Example Of Theory Of High- And Low-Context Cultures Research Paper
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Edward Hall is a famous theorist and anthropologist who has contributed a renowned theory of high- and low-context cultures to facilitate students, researchers, practitioners, academicians and theorists about the implied and overt cultural differences and communication etiquettes in different nations worldwide. Hall’s theory is extremely important for those who intend to study comparative management for cultural understanding.
High-context cultures emphasize relationship building, collectivism, and intuition among inhabitants. People in a high-context culture are not highly emotional and expressive, thus they need time to build personal and business relationships after deep conversations and thoughtful evaluations. For instance, they also focus on group consensus, mutual harmony, shared motives and trust in business decision-making and problem-solving process. High-context culture also prefers respect for seniority, hierarchy and humility. The communication differences are also evident as people prefer formal style and use fewer words to explain as the words have certain implied messages and meanings. Also, the business professionals are more tilted towards non-verbal communication patterns instead of verbal communication style. The business conflict in a high-context culture emerges when there is violation of group and social values. Resultantly, the conflict leads to malice and animosity due to a collectivist approach (Chua and Gudykunst, 1987). Some common examples are Arab countries of Middle East and Gulf region followed by nations of Asia, South America and Africa (Wurtz, 2005). More specifically, the countries including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Japan, China, Brazil and others etc.
In contrast, the low-context cultures emphasize individualism, reasoning, logic, rationale, directness, facts, performance and result-orientation with limited focus on long term relationship formation. People in a low-context culture are highly emotional, bold and expressive, thus they prefer informal, overt and open communication among sexes with explicit meanings and agreements. Body language, gestures and postures are least countable than words. A major difference is women in low-context cultures freely communicate to opposite sex members in both personal and business meetings. On the contrary, the presence and open communication of women employees in corporate meetings is unacceptable in certain high-context conservative cultures especially those in Middle East and Gulf. In addition, the people in low-context cultures are more inclined towards actions and time bound results because time is of essence and valued as the most important strategic asset with substantial monetary worth. People believe in empowerment and thus there is low uncertainty avoidance and power distance unlike high-context cultures. In addition, the inhabitants of a low-context culture are high on heterogeneity compared to high-context cultures that are high on homogeneity (Gudykunst and Nishida, 2006).
The business decision-making and problem-solving process is based on rational judgments and evaluations using facts, figures and efficiency statistics. Next, the business professionals are more inclined towards verbal communication combined with focus on legal documentation and contracts. In comparison, the high-context cultures expect trustworthy relationship; therefore, the breach of negotiated contracts and conditions in corporate setting is a symbol of disgrace and an end to relationship. As far as the conflict management is concerned, the business executives in low-context cultures resolve through one-on-one formal and informal but straightforward and apropos discussions based on reasoning and logic. The conflicts could be more personal and professional in nature instead of group conflicts. The countries of North America and Western Europe such as USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy and others are the most common examples of low-context cultures (Gudykunst, 1983); (Gudykunst and Nishida, 2006).
The researcher interviewed an Arab male from Saudi Arabia, which is a conservative culture with high-context attributes. The interviewee reveals that Saudis strongly emphasizes the importance of family-orientation, seniority, hierarchy, respect, and relationship formation. The collectivism is prevalent in society and one major reason for aforementioned attributes is zero compromise towards religious teachings that promote collectivist approach, social harmony and group well-being instead of personal objectives and interests. Saudis are thus very high on power distance, masculinity, indulgence and short-term orientation. This is an interesting demonstration as typically the high-context cultures are usually long-term oriented but Saudi Arabia’s case reveals that its culture fosters competition and success combined with family and collectivist values. Also, the interviewee divulges that the youth in Saudi Arabia has willingness for western values, technology and globalization; therefore, the society has observed some cultural changes as it now values time and worldly accomplishments. The communications patterns among Saudis have not changes as the people avoid overt and expressive behavior in both personal and corporate world followed by lack of open communications among sexes in organizational meetings.
Finally, the researcher would like to conclude that a nation’s culture now sees the influence of both high- and low-context attributes due to globalization, which has affected values and norms across societies. The contemporary work environments have become unique in the sense as the 21st century organizations have crystal clear penchant for workforce diversity to provide its employees the exposure to cultural insights and global working experiences. The demand for candidates with extensive cultural knowledge and diverse professional experiences is on the higher side because the firms intend to expand internationally to reap financial perks of globalization.
Chua, E. G. and Gudykunst, W. B. (1987). Conflict resolution styles in low- and high-context cultures. Communication Research Reports, Vol. 4(1), pp. 32-37.
Gudykunst, W. B. (1983). Uncertainty reduction and predictability of behavior in low‐and high‐context cultures: An exploratory study. Communication Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 49-55
Wurtz, E. (2005). A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Websites from High-Context Cultures and Low-Context Cultures. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 11, No. 1,
Gudykunst, W. B. and Nishida, T. (2006). Attributional Confidence in high and low-context cultures. Human Communication Research, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 525–549,
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