Cross Cultural Communication
Chapter 7
Life Space
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Chapter 7
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Learning Outcomes
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Involvement:
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Specific Vs Diffuse Cultures
Specific-oriented Cultures (segregate task
relationship)
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Diffuse-oriented Cultures
(involves in close
relationships)
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Specific Vs Diffuse
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How far we get involved?
Whether we show emotions in dealing with
other people?
 We engage others:
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Specific areas of life and single level of personality
Diffusely in multiple areas of our lives and at several
levels of personality at the same time
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Specific Vs Diffuse Cultures
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Specific-oriented Cultures:
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A Manager segregates (isolate) out the task relationship
she or he has with a subordinate and insulates this from
other dealings.
Diffuse-oriented Cultures:
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Every life space and every level of personality tends to
permeate all others.
Reputation always leaks to some extent into other areas
of life. The extent is what we measure for specificity (
small) vs. diffuseness ( large)
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Kurt Lewin’s Model
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Kurt Lewin, the German-American Psychologist,
represented the personality as a series of concentric
circles with “life spaces” or “personality levels”
between them.
The most personal and private spaces are near the
center.
Most shared and public spaces are at outer
peripheries.
U –Type ( American life spaces) & G – Type ( German
Life spaces) are contrasted in Fig.7.1 Lewin’s Circles
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Kurt Lewin’s Model
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U-type (American) life spaces
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G-type (German) life spaces
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Much more public space than private, segregated (separated) into many
specific sections
Friends enter into the public spaces are not necessarily close or life-time
buddies
American personality is so friendly and accessible – being admitted into one
public layer is not a very big commitment
Entry and access to life spaces are guarded by thick line
It is hard to enter and you need the other’s permission to enter
Public space is relatively small
Private spaces are large and diffuse – once a friend is admitted, this lets the
friend into all, or nearly all private spaces.
Your Standing and reputation cross over these spaces.
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Specific Vs Diffuse Cultures
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Germans may be thought by Americans as
remote and hard to get to know
Americans may be thought out by Germans
as cheerful, garrulous, yet superficial, who
let you into a very small corner of your
public life and regard you as peripheral.
Borders and barriers between “life spaces”
have physical dimensions also.
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The Danger Zone
Specific - Diffuse Encounter
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What U –types sees as impersonal, the G-type sees as highly
personal
Pleasure and pain, acceptance and rejection ramify more widely
in the diffuse system
When Americans “let in” a German or French and show their
customary openness and friendliness, that person may assume
that they have been admitted to diffuse private space.
French / Germans for example, may be offended by criticism-asa professional which they take to be attack-by-a –close friend.
See Fig.7.2 in this context.
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Specific Vs Diffuse Cultures
Losing Face
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Specific Cultures with their small area of privacy
clearly separated from public life, have considerable
freedom for direct speech. “Do not take it personally”
is a frequent observation
In relationship with diffuse people this approach can
be insult
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National Differences
Exercise 1
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A.
B.
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A boss asks a subordinate to help him paint his
house. The subordinate, who does not feel like
doing it, discusses the situation with a colleague.
The colleague argues: “You don’t have to paint if you don’t
feel like it. He is your boss at work.Outside he has little
authority.”
The subordinate argues: “Despite the fact that I don’t feel
like it, I will paint it. He is my boss and you can’t ignore that
outside work either.
Where do you stand?
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National Differences
Exercise I
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Fig.7.3 shows the proportion of managers that
would not paint the house.
Around 80% or higher in the UK, USA, Switzerland
and most of Northern Europe would not paint.
In the diffuse societies of China, Nepal the majority
would.
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Negotiating the
Specific - Diffuse Cultural divide
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In diffuse cultures, everything is connected to everything
Diffuse culture partner would like to know many personal details
Specificity and diffuseness are about strategies for getting to
know other people.
Figure 7.4 : left diagram shows the typical diffuse strategy :
( from general to specific) “circle around” the stranger, getting
to know him diffusely, come down to business specifics later
when relationship of trust have been established
On the right, you get “straight to the point”, to the neutral,
objective” aspects of business deal, and if the other remain
interested, then you”circle around” getting to know them in
order to facilitate the deal. ( from specific to general)
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Cultural Context
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Specific and diffuse cultures also known as
Low and high context cultures
Context has to do with how much you have
to know before effective communication can
occur
How much shared knowledge is taken for
granted by those in conversation with each
other
How much reference there is to tacit common
ground
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High and Low context cultures
High context culture
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Japan and France
Strangers must be ‘filled in’
before business can be
properly discussed
Tend to be rich and subtle
but carry a lot of “baggage”
Never really be comfortable
for foreigners who are not
fully assimilated
Tend to look at relationships
and connections
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Low context culture
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America and Netherlands
Each stranger should share
in rule-making
Tend to be adaptable and
flexible
Tend to look at objectives,
specifics and things
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Effect of specific-diffuse
orientation on business
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Americans prefer MBO & Pay-for-performance to motivate
employees as part of their specific orientation
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In MBO – first agreement on objectives ( the specifics)
Diffuse cultures approach the issue from the opposite direction.
