Context and intercultural communication

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Chuyển đổi dữ liệu29.09.2022
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Context and intercultural communication (1)

Context and verbal intercultural communication

Nguyễn Tất Thắng

Đoàn Thị Hợp

High Context

  • Less verbally explicit communication, less written/formal information
  • More internalized understandings of what is communicated
  • Multiple cross-cutting ties and intersections with others
  • Long term relationships
  • Strong boundaries- who is accepted as belonging vs who is considered an "outsider"
  • Knowledge is situational, relational.
  • Decisions and activities focus around personal face-to-face relationships, often around a central person who has authority.
  • Small religious congregations, a party with friends, family gatherings, expensive gourmet restaurants and neighborhood restaurants with a regular clientele, undergraduate on-campus friendships, regular pick-up games, hosting a friend in your home overnight.


The traditional Japanese tea ceremony

The tea ceremony reflects the Zen and Taoist traditions celebrating the beauty in the mundane, the superiority of spirit over matter, and tranquility with busy lives. The ceremony unites the host and guest in a concert of harmony. Though not as commonly practiced as in the past, the tea ceremony is an excellent example of a high-context experience. Nothing is spoken; all the meanings are in the context of shared experience, the teahouse, the flower arrangement, the calligraphy scroll, and the ceramics. A typical response from a low-context observer is “Hurry up and drink the tea!”

Low Context

  • Rule oriented, people play by external rules
  • More knowledge is codified, public, external, and accessible.
  • Sequencing, separation--of time, of space, of activities, of relationships
  • More interpersonal connections of shorter duration
  • Knowledge is more often transferable
  • Task-centered. Decisions and activities focus around what needs to be done, division of responsibilities.
  • Examples: 
  • large US airports, a chain supermarket, a cafeteria, a convenience store, sports where rules are clearly laid out, a motel.

Ways that High and Low Context Differ

  • The Structure of Relationships
    • High: Dense, intersecting networks and longterm relationships, strong boundaries, relationship more important than task
    • Low: Loose, wide networks, shorter term, compartmentalized relationships, task more important than relationship
  • Main Type of Cultural Knowledge
    • High: More knowledge is below the waterline - implicit, patterns that are not fully conscious, hard to explain even if you are a member of that culture
    • Low: More knowledge is above the waterline - explicit, consciously organized

How to Resolve Cultural Communications in the Workplace

  • Differences in race, sex, religious beliefs, lifestyle and sexual orientation are among many cultural differences that may affect how people communicate in the workplace. Resolving communications problems caused by cultural differences requires patience, understanding and respect. A major mistake is forming opinions before even engaging in communications. Opinions reached before an opportunity to discuss the matter makes resolving conflict difficult.


  • Treating people as individuals regardless of culture is sometimes a key to resolving communication issues.
  • For example, it is improper to assume that a woman takes a certain position on a subject because she is a woman. Such generalizations can cause conflict in communication. Not all people who are members of the same culture will react to communication in the same way or offer the same opinion on a subject.
  • It is true that cultural backgrounds may affect how people act, behave and communicate. But that does not mean people of a certain culture will all communicate or react to events in the same way.


  • Learning more about other lifestyles and cultures helps people avoid conflict in communication, particularly in multicultural settings. Information on cultural awareness is widely available in books at public libraries. Open and honest discussions about cultural differences with friends and colleagues are helpful as well. Learning more about cultural differences helps avoid jumping to unfair or wrong assumptions about a person’s statements or other communication efforts.


  • Conflict in communications between cultures also is avoidable when all parties resist assigning blame. Two companies merging staffs in a business transaction may have different styles of managing and working. Putting the teams together can cause an immediate clash of cultures, with problems intensified if both sides always blames the other for problems and breakdown in communication. Simply placing the blame on others is not constructive and can make communication problems worse.

Listening Skills

  • Focusing on listening well with an open mind also helps resolve cultural communications problems. Paying close attention to words used in a conversation or other form of communication can help resolve these problems. It’s also important to pay attention to the context of the discussion and the tone of the communication.

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