Explore differences in communication styles

Communication styles influenced by culture include:

Non-verbal communication

gestures, personal space, eye contact, punctuality.

Verbal communication

different ways of reasoning, balance of silence and talk, formality and informality, rules about turn taking, handling disagreement.

Value orientations

Recognition of status; relationship of individuals to groups; perception of activity, norms about male/female behaviour.

Continuum of communication styles

(Paige and Bennett 1993)

Linear communication / reasoning
• A -------------- B
• Getting to the point is important.
• Point is stated explicitly.
• Not getting to the point is waste of time.
Circular communication / reasoning
• Circular communication around the main point.
• Let the story make the point.
• Stating the point too clearly is seen as insulting to other person.
• Elegant, flowing speech valued.
Direct communication
• Straightforward.
• Directness shows honesty and respect for the other person.
• Avoiding ambiguity.
Indirect communication
• Meaning conveyed by subtle means, stories.
• Frequent use of implication.
• Being indirect expresses politeness and respect for other person.
Low Context communication
• The context is not assumed to be known.
• Clear explanation, precise description.
• Everything is spelled out explicitly.
• Reliance of verbal messages.
• “Overexplaining”.
High Context communication
• The context is assumed to be known.
• To explain everything and state meaning precisely may be insulting.
• Leave understanding up to other person.
• Greater use of nonverbal messages.
• “Underexplaining”.
• Communicating with feeling and emotion.
• Subjectivity valued.
• Sharing one’s values and feelings about issues is desirable.
• Communication should be calm and impersonal.
• Objectivity valued.
• Emotional, expressive communication is seen as immature or biased.
Idea Focused
• Ideas and person holding them separate.
• Open disagreement acceptable.
• Disagreement with person’s ideas not seen as personal attack.
Person Focused
• Ideas and person not separate.
• Feelings important.
• Disagreement handled very carefully.
• Disagreement is attack on the person.
Task Focus
• Priority: getting the task done.
• People’s feelings are secondary to this goal.
Relationship Focus
• Priority: relationships.
• Maintaining group harmony central.
• Will not complete task at the expense of disturbing harmony with group or person.
• Strict rules about forms of address, titles.
• Status differences often acknowledged.
• Ritualized communication.
• Fewer specific rules.
• Use of first names.
• More flexibility in what one can say to whom and how.