Understanding Each Other
Communication Between Contrasting Cultures
Communication is the foundation of our society, essential for building personal relationships, sharing ideas, and creating strong organizations. However, communication methods vary across cultures. Being mindful of cultural differences is crucial for successful dialogue.
Generally, cultures like Japan and China, where unspoken rules are prevalent, are considered High Context (HC), while cultures like the United States and Germany, with less implicit context or shared values, are referred to as Low Context (LC). In these two cultural types, approaches to dialogue differ: in HC cultures, human relationships are of utmost importance, whereas in LC cultures, content is key. For instance, in Japan, a phrase like, “Do you know Mr./Ms. X?” can quickly close the gap between strangers, while in LC cultures, bonding over common hobbies like sports is more common.
Moreover, communication styles also differ across cultures. In HC cultures, non-verbal aspects like facial expressions and gestures are often used to exchange opinions, while in LC cultures, direct and concise language is important for straightforward idea exchange. For example, in Japan, the concept of ‘reading the air’ (察する) is common, where people infer each other’s feelings and communicate accordingly, whereas in LC cultures, direct questioning is more prevalent.
In this newsletter, we explore the differences in communication across cultures and what true understanding entails in various scenarios.
Listening Skills in the Digital Age
While listening is a crucial skill in communication, systematic learning opportunities for it have been limited. About ten years ago, neuroscientist Seth S. Horowitz warned that . An article by Entrepreneur outlines six listening skills, one of which is “Put down your phone and pay attention to the speaker.” Though it may seem obvious, it’s particularly important to remember during casual conversations with close friends or partners.
The Magic of '3' in Communication
Even if you enjoy talking to people and have an open mind, conveying your thoughts accurately and directly is a different matter. The article introduces three principles to effectively communicate your feelings and thoughts. First, limit your points to three or fewer, as people’s short-term memory can only hold 3-5 items at a time. Second, convey complex ideas or thoughts in three different ways, which aids in three-dimensional understanding. Finally, repeat important points three times to help identify and reinforce critical information.
Communicating for Action Change
Ever struggled with how to tell someone at work or elsewhere to change their behavior? According to the article, enabling the other person to take ownership is effective. One of three approaches mentioned is “asking questions.” By answering questions, individuals can organize their thoughts and actions, convincing themselves in the process, which can trigger behavioral change. Also, “pointing out gaps between thoughts and actions” and “reducing the size of requests” can encourage spontaneous action change.