Influencing across cultures

Influencing across cultures

Influencing others is a vital business skill, but how should you vary your approach to get the best results in different cultures?

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.


The ability to persuade other people is a vital business skill that will get you the support you need to go forward with your ideas. However, as Erin Meyer argues in The Culture Map, the art of persuasion is not universal. Different cultures can have different preferences for styles of persuasion. Choosing the right approach could make all the difference to the success of your presentation.

Let's imagine you sell chairs that can help people with back problems. Tomorrow, you've got a presentation where you're going to persuade the managers of a large company to buy your chairs for all their employees.

How would you do it?

Presentation A 

You start with the practicalities and go straight to real-life examples. You present some case studies of people who developed back pain from sitting in uncomfortable chairs at work and were no longer able to come to work. You show how they and their companies benefited from buying your chair. Using those examples, you apply this to your audience and you tell them that because your chair helped your previous clients and saved their company money, it will help your audience too. You conclude that they should buy your chair. 

Presentation B

You start with a theory: the theory that your chair can save the company money. You use research and statistics to support your argument, showing how employees' back problems cost the company money and explaining how your chair can solve those problems. You take listeners through the process of how you arrived at your conclusions, and you finish with the recommendation that they buy your chair.

So, which presentation style do you prefer?

If you chose Presentation A, then you prefer inductive reasoning. You go to real-life examples, rather than theory, to persuade people of your message.

If you chose Presentation B, then you prefer deductive reasoning. You start with the theory before the practical situation. You persuade people by taking them through how you arrive at your conclusions.

In The Culture Map, Meyer suggests that Anglo-Saxon cultures like the US, Canada, Australia and the UK prefer an inductive style of reasoning, while she connects deductive reasoning to countries like Italy, France, Spain and Russia. Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Sweden fall in the middle of the two. Meyer also explains that Asian cultures tend towards 'big picture' thinking, which requires a different approach entirely.

It is important to remember that your preferred influencing style might not be the same as your audience's preferred style. For best results, try to find out as much as possible about your audience and get to know their preferences. If possible, ask an 'insider' – someone who knows the culture and company you're dealing with well – for more information about how they do things. If you're not sure whether to choose an inductive or deductive approach, do both! Explain the theory and give an example at the same time. Finally, be ready to respond quickly to the audience's reaction and try a different way of doing things if what you planned doesn't seem to be working.

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet94.55 KB

Language level

Average: 5 (3 votes)
Do you need to speak better English at work?
Learn to speak, read, write and understand English in a variety of work situations. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.

Submitted by Nandar Su Hlaing on Tue, 13/09/2022 - 16:10


Do you normally use an inductive or deductive style of persuasion? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your preferred style?
I think I will use inductive style of persuasion. Both styles have advantages and disadvantages, one advantage in inductive is knowing the practical use of customers. Disadvantage is customer can't know the theory. After I read this, I aware that I should use both method and also need to know customer's preferences.

Submitted by Anilt on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 14:20

I didn't think of it before but generally, I choose to use both because I think the theory is as important as the practical situation. First, I mention the theory. Then I give examples in life to explain the theory.

Submitted by senes19 on Sun, 02/08/2020 - 14:15

Before that I haven't think of it. But as I understand as, it is logical to prefer both style. Due to of your awareless about other person who you face. If you choose only real-life explaining, it may cause deficiency of its background of theoric. You can not only persuade by showing its effect of the real life but also make you grasp another people it's history, terms, statics. I do it this way, without realizing it's naming.

Submitted by Pellmen on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 08:18

I prefer using both inductive and deductive reasoning. I reckon that withought theoretical part there is no clear understanding of how we came to practise. But withought practise it's hard to imagine how to apply our findings.

Submitted by J. N. Mensah on Fri, 21/02/2020 - 11:48

This cause is very good and challenging.