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Cultural Systems and Values in Communication

Interaction with people from various cultures is interesting because it allows for sharing and exchanging different ideas and values. Culture can be defined as a system of knowledge, meaning, and behavior that guides people in interpreting the world and acting in society (Nastasi et al., 2017). My friend Jay, who migrated to the United States from Northern India, possesses unique cultural beliefs that dictate how members of this culture should behave. He is not an active Christian, but he is open to learning more about God. When we discussed the Gospel of Luke, Jay became interested and asked me to tell him more about my favorite chapters and verses. I shared my favorite verse from the Gospel of Luke, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (King James Bible, 2021, Luke. 23:34). Jay agreed that forgiveness was the foundation of human relationships because it would ultimately lead to peace. Economic, family, and artistic systems and cultural values such as cooperation, long-term vision, role in society, emotions, and approach to work are essential for defining people’s mindset, which is crucial to perceiving new information.

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Cultural systems simplify the interaction between members of the same group. Cultural systems can be classified based on economic, family, educational, political, religious, and artistic meaning (Nastasi et al., 2017). The economic system is created to organize society according to access to goods and resources, and capitalism and socialism can be examples of this system (Livermore, 2020). The two primary family systems are kinship and nuclear family, based on the relationship between relatives of several generations and between members of one family, respectively (Livermore, 2020). The artistic system, which can be solid or fluid, defines aesthetic choices that a group makes and boundaries between people within a community (Livermore, 2020). When Jay started to tell me about his culture, he clearly defined what cultural systems are predominant in his family to avoid misunderstanding between us. He said that he believes in a socialist system because people receive resources relatively equally when the state owns and distributes all production. Jay’s family structure resembles the cultural kinship system because Indian culture requires close connection and cooperation between relatives. In terms of artistic systems, my friend prefers clear and solid boundaries at work.

Cultural values play a central role in people’s approach to life and career, allowing them to guide decision-making. Cultural values can be defined as a group’s beliefs about an acceptable way of thinking, communicating, and acting in that group (Sarafan et al., 2020). Five cultural value orientations are described in the literature: collectivism, long-term orientation, power distance, masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance (Sarafan et al., 2020). Other models also include such cultural values as emotional reactivity and approach to work.

These five cultural values can create a general idea about representatives of various cultures. For example, power distance may often define whether the culture is neutral or emotional due to an established attitude to authorities (Sarafan et al., 2020). Jay describes himself as expressive because of his cultural background. Collectivism implies cooperation between individuals to reach a common goal (Sarafan et al., 2020). In contrast, in a competitive culture, people have individualistic views that imply the independent work of every person (Sarafan et al., 2020). Jay emphasized that cooperation and collectivism are essential in his culture. Moreover, he believes that long-term outcomes are more important than short-term achievements. In cultural values, masculinity can be attributed to gender roles in society (Sarafan et al., 2020). For example, men are expected to act; thus, Jay describes himself as doing type because he focuses on being busy. Avoidance of uncertainty can be understood as people’s relationship with unclear situations (Sarafan et al., 2020). Jay’s monochronic approach to his job that allows him to focus on one task demonstrates that his culture prefers to avoid unexpected circumstances.

Effective communication requires the utilization of elements of verbal and non-verbal language. Language often defines the cultural characteristics of a person who uses specific communication techniques (Lindayana et al., 2018). For example, verbal communication implies word use and tone of voice, while non-verbal language is seen through gestures and facial expressions (Lindayana et al., 2018). My friend speaks four languages and understands sign language, which makes him efficient at determining people’s moods based on facial expressions. Like many Indian people, Jay is very emotional and loud during conversations, which is perceived as rudeness by some other cultures. The speech politeness can be determined by a tone of voice, non-offensive language, and friendly gestures (Lindayana et al., 2018). Fortunately, many of Jay’s colleagues and friends know his culture well, so they see the sincerity in his way of interacting with people. Indeed, it was easier to discuss the gospel with him because of his open and expressive communication style.

Overall, it is critical to understand cultural systems and values when establishing a relationship with someone or delivering sensitive topics such as religion. Although my friend Jay is not an active Christian and was raised in Indian culture, he is open to new ideas; therefore, our discussion about the Gospel of Luke was beneficial for both of us. I tried to consider his beliefs and the peculiarities of his cultural system to avoid offensive terms. This conversation revealed that Jay believes that God is our savior; thus, he thinks that we all need have faith and practice forgiveness for other people’s mistakes.

References

King James Bible. (2021). King James Bible online. Web.

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Livermore, D. (2020). The 6 cultural systems that form the basis for cultural intelligence in leaders. Leadership Essentials. Web.

Lindayana, L., Arifuddin, A., & Mandala, H. (2018). Divergent principles of politeness in verbal and non-verbal directive speech act. International Research Journal of Engineering, IT & Scientific Research, 4(2), 41-51.

Nastasi, B.K., Arora P.G., & Varjas, K. (2017) The meaning and importance of cultural construction for global development. International Journal of School & Educational Psychology, 5(3), 137-140.

Sarafan, M., Squire, B., & Brandon–Jones, E. (2020). The effect of cultural value orientations on responses to supply-side disruption. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 40(11), 1723-1747.

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