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Thinking style: deductive or inductive? Deep in the Cultural Iceberg



People in cultures with a deductive thinking style are comfortable with abstractions.
In an argument, discussion or written presentation, they prefer to go from the general to the specific and to deduce facts from general principles.

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In cultures with an inductive thinking style, people go from the specific to the general.
They arrive at a theory or model only after amassing facts through experimentation and observation.

The French, for example, tend to be highly deductive. North Americans, particularly US Americans, tend to be highly inductive.

Cultural traps:

If you come from a culture with an inductive thinking style, you may become impatient with negotiating partners whose thinking style is deductive. You may wish to start with a discussion of specific items but your negotiating partners may insist on beginning with a discussion of general principles.

If you come from a culture with a deductive thinking style, you may become impatient with your negotiating partners’ inductive style faith in survey data and statistics.

Communication style: direct or indirect?

In direct cultures, people prefer to speak directly and to the point. “Straight talk” is associated with honesty and sincerity. Confrontation is acceptable, even desirable, since it is believed that the clash of ideas produces solutions to problems. In other cultures, people prefer to communicate indirectly. They avoid open confrontation because it makes people uncomfortable. They may soften their sentences with phrases like, “it seems to me,” “perhaps we should,” “it might be a good idea.”

Although they vary considerably, cultures in North America and Europe tend to be more direct than those in the Middle East, Africa, South America and the Far East.

Cultural traps:

If you come from a direct culture, you may find it difficult to read between the lines of colleagues or acquaintances from a more indirect culture.  You may underestimate the impact of what they are saying, especially if their indirectness is combined with reserve. In fact, you may think they are making a suggestion when they are really saying “no.”  Colleagues from an indirect culture may view you as rude and disrespectful.

If you come from an indirect culture, you may be insulted by what you consider the tactlessness of your more direct colleagues or acquaintances.  Indeed, you may mistake their directness for aggressiveness. Your “tactful” phrases may be interpreted as hesitation or uncertainty and you may discover that your colleagues or friends have trouble taking you seriously.

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