Fletcher Features

The Impact of Cultural Differences on Communication: Alexander Lorimer (F12) and Ernst & Young

Alexander Lorimer GMAP F12

For his midyear residency while earning a Global Master of Arts, Alexander Lorimer (F12) spent two weeks on Cyprus, an island nation that has been divided for decades between the Turkish-occupied north and the Cypriot-controlled south. It’s a place where distrust, cultural differences, and poor communication have made dialogue difficult. In recent years, thanks in large part to the power of negotiation, tensions have eased.

During his residency, Lorimer met people who have been involved in the negotiations, including Fletcher Professor Diana Chigas. They helped him realize that the troubles at the root of the conflict are issues that he encounters in his everyday life.

“From a personal perspective, the most practical takeaway was the negotiation techniques and approaches to conflict we learned about,” says the 35-year-old Lorimer, who works in tax marketing and communications at Ernst & Young in the Netherlands. “They can apply to two negotiations between two countries, or they can apply to negotiations in the office or in selling a house or with personal relationships.”

The Global Master of Arts Program, which combines distance learning with an international residency and a pair of two-week residencies on campus, is designed to help professionals work across cultures and master diplomacy. Lorimer found that the program, which was partially paid for by his employer, absolutely achieved this goal.

By spending time with classmates from a variety of cultures—his class included students of 20 different nationalities—he became more conscious of the ways cultural differences can have an impact on communication. This exposure helps him in his role as an associate director on Ernst & Young’s marketing team for the tax practice in India, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

“I’m more conscious now of the challenges presented by global communication,” he says. “The emphasis of communicating is to ensure that your message is heard. If you aren’t doing that properly, you aren’t doing your job.”

--Dan Eisner
(Reprinted from Fletcher News)