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Posted on August 19th, 2012, by

A cultural background plays a very important role in the process of communication. In fact, cultural differences can affect communication dramatically because often people having a different cultural background cannot communicate effectively. At the same time, cultural differences can lead to the widening of communication gaps that prevent people living or working in a multicultural environment from a normal socialization and integration in a social group. In such a context, the emergence of different theories which attempt to develop models which explain the interaction between cultural background and peculiarities of communication. In such a way, theoretical developments help to understand better the process of communication and identify factors, basically cultural ones, which influence this process. In that respect, it is possible to refer to the theoretical model developed by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. At the same time, the application of this model to a specific culture, for instance such as mine, which is Chinese culture, reveal the fact that theoretical models cannot fully explain cultural peculiarities and their impact on communication since people are different and it is very difficult to standardize all people in terms of one theoretical model.

On analyzing the theoretical model developed by Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck, it should be said that this model seems to be quite logical and I believe it is basically applicable to my own cultural background. At any rate, with the help of this model, it is possible to understand key features of Chinese culture which affect the process of communication consistently and which uncover the basic models of behavior and communication of Chinese people. At this point, it is important to clearly distinguish the basic cultural patterns which comprise the essence of Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s model. They are as follows: activity orientation, social-relations orientation, self-orientation, world orientation, and time orientation. Through the analysis of either of the aforementioned patterns, it is possible to define basic patterns of Chinese culture and specificities of communication within Chinese community.

Speaking about activity orientation, it should be said that activity is very important to Chinese people. In actuality, Chinese people are always concerned with socially significant activities and they are inclined to take an active part in the life of their social group being involved in the group’s activities. At this point, it does not necessarily mean that Chinese people are always involved in some socially significant activities, such as various volunteering programs. What does matter for Chinese people is to be involved in the common activity. For instance, at workplace, we are doing our routine work, but it is important to us to feel that we do this work together with other employees, but not alone. Otherwise, the work becomes quite difficult since, if we do not feel the support of other members of our social group or if there are no positive effects for our group due to our work, the work becomes purposeless. In such a way, through the involvement in common activities we attempt to be what Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck defined as good members of one’s culture (Chapter 4, 94). Hence, work is very important to us, because it is socially meaningful and significant activity which makes Chinese people feel being members of their social group and society at large.

In such a situation, communication is very important because it should assist to the improvement of our work. This is probably why Chinese people are not inclined to arguments and long-lasting discussions, during their work or other activities. Instead, they strictly follow the established social order when the group readily obeys to its leader, whose authority is normally unchallenged.

Thus, it is obvious that social-relations orientation is dominant in our culture. To put it more precisely, the development of positive relationships are of the utmost importance since through social relations Chinese people demonstrate their social position and their respect to the society. At the same time, the social-relations orientation leads to the development of a distinct social hierarchy, which regulates relations between people. It is hardly possible to speak about Chinese society as about the society where all people are equal. In contrast, the existence of social hierarchy divides Chinese society into superior and interior groups, though oppression of people occupying a lower social position is normally unwelcome in Chinese community. A leader or a person taking a higher social position should demonstrate his or her ability to take care of other members of society and he or she should show his or her respect, while injustice and oppression of other members of the society can lead to the loss of face. Such a mutual respect is mirrored in communication, which is formal and rarely slips to informal communication, especially between people having different social ranks.

As for self-orientation, Chinese people are mainly less concerned with their individual success compared to the overall success of their social group. In other words, our individual needs and interests are secondary to social ones. This is why we do not really distinguish our self from the group. Instead, we closely associate our identity with our group. Moreover, it is extremely important to be a member of a social group in our culture, while the isolation or exclusion from the group is perceived as a personal failure. In fact, this trend can be traced in the process of communication since Chinese people often talk about the life of their community, socially important issues, and they talk rarely about their personal problems, which they tend to hide from the public to maintain face.

In fact, harmony with the surrounding world is very important for Chinese culture. Therefore, we always attempt to lead a balanced life, taking care of our environment since we perceive humans as a part of nature, though it does not mean that we cannot control our life. In contrast, we believe that every person can reach a spiritual balance, an internal harmony which leads to spiritual perfection of an individual.

Finally, according to Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s model, there is supposed to be a time orientation in any culture. In this regard, Chinese culture is inclined to the cyclical view on our life and time. In fact, Chinese people view life as a permanent, cyclic process which constantly repeats. Hence, we are focused on the internal balance and harmony, instead of our concerns with individual success.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck’s model is applicable to Chinese culture. However, it is important to remember that each individual has his or her own peculiarities. Therefore, in spite of common features, it is still quite difficult to apply the theoretical model to all people, but it is possible to distinguish basic cultural trends which influence the process of communication consistently.

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