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THE CHALLENGES OF

INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION

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ALL COMMUNICATION IS CULTURAL - IT DRAWS ON WAYS WE HAVE LEARNED TO SPEAK AND GIVE NONVERBAL MESSAGES. WE DO NOT ALWAYS COMMUNICATE THE SAME WAY FROM DAY TO DAY, SINCE FACTORS LIKE CONTEXT, INDIVIDUAL PERSONALITY, AND MOOD INTERACT WITH THE VARIETY OF CULTURAL INFLUENCES WE HAVE INTERNALIZED THAT INFLUENCE OUR CHOICES. COMMUNICATION IS INTERACTIVE, SO AN IMPORTANT INFLUENCE ON ITS EFFECTIVENESS IS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHERS.

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DO THEY HEAR AND UNDERSTAND WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO SAY? ARE THEY LISTENING WELL? ARE WE LISTENING WELL IN RESPONSE? DO THEIR RESPONSES SHOW THAT THEY UNDERSTAND THE WORDS AND THE MEANINGS BEHIND THE WORDS WE HAVE CHOSEN? IS THE MOOD POSITIVE AND RECEPTIVE? IS THERE TRUST BETWEEN THEM AND US? ARE THERE DIFFERENCES THAT RELATE TO INEFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION, DIVERGENT GOALS OR INTERESTS, OR FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT WAYS OF SEEING THE WORLD? THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS WILL GIVE US SOME CLUES ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF OUR COMMUNICATION AND THE EASE WITH WHICH WE MAY BE ABLE TO MOVE THROUGH CONFLICT.

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THE CHALLENGE IS THAT EVEN WITH ALL THE GOOD WILL IN THE WORLD, MISCOMMUNICATION IS LIKELY TO HAPPEN, ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT CULTURAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COMMUNICATORS. MISCOMMUNICATION MAY LEAD TO CONFLICT, OR AGGRAVATE CONFLICT THAT ALREADY EXISTS. WE MAKE - WHETHER IT IS CLEAR TO US OR NOT - QUITE DIFFERENT MEANING OF THE WORLD, OUR PLACES IN IT, AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS.

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EDWARD T. HALL'S CULTURAL FACTORS

HIGH CONTEXT CULTURES

CONTEXT

LOW CONTEXT CULTURES

MONOCHRONIC TIME

TIME

POLYCHRONIC TIME

HIGH TERRITORIALITY

SPACE

LOW TERRITORIALITY

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HIGH AND LOW CONTEXT CULTURES

HIGH CONTEXT

IN A HIGH-CONTEXT CULTURE, THERE ARE MANY CONTEXTUAL ELEMENTS THAT HELP PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THE RULES. AS A RESULT, MUCH IS TAKEN FOR GRANTED. THIS CAN BE VERY CONFUSING FOR PERSON WHO DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE „UNWRITTEN RULES” OF THE CULTURE.

HIGH-CONTEXT MEANS THAT "MOST OF THE INFORMATION IS EITHER IN THE PHYSICAL CONTEXT OR INITIALIZED IN THE PERSON, WHILE VERY LITTLE IS IN THE CODED, EXPLICIT, TRANSMITTED PART OF THE MESSAGE."

PEOPLE EXPECT FROM THEIR INTERLOCUTOR THAT HE OR SHE KNOWS WHAT THE MESSAGE OF THE COMMUNICATION WAS.THEY PLACE GREAT IMPORTANCE ON AMBIENCE, DECORUM, THE RELATIVE STATUS OF THE PARTICIPANTS IN A COMMUNICATION AND THE MANNER OF MASSAGE'S DELIVERY.

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HIGH AND LOW CONTEXT CULTURES

LOW CONTEXT

IN A LOW-CONTEXT CULTURE, VERY LITTLE IS TAKEN FOR GRANTED. THIS MEANS THAT MORE EXPLANATION IS NEEDED, IT ALSO MEANS THERE IS LESS CHANCE OF MISUNDERSTANDING PARTICULARLY WHEN VISITORS ARE PRESENT.

„THE MASS OF INFORMATION IS VESTED IN THE EXPLICIT CODE„.

WHEN DEALING WITH DIFFERENT PEOPLE FROM HIGH- AND LOW-CONTEXT CULTURES YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO BE AWARE OF YOUR INTERLOCUTOR'S CULTURAL ORIGIN. THIS HELPS TO AVOID MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND CREATES A BETTER BASIS FOR FURTHER DISCUSSIONS.

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MONOCHRONIC AND POLYCHRONIC CULTURES

MONOCHRONIC TIME

M-TIMEMEANS DOING ONE THING AT A TIME. IT ASSUMES CAREFUL PLANNING AND SCHEDULING AND IS A FAMILIAR WESTERN APPROACH THAT APPEARS IN DISCIPLINES SUCH AS „TIME MANAGEMENT”.MONOCHRONIC PEOPLE TEND ALSO TO BE LOW CONTEXT.

