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Friday, June 13, 2014
High Context (Western) versus Low Context (Asian) communication Part 1
In a global economy,
understanding and embracing cultural differences is
more than a good idea. It’s a
competitive advantage. From sales to
manufacturing and customer
service, it’s no secret that better communication
equals better business.
People of western heritage tend to believe that words
are the most
important part of a communication
process and are said to belong to a
‘low context’ culture where the mass of
information is vested in the
explicit code or the actual
spoken words. But in a ‘high context’
words alone do not convey the
whole meaning to a spoken message,
most of the information is
embedded in the speaker or the circumstances
(context) of the situation and
remain implicit or unspoken.
Four weeks ago, I talked to my
brother, living in Penang,
on the phone and we discussed
puzzling aspects of the missing
Malaysian Airlines plane MH 370.
Naturally, I checked with him to see
if anyone we knew (relatives,
friends, acquaintances) might have been
on that fateful plane.
do you know if anyone we know was on that flight?
Brother: None, no one we know.
how can you be sure of that?
Brother (surprised at this question): What ………the newspapers are full of it.
you mean the airline has released the
names of people on that plane?
Brother: Of course.All the names of
passengers have been published.
looked through the full list. No one we know.
see ……………..good that they’ve done that. Watching it on CNN,
no idea the local papers had released the names of the passengers.
relieved to hear you say that.
My brother being typically ‘high context’ didn’t offer complete
front until he was prodded to do so. He seemed to
assume that the plane’s list
of passengers would have been
released around the world. It was up to me to
elicit the additional information
with a couple of extra questions.
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