Identifying Low- and High-context Communication Part 2

Close
caseID: start
Cartoon people around the edge of a globe with speech bubbles above their heads containing greetings in different languages

Identifying Low- and High-context Communication Part 2

In the Context is Everything section of this resource, we gave you information about some of the differences between low-context and high-context communication. In this activity, you’ll be asked to identify which type of communication is being described in a few short scenarios.
go to case 2 Start
caseID: cIntro

Each option presents you with a different scenario. You will be asked to identify which type of communication is being used. Select an option to practice identifying low- and high-context communication.

go to case 3 Party button
go to case 4 Warehouse button
caseID: c1
Silhouettes of people at a party holding food and drink
Sheila is working in another country. She is proficient in the local language and senses her colleagues are making an effort to speak a little more slowly and clearly for her benefit. She has developed a good working relationship with a female colleague who invited Sheila to a party on the weekend.

She enters the party with her colleague who introduces her to the hosts and a few others. Then the colleague goes off to talk to some people in the next room, leaving Sheila alone.

Sheila attempts to join several conversations by introducing herself and making some general comments, but others are not including her in the flow of conversation.

This is high-context communication. Many people in high-context cultures believe that the group will take care of the individual. Sheila’s colleague did her part by inviting Sheila to the party and making some initial introductions. The colleague most likely assumed that others would be inclusive and that Sheila would also make her own efforts. Sheila's colleague may not feel that it is her main responsibility to make sure Sheila gets integrated into the party. While it would have been nice if she had stuck by Sheila’s side longer, or invited her into a conversation, she probably believed that Sheila would be fine on her own.

For more information on high- and low-context communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Context is Everything.

Scenario
What type of situation is Sheila facing?
  • Low-context
  • High-context
go to case 2 Close
caseID: c2
Cartoon forklift moving a pallet of boxes in a warehouse
As the busy holiday season approaches, Francisco has taken a temporary inventory job in a toy store where he will have two main responsibilities: unloading items from boxes and putting them on shelves in the storage area, and replenishing the shelves in the store for the customers.

The boxes and shelves are all clearly marked with item codes and the number of items that should be on both the storage and store shelves. His supervisor gave him a brief orientation and he has energetically started to work.

After two hours, a coworker approaches Francisco, and seeing that he is new, begins to elaborately describe how the inventory system works. The coworker shows Francisco his preferred method of stacking the items.

Francisco tries to interrupt him and explain that he understands what to do, but the coworker insists on helping Francisco do his job.

He shares that it was hard for him to learn at first and he wants to save Francisco the trouble.

The coworker is using a low-context communication style by providing explicit step-by-step instructions. Regardless of Francisco’s previous experience and the standard protocols, the coworker feels an obligation to help Francisco avoid future problems.

For more information on high- and low-context communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Context is Everything.

Scenario
What style of communication is Francisco’s coworker using?
  • Low-context
  • High-context
go to case 2 Close