Understanding how culture affects Communication
Comprehending the verbal and nonverbal meanings of a message is difficult even when communicators are from the same culture.
When they come from different cultures, special sensitivity and skills are necessary.
Negotiators for a North American company learned this lesion when they were in japan looking for a trading partner. The North American were pleased after their first meeting with representatives of a major Japanese firm. The Japanese had nodded assent throughout the meeting and had not objected to a single proposal. The next day, however, the north Americans were stunned to learn that the Japanese had reject the entire plan. In ...view middle of the document...
Communicators in low –context cultures (such as those in North America, Scandinavia, and Germany) depend little on the context of a situation to convey their meaning. They assume that listeners need to be briefed exactly and specifically to avoid misunderstandings. Low-context cultures tend to be logical, analytical, and action oriented. Business communicators stress clearly articulated messages that they consider to be objective, professional, and efficient. Words are taken literally.
Communicators in high-context culture (such as those in China, Japan, and Arab Countries) assume that the listener is already “ contexted” and does not need much background information. Communicators in high-context cultures are more likely to be intuitive and contemplative. They may not take words literally. Instead, the meaning of a message may be implied from the social or physical setting, the relationship of the communicators, or nonverbal cues. For example, a Japanese communicator might say yes when he really means no. From the context of situation, the Japanese speaker would indicate whether yes really meant yes or whether it meant no. The context, tone, time taken to answer, facial expression, and body cues would convey the meaning of yes. Communication cues are transmitted by posture, voice inflection, gestures, an facial expression.
An attitude of independence and freedom form control characterizes individualism. Members of low-context cultures, particularly Americans, tend to value individualism. They believe that initiative, self-assertion, and competence result in personal achievement. They believe in individual action and personal responsibility, and they desire a large degree of freedom in their personal lives.
Members of high-context cultures are more collectivist. They emphasize membership in organizations, groups, and teams; they encourage acceptance of group values, duties, and decisions. They typically resist independence because it fosters competition and confrontation instead of consensus. In group-oriented cultures such as those in many Asian societies, for example, self-assertion and individual decision making are discouraged. “the nail that sticks up gets pounded down” is a common Japanese saying. Business decisions are often made by all who have competence in the matter under discussion. Similarly, in china managers also focus on the group rather than on the individual, preferring a consultative management style over an autocratic style.
Many cultures, of course, are quite complex and cannot be characterized as totally individualistic or group oriented. For example, European Americans are generally quite individualistic, whereas African Americans are less so, and Latin Americans are closer to the group-centered dimension.
People in some cultures place less emphasis on tradition, ceremony, and social rules than do members of other cultures. Americans, for example, dress causally and are soon on a...