8 Examples of Low Context
John Spacey, October 21, 2021
Low context is a communication environment that doesn't heavily rely on common understanding such as shared culture, experiences and norms. This can be contrasted with high context communication that relies on common background or understanding. Low context can describe situations, environments and cultures. The following are illustrative examples.
Open & InclusiveLow context communication allows for open participation whereby background such as culture and norms aren't required to interact. For example, an industry conference or festival that attracts people from dozens of nations.
Direct CommunicationHigh context communication is known for its nuance and indirectness whereas low context communication is direct and precise. For example, a customer who directly says "no" to a proposal.
GritLow context communication requires a certain degree of grit whereby you may be directly criticized. In many cases, high status and authority don't protect you from direct criticism in a low context culture. This can be contrasted with a high context culture that may respect strict roles and saving face whereby it is unacceptable to directly criticize others, much less a superior.
RelationshipsLow context communication allows for communication without a relationship. In these cultures it may be common to talk to strangers based on trivial shared experiences such as taking the elevator together. This can be contrasted with high context cultures where people tend to be cold to interaction with anyone with whom they don't know in some type of structured way such as coworkers, neighbors, former schoolmates and family.
ConflictWhere you are directly and candidly communicating with people without much of a relationship, common background or norms conflict may ensure. Low context cultures are good in conflict and do not fear it. Generally speaking, high context cultures detest conflict and will go to great lengths to preserve group harmony†.
Rational DecisionsLow context cultures have significant capacity for rational decision making whereby direct communication, candor and an embrace of creative tension allow for competition between ideas. For example, a company where junior staff can criticize an idea from an executive such that bad ideas are potentially defeated versus a culture where nobody criticizes authority.
Plain LanguageLow context cultures depend on direct and precise information such that subtleties of language may be ignored. This makes communication more accessible but is prone to dumbing down and a rush to use the most simplistic or dramatic words possible. High context cultures or situations allow for deeper communication whereby nuance allows complex emotions and ideas to be communicated with elegant words.
IndividualismLow context culture allows for freedom whereby you can say what you think and interact with anyone freely. As such, it is strongly associated with individualism and individualistic cultures. In contrast, high context cultures tend to value duty to the group and great efforts to perform one's role and sustain relationships††.
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References†, †† Nishimura, Shoji, Anne Nevgi, and Seppo Tella. "Communication style and cultural features in high/low context communication cultures: A case study of Finland, Japan and India." Teoksessa A. Kallioniemi (toim.), Uudistuva ja kehittyvä ainedidaktiikka. Ainedidaktinen symposiumi 8.2008 (2008): 783-796.
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