When you think about cultures and those who research them, the name Edward T. Hall immediately comes to mind. He is famous for calling our attention to space, context, and time factors in cultures. This week let’s take a look at time in detail.
For us Westerners, we like to do one thing at a time with careful planning and scheduling. We study time management and efficient ways to get things done more quickly and accurately. Hall called us monochronic time people and pointed out that we were low context in our approach to time.
The other end of the continuum was polychronic time people where human interaction was valued much more highly than getting things done or getting them done on time. These Hall branded as high context people. Cultures in Africa and Latin America exemplified this factor. Below is a chart from Hall that contrasts the two ends of a time cultural factor.
All of us feel most comfortable somewhere in the continuum of monochronic and polychronic time orientations. Where do you feel you “fit”? In the middle, toward one end or the other?
All of us need to learn sensitivity to the cultural comfort zones of each other. Some careers prefer one comfort zone over the other. But we can all learn to care deeply enough to flex to meet the needs of the circumstances (like showing up for your job on time!). Helping students who prefer one comfort zone over the other to learn the necessity of being flexible is a great help to those students.
Principles cited in this blog: We all have to learn sensitivity to other people’s comfort zone when it comes to the time factor in culture.
Application for ISI ministry: One way we can help students is to help them see the need to understand the cultural context of others when it is very different from what one was raised with.
Next blog topic: Cultures: The Context Factor
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson