A U.S. member of the parents’ committee of the local international school is acquainted with a local journalist who is bilingual and has deep ties to the local community.
Parents' committee member: Hi Alma, I know that you’ve got a number of connections who would be perfect for this panel I’m trying to coordinate for the school. Basically, I’d like to have someone who could speak to the cultural interactions between local residents and U.S. citizens. Do you think you’d be able to reach out to a couple of people in your network to see if they’d be available?
Alma: That sounds like a great opportunity for opening up a productive dialogue. I’m happy to help!
Two weeks later…
Parents' committee member: Hi again, Alma, I’m sorry to pester you about this, but have you made any headway with potential panelists?
Alma: Not a problem! I’ve been working on it and discussing the panel with a handful of possible candidates. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
A few days later…
Parents' committee member: Hi Alma, this is really getting down to the wire. Have you found anyone for me yet?
Alma: I’m still reaching out to a few individuals, but I haven’t received any confirmations.
Parents' committee member: Thank you for that. Can you please let me know immediately if anyone says yes?
This is high-context communication. The U.S. committee member, by relying on the local journalist’s connections, thinks that he has found the connection to accomplish his task. But he isn’t factoring in that his relationship to the journalist is only casual, so the journalist doesn’t have a heavy obligation to help him and ask for favors from her own personal network on his behalf, which could also make the journalist indebted to her contacts in the future.
Networking in a high-context environment with the added challenge of language barriers always takes time, skill, persistence, and a bit of luck. Relationships and the reciprocation of favors are essential to getting many things done.
For more information on high- and low-context communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Context is Everything.