How often have you sat in a meeting; one of your team has shared a new idea that you need time to consider?

In your mind, you respond positively to the information with “that’s an interesting idea, but let me think about it”. The reaction you observe is one of disappointment or embarrassment. When asked for further information about the idea at a later date the team member seems surprised or disinterested.

In another example, you pitch your idea. There appears to be interest and you answer questions with a detailed explanations, you see lots of heads nodding. At the end of the meeting, the response is “that’s an interesting idea, but let me think about it”. You feel quite positive, however any attempts to follow up or continue developing the idea is declined or side tracked.

The same words, but a different meaning. 

The first scenario describes a Low context dialogue – language is used to give direct information; what is said is what is meant.

In the second example, depicts a High context perspective; the message is coded to side step embarrassment, a loss of face to avoid stating a direct no.

One of the challenges  in a multinational environment is to decode the cultural variations in communication style.

Context is driven by the time vs. relationship dynamic in comparison to the focus of the message.  Context has to do with how much we have to know about the other party before our communication becomes effective.

Preference for a Low context approach uses a direct approach with explicit words focusing on the outcome. A highly detailed approach to the amount of information shared might be used to ensure everyone has the same meaning. Time and accuracy is reasoned as critical.

A High context preference focuses on the maintenance of relationships. A polite but formal interaction style uses coded information to communicate meaning indirectly. The choice of words cannot be used exclusively to interpret the true meaning of the situation. Relationships are central to gaining information and understanding what is being said.

Within the Middle East, many cultural groups find it difficult to deliver bad news or use a direct no when interacting with others. The worry is how this may damage the relationship.

For those who operate from a Low context perspective this is  frustrating, especially if you want or need clarity in information.

Do you ever think, why can’t I just get a straight answer?


Are these issues that  affect your team’s performance?

Do you know your preference for communicating?

Which context approach is needed to achieve effective communication with your team?

Grow.ME creates cultural understanding so teams can communicate successfully.

Email for more information to unlock the people potential in your team.

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