CULTURE IS COMMUNICATION
In physics today, so far as we know, the galaxies that one
studies are all controlled by the same laws. This is not entirely true of the worlds created by humans. Each cultural world
operates according to its own internal dynamic, its own prin ciples, and its own laws-written and unwritten. Even time and space are unique to each culture. There are, however, some
common threads that run through ;:111 cultures.
It is possible to say that the world of communication can be divided into three parts: words, material things, and behavior. Words arc the medium of business, politics, and diplomacy.
Material things LHe usually indicators of status and power.
Behavior provides feedback on how other people feel and
includes techniques for avoiding confrontation.
By studying these three parts of the communication process in our own and other cultures, we can come to recognize and
understand a vast unexplored region of human behavior that
exists outside the range of people's conscious awareness, a
"silent language" that is usually conveyed unconsciously (see Edward T. Hall's The Silent Language). This silent language
includes a broad range of evolutionary concepts, practices, and solutions to problems which have their roots not in the lofty ideas of philosophers but in the shared experiences of ordinary people. In the words of the director of a project on cross-cultural relations, understanding the silent language "provides insights into the underlying principles that shape our lives." These
underlying principles are not only inherently interesting but eminently practical. The readers of this book, whether they be German, French, American, or from other countries, shou Id find these principles useful at home and abroad.
Culture can be likened to a giant, extraordinary complex,
subtle computer. Its programs guide the actions and responses of human beings in every walk of life. This process requires attention to everything people do to survive, advance in the world, and gain satisfaction from life. Furthermore, cultural
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programs will not work if crucial steps are omitted, which
happens when people unconsciously apply their own rules to
[Juring the three years we worked on this book, we had to
learn two different programs for our office computer. The first was quite simple! but mastery did require paying close attention to every detail and several weeks of practice. The second was a much more complex program that required weeks of
practice! hours of tutoring, and days of depression and frustra tion when lithe darn thing didn't work./f Learning a new cultu program is infinitely more complicated and requires years
practice, yet there are many similarities in the learning process. I communications are deeper and more complex
spoken or written messages. The essence of effective cross
cultural communication has more to do with releasing the right responses than with sending the "right" messages. We offer here some conceptual tools to help our readers decipher the com plex, unspoken rules of each
FAST AND SLOW MESSAGES:
FINDING THE APPROPRIATE SPEED
The speed with which a particular message can be decoded'
acted on is an important characteristic of human commu
. There are fast and slow messages. A headline or
cartoon, for example! is fast; the meaning that one extracts books or art is slow. A fast message sent to people who are
geared to a slow format will usually miss the target. While the content of the wrong-speed message may be understandable, it be received by someone accustomed to or expecting a
different speed. The problem is that few people are aware that ormation can be sent at different speeds.
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EX/\MPLFS OF FAST AND SLOW MESS;\C
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