Paradoxically effective intercultural communication must be inefficient at times and to ensure its effectiveness may require vague communication techniques, at least as described by U.S. and many European communicators. Hall (1976) claimed that those of European heritage believe what they think is real because they live in a “word world” (p. vii) and anything other than words are considered less important in the communication process. To be an effective global leader one must be willing to step outside their preferred “world” so they can begin to acquire a high personal interest in new cultures (Early &Yang, 2003) as well as attain certain reasoning skills to help their cultural perception and understanding.
Hofstede (1997) noted that effective intercultural communication requires three phases; awareness, knowledge, and skills. With awareness one may observe the relevant clues about the relativity of the culture (Deng & Gibson, 2008). Knowledge is about another cultures symbols, heroes, and rituals to which Hofstede (1997) noted “we may never share their values, we may at least obtain an intellectual grasp of where their values differ from ours” (p. 231). Skills are practices based on the aforementioned awareness and knowledge so that on can adjust their behaviors (Peterson, 2004) in a new environment. In this case the adjustment would be from a “word world” to a world based on indirectness; in other words a high context society. In this “world” vagueness is appropriate as individuals will talk around things expecting the listener to understand the cues (Hall, 1976). The speaker provides part of the message and leaves the remaining pieces to be filled in by the listener (Hall, 1976). In a world of “words” the burden of communication rests with the sender; in the world of high context the burden of communication is shared.
Deng, L., & Gibson, P. (2008). A qualitative evaluation on the role of cultural intelligence in cross-cultural leadership effectiveness. International journal of leadership studies, 3(2), 181-197.
Earley, P., & Ang, S. (2003). Cultural intelligence: Individual interactions across cultures. Stanford business books.
Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. Anchor.
Hofstede, G., (1997). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. London: McGraw-Hill.
Peterson, B. (2004). Cultural intelligence: A guide to working with people from other cultures. Intercultural Press.