to some degree, more or less like themselves. Take for example, Mr. A of the A Agency, who talks with Ms. B of the B Bureau and Mr. C of the C Corporation. While they all may come from different "corporate" cultures, there are probably a hundred other cultural groups that they have in common. Most are likely to come from more or less the same linguistic, national, educational, social, economic, and even religious backgrounds (broadly defined). This means that they will probably share a great many common perceptions and codes among themselves. Hence communication between them is likely to be relatively easy. In our work life it is very common for lawyers to talk to lawyers, accountants to accountants, computer people to computer people, and managers to managers. Outsiders may not be able to follow what they are saying, but that is not what is important. What is important is that the person with whom they are communicating can readily understand the meaning of what they are trying to communicate. However, anyone who is not one of the specialists mentioned will have difficulty understanding, unless the specialist translates the message for the nonspecialist. One of the cardinal rules of effective interpersonal communication is to put one's message into cultural language that can be readily understood by the receiver.
There is also a rule in communication theory that argues that the more steps any communication goes through, the more distortion is likely to occur. That rule is certainly correct. However, there are times when it makes sense to break that rule. Consider the case where someone from group A does not understand "how things are done" in group C-its culture. If it were important for a person in A to communicate with someone in C, it might be possible to do so, but it is not likely to be either as easy or as successful as it might be. That would especially be the case if A and C did not speak each other's cultural language. That is where a B-someone who was familiar with the cultures of both groups A and C-would come in handy. Understanding both groups A and C, presumably B would speak the cultural language of both A and C. That person would speak to A in A's language and to C in C's language. A and B, speaking A's language, are more likely to share common identities and perceptions and thus to trust each other more than would A and C. (That is important because there is no more effective communication than that which occurs between people who know and trust each other.) Similarly when B and C communicate (presumably in C's cultural language), they too will likely share more identities and perceptions and thus be more trusting; hence, communication between B and C should be more successful than it could have been between A and C if they had communicated directly.
This rule is very important for interpersonal communication, and it is particularly important for getting things done in a work environment, regardless of which society one is in. In every society, whom you know is important.
Yet, it is more important in some than in others. There is a concept that is popularly known as "six degrees of separation." In this concept, everyone within one country, like the United States, indirectly knows everyone else in the United States, going through people they know and trust. For instance, while you may not know anyone who knows the president of the United States personally, someone reading these pages may know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows the president personally. And since communication with people we know (and presumably trust) is so much more effective than communication between people who do not know and trust one another, it pays to add those extra steps to the communication process. But it is not just the president one needs to know. Every day, decisions are being made and implemented the way they are because someone knew and trusted the person who counselled them.
In sum, organizations do not communicate: people who work in them do. If we are to improve the effectiveness of those organizations, it is necessary to improve the interpersonal communication skills of the people who work in those organizations. That can be done simply by each person making the effort to put a message into language that the receiver can understand.
MARSHALL R SINGER
Knapp, Mark L. and Gerald R. Miller, eds., 1985. Handbook of Interpersonal Communication. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Littlejohn, Stephen W., 1989. theories of Human Communication, 3d ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Reardon, Kathleen K., 1987. Interpersonal Communication: Where Minds Meet. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Singer, Marshall R, 1987. Intercultural Communication: A Perceptualapproach. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. (Rev., abr. ed., 1997. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.)
Verderber, Rudolph F. and S. Kathleen, 1995. Inter-Act: Using Interpersonal Communication Skills, 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
INTERSTATE COMPACT . A binding legal agreement between two or more states entered into in order to deal with a difficulty or interest that spans state borders.
A compact differs from other statutes because it is also a contract between the participating states. As a contract, an interstate compact is binding on member states in the same manner as any other contract entered into by a person or organization. Because of its contractual nature, a compact takes precedence over prior law and over legislation that may later be enacted by member states. Compacts cannot be unilaterally altered or rescinded once they have been enacted. They are an obligation for all residents of the member states. A state or states may sue in state or federal court if another state breaches or does not respect the conditions of a compact. The language in the docu-