Characteristics & Behaviors

Part 1

Linking Values to Behavior


To understand where behavior comes from—to understand why people behave the way they do—means learning about values and beliefs. The behavior of people from another culture may seem strange to you, but it probably makes sense to them, and vice versa. The reason any behavior makes sense is simply because it is consistent with what a given person believes in or holds dear. Conversely, when we say that what someone has done “makes no sense,” what we mean is that that action contradicts what we believe that person feels or wants.


In the exercise below, match the value or belief in the column on the left to a behavior in the column on the right.




Centrality of family

External control 

Saving face

Respect for age


Deference to authority





____ Use of understatement

____ Asking people to call you by your first name.

____ Taking off from work to attend the funeral of an aunt.

____ Not helping the person next to you on an exam.

____ Disagreeing openly with someone at a meeting.

____ Not laying off an older worker whose performance is weak.

____ At a meeting, agreeing with a suggestion you think is wrong.

____ Inviting the teaboy to eat lunch with you in your office.

____ Asking the headmaster’s opinion of something you’re the expert on.

____ Accepting, without question, that something cannot be changed.


Part 2


Now look at the list of behaviors or characteristics given below. If you decide the statement is more likely to apply to people living in an individualist culture, write “I” in the underlined blank space; if you think it is characteristic of a collectivist culture, write “C.”


Characteristics & Behaviors



People answer the phone by giving the name of the organization. ____

People give cocktail parties. ____

Intergroup rivalry is strong. ____

Employee-of-the-year awards are offered.  ____

People adhere to tradition. ____

People are promoted based on production and results. ____

Contracts in business are used frequently. ____

There is a need for autonomy. ____

People change jobs frequently. ____

People believe that conflict clears the air. ____

There is a need for affiliation. ____

Short-term relationships are common. ____

It’s okay to stand out. ____

Face saving is important. ____

It’s common for mothers to ask their preschoolers what they want to wear today. ____

Self-help books are popular. ____

Decisions are made by consensus. ____

The language has one word for mother’s brother, another for father’s brother. ____

Marriages are arranged. ____

People have potluck dinners. ____


Part 3

Uncertainty Avoidance

As you read the statements that follow, put an “H” in the underlined space preceding those you think relate to high uncertainty avoidance and an “L” where you think low uncertainty avoidance applies.





____ Punctuality is highly valued.

____ People should keep emotions under control.

____ Different is dangerous.

____ People change jobs with more frequency.

____ People expect more formality in interactions.

____ People more readily accept dissent.

____ Take things one day at a time.

____ People should let their emotions out.

____ The chain of command should never be bypassed.

____ Conflict in organizations is natural, nothing to be afraid of.

____ People believe less in common sense.

____ Conflict in organizations should be eliminated.

____ Differences are curious.

____ People change jobs infrequently.

____ A general sense of anxiety prevails.

____ A general sense of well-being prevails.

____ People accept authority more readily; authority is comforting.

____ People accept authority less readily; authority is limiting.

____ Rules should not be broken.

____ Rules can be broken if it makes sense, for pragmatic reasons.

____ Risks should be avoided.

____ Risks are opportunities.



Part 4

Power Distance

In the underlined space before each of the statements below, put an “H” if you think it reflects an attitude of high power distance, or an “L” if low power distance is more likely:





____ People are less likely to question the boss.

____ Elitism is the norm.

____ Students question teachers.

____ Freedom of thought is encouraged.

____ Those in power have special privileges.

____ The chain of command is mainly for convenience.

____ There are greater wage differences between managers and subordinates.

____ Workers prefer precise instructions from superiors.

____ Interaction between boss and subordinate is more informal.

____ Subordinates and bosses are interdependent.

____ Bosses are independent; subordinates are dependent. Power must be exercised

____ Freedom of thought could get you into trouble. more openly in some cultures than in others.

____ It’s okay to question the boss.

____ Less social mobility is the norm.

____ The chain of command is sacred.

____ The pecking order is clearly established.

____ Management style is authoritarian and paternalistic.

____ Management style is consultative and democratic.

____ Interaction between boss and subordinate is formal.



Part 5

Assessing High and Low Context Communication

Below are 32 statements regarding how you feel about communicating in different ways.  In the blank to the left of each item, indicate the degree to which you agree or disagree with each statement.  If you are unsure or think that an item does not apply to you, enter a 5 in the blank.  Use the following key:

Strongly disagree 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  Strongly Agree


  • I catch on to what others mean, even when they do not say it directly.
  • I show respect to superiors, even if I dislike them.
  • I use my feeling to determine whether to trust another person.
  • I find silence awkward in conversation.
  • I communicate in an indirect fashion.
  • I use many colorful words when I talk
  • In argument, I insist on very precise definitions.
  • I avoid clear-cut expressions of feelings when I communicate with others.
  • I am good at figuring out what others think of me.
  • My verbal and nonverbal speech tends to be very dramatic
  • I listen attentively, even when others are talking in an uninteresting manner.
  • I maintain harmony in my communication with others.
  • Feelings are a valuable source of information
  • When pressed for an opinion, I respond with ambiguous statements/positions.
  • I try to adjust myself to the feelings of the person with who I am communicating.
  • I actively use a lot of facial expressions when I talk.
  • My feelings tell me how to act in a given situation.
  • I am able to distinguish between a sincere invitation and one intended as a gesture of politeness.
  • I believe that exaggerated stories make conversation fun.
  • I orient to people through my emotions
  • I find myself initiating conversations with strangers while waiting in line.
  • As a rule, I openly express my feelings and emotions.
  • I feel uncomfortable and awkward in social situations in which everybody else is talking except me.
  • I readily reveal personal things about myself.
  • I like to be accurate when I communicate.
  • I can red another person like a “book”.
  • I use silence to avoid upsetting others when I communicate.
  • I openly show my disagreement with others.
  • I am a very precise communication.
  • I can sit with another person, not say anything, and still be comfortable.
  • I think that untalkative people are boring
  • I am an extremely open communicator.


Scoring:  Reverse the score for items 4, 6, 7, 10, 16, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32.  If your original score was 1, then reverse it to a 9; if your original score was  2, reverse it to an 8 etc.  After reversing the score for those 14 items, simply add the items.  Lower scores indicate low context communication.  Higher scores indicate high context communication





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