Low and High Context Styles: Paradoxes of Culture and Globalization

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Have you ever told someone that you are not a “mind reader” and you need them to specifically state their needs or what they are wanting? Or the opposite situation where you were able to tell what a person was going to say even before they even said a word? These examples illustrate differences between low and high context communication styles. People have a dominate way they prefer to communicate and cultures define these styles. There are differences in the way high and low-context culture members behave and interact with each other. However, there are times and situations where an individual will flex their style based on the situation at hand. In the end, both styles can be an effective way to communicate in the proper situation or context. A low-context culture is one that is explicit in its communication, orally and in writing.  These cultures tend to be dominant individualistic cultures such as white, Anglo-Saxon Americans and Germans.  In these cultures there is a desire to be very clear about communicating what they mean to ensure that there is a common understanding with other parties.  For example in a low context culture, successful project managers and the teams will be very clear with deadlines and deliverables, such as the 2 page summary report will be due on Tuesday at 1pm.  A person that favors a low context culture will appreciate the clarity in goals and expectations. Societies that favor low context communication are also seen as monochronic. These people find comfort in doing one thing at a time, make time commitments, are accustomed to short-term relationships, and stick to plans. An example of a profession that tends to be low-context is engineering. There is a saying that many engineers can easily relate to: “A place for everything and everything in its place”. This saying implies a high need for organization. I have worked on assignments with several engineers that get easily frustrated when details of the project or product...
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