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It is the relationship between A and B that increases or reduces
output, not the other way around.
Objectives or specifics may be out of date by the time evaluation
comes around. B may not have performed yet done something
more valuable in altered circumstances.
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Only strong and lasting relationships can handle unexpected changes of
this kind.
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Effect of specific-diffuse
orientation on business
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Japanese cultures speak of “acceptance time” : the time
necessary to discuss proposed changes before they are
implemented
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Nemawashi concept : binding the roots of shrubs and trees before
transplanting them
Fig.7.5 shows “the circling around before coming to the point”
Pay –for-performance concept not popular as it ignores role of
superiors / team mates
Diffuse cultures do have lower turnover and employee mobility
because of importance of “loyalty”and the multiplicity of human
bonds.
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Effect of specific-diffuse
orientation on business
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Pitfalls of evaluation and assessment
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Specific cultures easily criticize people without devastating
the whole life space of the target of that criticism
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Example : in diffuse culture “stealing” is not easily
separable from domestic circumstances and the western
habit of separating an “office crime” from a “problem at
home”is not accepted.
“Frank discussion” of subordinates in diffuse cultures
may be perceived as total rejection / betrayal of mutual
confidence
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Effect of specific-diffuse
orientation on business : Exercise -II
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Some people think a company is usually responsible
for the housing of its employees. Therefore, a
company has to assist an employee in finding
housing
Other people think the responsibility of housing
should be carried by the employee alone. It is so
much to the good if company helps.
See Fig.7.6 for findings of the survey.
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The Mix of Emotion and Involvement
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Different combinations :
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level of emotion or affectivity ( High to low or neutral )
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with its “reach”or scope ( diffusing several life spaces or remaining
specific)
Four Combinations are described by Talcot Parsons.
Fig.7.7 shows four different primary response:
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Diffusive – Affective (DA) – expected reward is love : a strongly pleasure
diffusing many life spaces ( negative evaluation : hate)
Diffuse – Neutral (DN) – expected reward is esteem: less strongly expressed
admiration also spread over many life spaces ( negative evaluation :
disappointment)
Specific – Affective (SA) – expected award is responsiveness : a strongly
expressed pleasure specific to certain occasion or performance ( negative
evaluation : rejection)
Specific – Neutral (SN) – expected reward is approval : a job, task, or
occasion specific expression of positive, yet neutral approbation.
( negative evaluation : criticism)
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The Mix of Emotion and Involvement
Exercise -III
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Which of the following four types of people do you prefer to
have around you? Review these descriptions carefully, then
circle the one that most closely relates to your preferences
and the one that represents your second preference
A.
People who completely accept you the way you are and feel responsible for
your personal problems and welfare ( combines Diffuse & Affective : love)
B.
People who do their work, attend to their affairs and leave you free to do the
same ( Specific & Neutral : approval)
C.
People who try to improve themselves and have definite ideals and aims in
life ( Diffuse & Neutral : esteem)
D.
People who are friendly, lively and enjoy getting together to talk or socialize
( specific and affective : enjoyment)
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The Mix of Emotion and Involvement
Exercise –III : Findings
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Fig. 7.8 shows how a number of nationalities score in
this exercise
Typical American approach is quite close to the mean
both for emotion and in balance between the specific
and the diffuse.
Eastern and Western Germans are very similar in
emotional levels, but East Germans are appreciably
more specific.
Fig. 7.9 shows regional cultural differences
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Reconciling
specific – diffuse cultures
Specific extreme can lead to disruption
Diffuse extreme to a lack of perspective
Collision between them results in paralysis
Interplay of the two approaches is good:
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Recognizing the privacy is necessary
Complete separation of private life leads to
alienation and superficiality
Business is a business but stable and deep
relationship mean strong affiliations
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Practical tips for doing the business
in specific and diffuse cultures
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Table 1 / Pg.100 highlight the differences
between specificity and diffuseness
Table 2 / Pg.100 shows tips for doing business
in both cultures
Table 3 / Pg.101 shows when managing and
being managed in both cultures
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