Meyer’s book “Culture Map” provides examples of what are considered “high context” versus “low context” cultures. Communication that relies on the literal, and which is frequently transmitted (in writing) is descriptive of cultures that value directness, blunt honesty, and also barefaced frankness.
In-your-face discourse is an affront to people who deal primarily in innuendo and indirectness, such as Asian cultures – which sometimes “tip toe” around the true message, especially one that is awkward or difficult to deliver (Shen, as quoted in Meyer, 2014). Individuals who value verbal modesty are taught to read between the lines, to listen for hidden or implied cues, and to be cognizant of what is not being said – and to how people are conveying their message (e.g., through intonation, body language, and hierarchical level).
High contexters are trained to “get” a message the first time, by their attention to a host of clues that escape the less observant – who rely solely on what’s being said. From Meyer: “[Written correspondence], a mark of professionalism and transparency in a low-context culture, may suggest to high context colleagues that you don’t trust them to follow through on their verbal commitments.” Sophisticated multi-cultural leaders must learn to conduct themselves in a humble fashion, listen before they speak, survey how they are received, in an effort to recognize individual differences – thus forging positive inter-relationships (Meyer, 2014).
Workers do not have to be from a different culture to fall into the classification of “high context” within this country. “Highly sensitive” or emotionally tactile persons do not need to be checked, reminded, and rechecked in an intrusive fashion. They “get it” the first time, face to face, without the line item aftermath which they feel questions both their professionalism and their integrity. In many cases, they have probably intuited what was required before the original request was even made.