uk/a-russian-smile-for-better-business.html

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