Culture is a lot more than what language a person is speaking how they are dressing and what kind of food they are eating. Cultural groups share nationality, race and similar ethnicity. However, culture could also include religion, sexual orientation, gender and even generation. Although culture is not visible, it plays a major role in how we handle conflict. It is often the starting place of our thinking and our behaviors. Cultures are sort of implanted in every conflict because conflicts arise in every human relationship.
When it comes to handling conflict, we tend to handle it by using lifelong messages that we have received due to our culture. Cultural messages are unique in different cultures. The message one culture sends could be perceived and interpreted to totally something else by a different culture receiver. Living in a world with so many different cultures, we almost have to be cultural fluent. Cultural fluency means being familiar with different cultures, how they work and how they intertwine with our relationships when it comes to conflict.
One of the major dimensions of cultural fluency is communication, which refers to different starting points about how to relate to and with different culture groups. Two of the different variations of communication are high and low context. Besides being used in individual communication, high and low context is also used to understand different cultural groups. In high context communication, large part of the message conveyed lies in the physical context, including tone of voice, facial expression, and gestures.
In low context communication, the spoken word carries most of the meaning, whatever is trying to be conveyed is simply said directly. Coming from a big Armenian family, culture and conflict are very high context between me and the rest of my family members. Every little tone of voice, facial expression, and gesture has a major meaning behind it, to decode the true meaning you would have to be part of the family. Growing up, my parents were not strict at all with me and my brother. However, we knew how to decode them without them even saying anything.
If I brought a new friend to my house, just by the way my mother would look at me I would know that this person is not coming to my house anymore. Even in conversations, a two word response from my parents meant a lot. Going to a restaurant owned by another Armenian person with Armenian employees is also involved in high context communication. You simply know how to act, what to do, what to say and what not to say. When it comes to conflict, I have friends of different nationalities.
Being in an argument with one of my fellow Armenian friends is way different than being in an argument with a friend that was born and raised here in The United States with parents that were born and raised here also. A few words back and forth with my Armenian friend would simply end the argument with both of us understanding who was right and who was wrong. However, when involved in an argument with one of my friends who comes from a low context background, I almost have to argue with him in a low context matter by explaining every little detail.
A few different gestures and facial expressions do not mean anything to him and it does get frustrating at times. A person’s cultural background affects communication in a major way when a high and low context communication is involved. How things are perceived and interpreted depend on the person’s cultural background. In low context cultures individuals rely more in spoken words. In high context cultures there are more contexts involved, like tone of voice, facial expression, and gestures.
Growing up in a high context family and having different perception of things embedded in me, I have learned how to deal with conflict in a high context matter. Also, having friends who come from a low context culture, I have dealt with communicating differently and also have experienced situations differently than them. In order to better communicate with the people involved in your life you have to understand how they perceive and interpret what you are communicating with them.