Communication Barriers in Moscow

It has been a while since my last newsletter. At that time I was reporting on why New Year's resolutions fail. That newsletter referred the attention of someone at CBC and I was invited to come in to the studio on the morning of January 1 to discuss my views. It was a great experience being on TV. For those interested, you can view my 5 minute segment on CBC by visiting my homepage (or Media Center Page) of my website (below) and scrolling down until you see the link to YouTube.

Today this newsletter comes to you from Moscow, Russia. I am here for 6 weeks doing executive communication training at an oil technology company. This is my first time in Russia and I can tell you that there have been some barriers to communication for sure.

First of all I can not read Russian, and as you may guess I can not speak it either (although I am slowly learning phrases). This means I have to depend on reading people's faces and body language. Luckily I have studied it extensively. We are all human, so people tend to have the same gestures for anger, confusion, happiness, etc. So far my best tool is to watch carefully and smile a lot. I imitate their behavior at formal functions, just to make sure. Yes I believe they would forgive me if I made a cultural mistake, but honestly, it is much better to avoid them! First impressions count a lot everywhere.

I also ask questions to the people responsible for me, based on my observations or readings. For example, did you know that here in Russia the men continuously shake hands with each other at most meetings and greetings, even if it is not formal? I think back home we only do that to say hello and goodbye. Here you may end up shaking hands with the same guy 3 or 4 times a day. However I have been told that the women do not shake hands. It is not considered necessary for them to be so formal. Interesting eh?

Well tomorrow I am supposed to go site-seeing around Moscow so I will end this newsletter for now. All in all I can say "so far so good" and I look forward to learning more Russian language, and also Russian culture. Then the barriers to communication will not seem so grand.