Cultural Variations in Effective Conversation
Through our this chapter, we have been considering behavior improve conversation for people in the United State a low context culture. Just as venous verbal and nonverbal rules vary in low- and high context cultures, so do they differ in guidelines for conversation. Gudykunst and Masumoto (1996, pp. 30-32) explain differences in conversational patterns between people of low context and high context cultures.
First, in low-context culture conversations, we are likely to see differences in word choice, including greater use of such categorical words as certainly, absolutely, a~9 positively. In high-context culture conversations, we are likely to see greater use of qualifiers such as maybe, perhaps. and probably.
Second, low context cultures strictly adhere to the relevancy maxim by valuing relevant comments that are perceived by listeners to be directly to the point. In high context cultures, individuals’ responses are likely to be more indirect, ambiguous, and apparently less relevant because listeners rely more on nonverbal cues to help them understand the speaker’s intentions and meaning.
Third, in low-context cultures, the quality maxim is ope rationalized in truth telling. People are expected to verbally communicate their actual feelings about things regardless of how this affects others. Conversationalists in high context cultures ope rationalize the quality maxim differently. They define quality as maintaining harmony, and. conversationalists may send messages that verbally mask their true feelings.
Finally, in low-context culture’s, periods of silence are considered uncomfortable because when no one is speaking little information is being shared. In high-context cultures, silence in conversation .is often meaningful. When three or four people sit together and no one talks,the silence may indicate truthfulness, disapproval, embarrassment, or disagreement, depending on context.
Conversations are informal interchanges of thoughts and feelings that usually occur in face to face settings. There are two types of conversations, social conversations and problem-consideration conversations, each of which has a general structure.
Conversations are guided by unwritten prescriptions that indicate what behavior is obligated, preferred, or prohibited. Four characteristics of conversational rules shape the behavior of the participants: rules allow for choice, are prescriptive, are contextual, and specify appropriate behavior.
Effective conversations are governed by the cooperative principle, which suggests that conversations work when participants join together to accomplish conversational goals and make the conversation pleasant for each participant. The cooperative principle is characterized by six maxims: quality, quantity, relevancy, manner, morality, and politeness.
Effective conversationalists demonstrate skills in honestly presenting information (including crediting their sources), balancing speaking and listening (through effective turn-taking behavior), maintaining conversational coherence, practicing politeness (through engaging in positive and negative face saving strategies), and engaging in ethical dialogue.