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Low Context

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8 Examples of Low Context

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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 & Inclusive

Low 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 Communication

High 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.

Grit

Low 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.

Relationships

Low 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.

Conflict

Where 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 Decisions

Low 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 Language

Low 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.

Individualism

Low 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††.

Summary

Low context communication relies on direct verbal and visual expression that is straightforward. This is useful where you are communicating to someone with whom you don't share much background or shared experience. A low context style is also useful for communicating to a broad audience that may have different backgrounds.
Next: High Context
More about communication style:
Active Silence
Big Picture
Civility
Communication
Discourse
High Context
Humor
Low Context
Motivation
Overthinking
Sarcasm
Saving Face
Social Status
Storytelling
Tagline
Tone
Understatement
Wit
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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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