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MONOCHRONIC AND POLYCHRONIC CULTURES

POLYCHRONIC TIME

IN POLYCHRONIC CULTURES, HUMAN INTERACTION IS VALUED OVER TIME AND MATERIAL THINGS, LEADING TO A LESSER CONCERN FOR „GETTING THINGS DONE” - THEY DO GET DONE, BUT MORE IN THEIR OWN TIME.POLYCHRONIC PEOPLE TEND ALSO TO BE HIGH CONTEXT.

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THE NEED FOR SPACE

SOME PEOPLE NEED MORE SPACE IN ALL AREAS. PEOPLE WHO ENCROACH INTO THAT SPACE ARE SEEN AS A THREAT.

PERSONAL SPACE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A MOBILE FORM OF TERRITORY AND PEOPLE NEED LESS OR GREATER DISTANCES BETWEEN THEM AND OTHERS. A JAPANESE PERSON WHO NEEDS LESS SPACE THUS WILL STAND CLOSER TO AN AMERICAN, INADVERTENTLY MAKING THE AMERICAN UNCOMFORTABLE.

SOME PEOPLE NEED BIGGER HOMES, BIGGER CARS, BIGGER OFFICES AND SO ON. THIS MAY BE DRIVEN BY CULTURAL FACTORS, FOR EXAMPLE THE SPACE IN AMERICA NEEDS TO GREATER USE OF SPACE, WHILST JAPANESE NEED LESS SPACE. (PARTLY AS A RESULT OF LIMITED USEFUL SPACE IN JAPAN).

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HIGH AND LOW TERRITORIALITY

HIGH TERRITORIALITY

SOME PEOPLE ARE MORE TERRITORIAL THAN OTHERS WITH GREATER CONCERN FOR OWNERSHIP. THEY SEEK TO MARK OUT THE AREAS WHICH ARE THEIRS AND PERHAPS HAVING BOUNDARY WARS WITH NEIGHBORS. AT NATIONAL LEVEL, MANY WARS HAVE BEEN FOUGHT OVER BOUNDARIES.

TERRITORIALITY ALSO EXTENDS TO ANYTHING THAT IS 'MINE' AND OWNERSHIP CONCERNS EXTEND TO MATERIAL THINGS. SECURITY THUS BECOMES A SUBJECT OF GREAT CONCERN FOR PEOPLE WITH A HIGH NEED FOR OWNERSHIP.PEOPLE HIGH TERRITORIALITY TEND ALSO TO BE LOW CONTEXT.

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HIGH AND LOW TERRITORIALITY

LOW TERRITORIALITY

PEOPLE WITH LOWER TERRITORIALITY HAVE LESS OWNERSHIP OF SPACE AND BOUNDARIES ARE LESS IMPORTANT TO THEM. THEY WILL SHARE TERRITORY AND OWNERSHIP WITH LITTLE THOUGHT.

THEY ALSO HAVE LESS CONCERN FOR MATERIAL OWNERSHIP AND THEIR SENSE OF 'STEALING' IS LESS DEVELOPED (THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR HIGHLY TERRITORIAL PEOPLE).PEOPLE WITH LOW TERRITORIALITY TEND ALSO TO BE HIGH CONTEXT.

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AFFECTIVE VERSUS NEUTRAL CULTURE

AFFECTIVE OR NEUTRAL CONTEXT DESCRIBES HOW CULTURES EXPRESS THEIR EMOTIONS.

IN AFFECTIVE CULTURES LIKE IN CHINA PEOPLE EXPRESS THEIR EMOTIONS MORE NATURALLY. REACTIONS ARE SHOWN IMMEDIATELY VERBALLY AND/OR NON-VERBALLY BY USING MIMIC AND GESTURE IN FORM OF BODY SIGNALS. THEY DON'T AVOID PHYSICAL CONTACT, WHICH IS WELL KNOWN ESPECIALLY FROM ITALIANS AND SPANISH WHEN MEETING EACH OTHER VERY ENTHUSIASTIC AND WITH RAISED VOICES.

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AFFECTIVE VERSUS NEUTRAL CULTURE

IN NEUTRAL CULTURES LIKE JAPANESE TEND TO HIDE THEIR EMOTIONS AND DON'T SHOW THEM IN PUBLIC. NEUTRAL CULTURES DON'T EXPRESS PRECISELY AND DIRECTLY WHAT THEY ARE REALLY THINKING WHICH CAN LEAD TO MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND CERTAIN EMOTIONS ARE CONSIDERED TO BE IMPROPER TO EXHIBIT IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS.

IT IS ALSO CONSIDERED AS IMPORTANT NOT TO LET EMOTION INFLUENCE OBJECTIVITY AND REASON IN DECISION MAKING. IN GENERAL THEY FEEL DISCOMFORT WITH PHYSICAL CONTACT IN PUBLIC AND COMMUNICATE IN A MORE SUBTLE WAY WHICH MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR MEMBERS OF OTHER CULTURES TO READ BETWEEN THE LINES AND GET THE MESSAGE.