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Yksilölliset ja yhteisölliset kulttuurit-

By Tanja Saarinen Chávez

13 September 2022

Intercultural Communication Skills- Understanding High and Low Context Communication

Intercultural communication means people from different cultural groups have a mutual interest to interact and learn from one another. In other words, build relationships and increase collaboration.


When interacting with people coming from other cultures, you can only observe behaviour. This is why you should consider three different factors: the national character of the culture, each individual's unique personality and the context where the event or communication occurs.


Communication comes in several forms and is shaped by time, place, culture and person. Communication occurs verbally and through body language and is influenced by situation, formality and emotion.


Context influences the way you react, utilize your body and language, and respond to certain events. This behaviour is affected and reflected by the norms of your culture. Successful communication means that instead of just talking, both parties agree on the interpretations of the message.


To fully understand the message, it is also important to know the most common mistakes in intercultural communication. You can dive deeper in the top 6 mistakes in intercultural communication in this blog post. 


High and low context communication


Communication in different countries varies between low-context and high-context. Low-context communication culture, such as the USA, means simple, particular and clear messages and this is strengthened through repetition.


In contrast, in high-context communication countries, for example in Japan, messages are nuanced, layered and refined. Messages often have hidden agendas and listeners need to have the ability to read between the lines.


Two women working


When you are discussing with a person coming from the same culture, you can relatively easily asses the communication cues and determine whether the communication is high or low context. However, in a situation where one person comes from a high context culture and the other from a low context, frustration is common.


This is because a low context communicator assumes that the recipient knows very little of the topic, and therefore explains more than necessary, whereas a high context communicator may not provide a sufficient amount of information or background to the topic.


How do communication styles impact negotiations?


Culture dictates what you ignore and pay attention to when interacting with other people.


This is why international negotiations often are not successful. When two people negotiating have different logic when it comes to concepts, how the information is displayed and used, and how the conversation flows from one point to another, the negotiations may end up in confusion.


Hence, the four biggest challenges in international negotiations are language, non-verbal behaviour, values, and thinking and decision-making patterns. In addition, people tend to make assumptions, and when incorrect, they will lead to misunderstandings.


Therefore, remember to listen, and never assume. Also, try to find out, how you communicate; do you rely more on verbal communication and being direct or you do prefer more subtle way of expressing your thoughts?


If you are struggling to determine your way of communicating, my coaching program provides you with profound information to develop your working style and intercultural communication skills. Enroll today!




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