It is in this context that the present paper contrasts the importance of two divergent approaches to training, approaches that are either universalistic (etic) or particularistic (emic) in nature. While most extant literature on cross-cultural communication focuses primarily on culture-specific-emic-approaches, this paper stresses the value of also drawing on pan-cultural-universalistic-approaches. We illustrate the utility of such an approach through the example of "politeness" theory (Brown & Levinson, 1978, 1987). Politeness is a well recognized anthropological theory (Brown & Gilman, 1991; Fraser, 1990; Hill, Sachiko, Ikuta, Kawasaki, & Ogino, 1986; Nwoye, 1992; Kasper, 1990; Ting-Toomey; 1988, 1994; Watts, Ehlich, & Ide, 1992), yet it has received no prior attention in the managerial literature. This paper is thus cross-disciplinary in nature, bringing to bear evidence from the domain of anthropology in the study of cross-cultural communication within business settings. This paper reviews empirical research findings relative to cultural variation in politeness norms and will show how these differences can have a profound impact on the success or failure of intercultural communication in business contexts. The paper will discuss specific applications of politeness to cross-cultural managerial training and review the overall implications of using universalistic approaches to study and understand cultures. Emic Versus Etic Approaches to Cultural Analysis
Anthropologists have long distinguished between universalistic versus particularistic approaches to understanding culture (Pike, 1966; Triandis, Vassiliou, Vassiliou, Takama, & Shanmugan, 1972). For anthropologists, an approach that investigates and seeks to understand cultures in terms of universal dimensions, that is by using constructs which are universally valid and generalizable across all human cultures, is termed an etic approach. The well-known work of Hall (1959; 1966), for instance, demonstrates...
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