Working with Others

Cultural Dimensions that Affect Teamwork

Direct vs Indirect Communication

High context cultures are those in which the rule of communication are primarily transmitted through the use of contextual elements (i.e. body language, a person’s status, and tone of voice) are not explicitly stated. In contrast, low-context cultures communicate primarily through language and rules that are explicitly spelled out.

High context cultures value indirect styles of communication.

  • For example, speakers rely less on spoken words to convey meaning and intention because it is assumed the receiver can interpret the message based on their shared knowledge about the situation.

Low context cultures value direct styles of communication.

  • For example, speakers use explicit language to express meaning and intention.

How does this relate to team work?

Misunderstanding can easily occur in teamwork when students with direct styles of communication, while intending to be clear and effective, offend those who are used to indirect styles of communication. The indirect communicators who want to be polite and preserve harmony of the group can frustrate the direct communicators.