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High and Low Context Communication

MEMO

Normandin Street
To: Communications Group
From: Steven Normandin
CC: Leadership Team
Date: 8/31/2019
Re: High and Low Context Communication
Comments: This internal memo will discuss the difference between high context communication low context communication. It has come to our attention that employees in the communications department do not recognize the difference between high context communication and low context communication. Therefore, I am issuing this memo to help clarify the differences between each type and appropriate use.          

First, to understand context communication, It is important to understand what it is. The meaning of “high context” and “low context” communication coined by Edward Hall describes major cultural differences between societies (Intercultural Communication, 2016). In a low context culture, “no means no”.  There is no question about the meaning of the word “no”. It is a very straight forward answer that requires no interpretation. People communicate information explicitly as people “mean what they say, and they state what they mean” (Flaxington, 2016). People from low context cultures are found to be more “socially oriented, to be more confrontation‐avoiding, and to have more trouble dealing with new situations” (Flaxington, 2016). Low context cultures do not have the same depth of tradition and have many more short-term relationships.          

Two countries that are examples of low context culture are the United States and Ireland. The first reason that these two cultures use low context communication is the fact that many relationships are short term. Next, both cultures are very goal-oriented and self-motivated. Next, people speak very highly of themselves. People also speak of their accomplishments and worth. People in these cultures will speak of ideas that they have that on their own they may not be part of a group they will take credit for the idea. In the US and Ireland, people think for themselves and don’t depend time on what others think. One example of a low context communication would be something that is written and well-thought out such as an instruction manual. An instructional or technical manual contains clear steps for accomplishing a task or series of tasks.          

An example of high context communication methods would be something that is visual such as a keynote presentation or new product demonstration. High context communication realizes heavily on hand gestures and body movement and tone of the voice.  An example of a high context country is Japan. Forbes contributor Carol Kinsey Goman (2011) states that “people in Japan (a high-context culture) prefer face-to-face communication over electronic technology favored by other industrialized countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany (low-context cultures)”. Culturally, Japanese businesspeople prefer a conversation over written communication.          

In closing, it is important to understand the difference between high context cultures and low context cultures because it will help our company communicate in the best way that cultures will understand messages whether written or physically presented.    

References

Flaxington, B. (2016, June). Say what you mean; mean what you say. Retrieved August 31, 2019, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/understand-other-people/201607/say-what-you-mean-mean-what-you-say

Goman, C. K. (2011, February). How culture controls communication. Retrieved August 31, 2019, from Forbes website: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2011/11/28/how-culture-controls-communication/

Intercultural communication: High and low context cultures. (2016, August 18). Retrieved from Southeastern University Online website: https://online.seu.edu/articles/high-and-low-context-cultures/

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