We define a collectivistic culture as one in which the collectivity’s goals are valued over those of the individual. In contrast, an individualistic culture is one in which the individual’s goals are valued over those of the collectivity. Individualism-collectivism is perhaps the most important dimension of cultural differences in behavior across the cultures of the world. Japanese culture is an example of a collectivistic culture. Harmony is very important to the Japanese. The collectivistic nature of Japanese culture is evident when observing a typical business office in Tokyo. More than a dozen employees are packed into an office that in the United States might house two or three individuals. The Japanese workers sit at small desks, facing each other, clustered in the middle of the room. Their boss sits among them. Individual privacy is completely lacking; instead, much informal conversation occurs among the office workers as they help each other with various work-related tasks.
The nature of the self is different in an individualistic versus a collectivistic culture. Culture shapes one’s self, and thus one’s communication, perceptions, and other behavior. In an individualistic culture, the individual perceives himself/herself as independent. In a collectivistic culture, the individual mainly thinks of himself/herself as connected to others. To be independent in one’s thinking or actions would be considered selfish, rude, in poor taste. An individual who is not a good team player is punished for breaking the norm on collectivism. Interaction between individuals with these different perceptions of self can easily result in misinterpreting the other’s behavior.
Obviously, not everyone in a collectivistic culture is equally collectivistic in thinking and behavior, nor are all of the individuals in an individualistic culture equally individualistic. For example, certain Japanese are task oriented rather than relationship oriented; they are very direct in their speaking style, telling it like it is. There is individual variation within both collectivistic and individualistic cultures, even though the average degree to which individuals are collectivistic-oriented is much greater in a collectivistic society like Japan than in an individualistic culture like the United States.
2.5 What is Communication?
Communication is the process through which participants create and share information with one another as they move toward reaching mutual understanding. Communication is involved in every aspect of daily life, from birth to death. It is universal. Communication is defined as a symbolic process whereby meaning is shared and negotiated. In other words, communication occurs whenever someone attributes meaning to another’s words or actions. Because communication is so pervasive, it is easy to take it for granted and even not to notice it. One way to understand the crucial role of communication in all human activities is to consider individuals who have had little or no human communication. Isolates are children who for some reason have grown up without talking to anyone. While physically human, such isolates cannot talk or read and are completely lacking in social relationship skills.
Communication is also a process involving several components: people who are communicating, a message that is being communicated (verbal or nonverbal), a channel through which the communication takes place, and a context. What are the main elements in the communication process through which participants create and share information with one another in order to reach a mutual understanding. Communication is receiver-oriented. Human communication is never perfectly effective. The receiver usually does not decode a message into exactly the same meaning that the source had in mind when encoding the message. A code is a classification such as a language used by individuals to categorize their experience and to communicate it to others. Decoding is the process by which the physical message is converted into an idea by the receiver. Encoding is the process by which an idea is converted into a message by a source. Noise can interfere with the transmission of a message. Noise is anything that hinders the communication process among participants. Perhaps the symbol that was communicated was interpreted differently by the receiver than by the source. When the source and the receiver do not share a common value regarding the message content, effective communication is unlikely to occur, leading to conflict. The more dissimilar the source and receiver, the more likely that their communication will be ineffective. A source is the individual who originates a message by encoding an idea into a message. A receiver is the individual who decodes a communication message by converting it into an idea. A channel is the means by which a message is transmitted from its origin to its destination. Feedback is a message about the effects of a previous message that is sent back to the source. So communication is symbolic. That is, the words we speak and the gestures we make have no meaning in themselves; rather, they achieve significance. When we use symbols, such as words and gestures, to communicate, we assume, that the other person shares our symbol system. If we tell someone to “sit down”, we assume that the individual knows what these two words (symbols) mean. Also, these symbolic meanings are conveyed both verbally and nonverbally. Thousands of nonverbal behaviors – gestures, postures, eye movements, facial expressions – involve shared meaning. Communication is dynamic. This means that it is not a single event but is ongoing, so that communicators are at once both senders and receivers. When we are communicating with another person, we take in messages through our senses of sight, smell, hearing – and these messages do not happen one at a time, but rather simultaneously. When we are communicating, we are creating, maintaining, or sharing meaning. This implies that people are actively involved in the communication process. Technically, one person cannot communicate alone – talking to yourself while washing your car does not qualify as communication.Communication does not have to be intentional. Some of the most important communication occurs without the sender knowing a particular message has been sent. During business negotiations, an American businessman in Saudi Arabia sat across from his Saudi host showing soles of his feet (an insult in Saudi society), inquired about the health of his wife(an inappropriate topic), and turned down the offer of a tea (a rude act). Because this triaple insult, the business deal was never completed.