Floor Control: Learning the Art of Gaps in Virtual Communication
An individual speaking in a group setting owns floor control. What most Americans do not realize is that floor control preferences are cultural and happen quite naturally. Aspects of floor control become very important to unprotected to a successful interaction when communicating by a video or phone conference.
Americans, familiar with flat organization structures where everyone has a voice, will spontaneously take the floor without formal cues. In organizations, people interrupt each other and take over conversations in an effort to add to the discussion. Americans focus on the right moment to jump in during a meeting. They often search for a moment of silence or anticipate when someone else will complete their thought, so that they can have their say. During American meetings, there is an current mental strategy happening at the table amongst all participants to be part of the conversation, to provide meaningful thoughts, and most importantly to say something that others hear. In America, speaking up is not only important, but your job may depend on it.
Because of this mentality, there are very few pockets of silence during American conversations. When silence presents itself, most Americans feel a need to fill the perceived void. Think about silence the next time you are at a meeting. You will be amazed at how little silence exists.
In other cultures, the structures for communicating are much more formal, especially inside the Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) cultures. The reality is that people in these countries act differently at the conference room table. There is a rare combination of organizations structured in a tall triangle with many layers between the CEO and the worker. The focus is on giving strength to those that rule.
Beyond organizational structures, in the BRIC cultures there is a greater focus on indirect communication where workers send messages without speaking. They characterize this in their use of body language and the use of silence. When you speak directly to someone from another culture, you will discover more silence. If you can be patient, you will find that the “other side” waits a bit longer to begin speaking. This gap or silence can be irresistible to fill for Americans who immediately start thinking about whether or not others understood them and continue explaining.
With an increased understanding of what the other side is thinking during a call, The Global Manager has better tools to managing virtual communications with workers from other cultures. To learn more about cultural differences and managing virtual communications, visit http://theglobalmanager.com/cross-cultural-virtual-communication/