Edward Hall proposed a classification of time as a form of communication, in which cultures organize their time in one of two ways: monochronic (M-time) or polychromic (P-time). Both of these classifications represent very distinct approaches to time utilization and perception of time, one being monochronic, which views time as segmented and something that should be rationed. Whereas the other, polychronic, sees time as something that should be flexible, so the more important things in life can be given more attention.
Considering M-time cultures are extremely punctual and use time judiciously, and P-time cultures live leisurely and are typically multi-taskers, when these two types of cultures intermingle there is much room for miscommunication. An M-time view of time organization sees it as a very scarce resource that should not be wasted. People of M-time cultures ration their time through things like schedules and appointments and tend to be predominant in Low-context cultures. These types of cultures try to focus on one task at a time and finish it before moving on to the next.
People of M-time cultures view time as something that can be lost, stolen, wasted, saved or even as something fixed in nature, like air. People of these cultures are well organized and value punctuality. A great example of this viewpoint can be observed by the English naturalist, Charles Darwin, when he said, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. ” Darwin was insinuating that not even one hour of your day should be wasted, but instead planned and utilized.
Some of today’s M-time cultures would include Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the dominant U. S. culture. P-time cultures tend to define time by events rather than a clock or calendar. They also have no feelings of ever wasting time. P-time cultures are deeply steeped in tradition rather than in tasks, and tend to be predominant in High-context cultures. People of these cultures view maintaining harmonious relationships as the important agenda in life and time should be flexible in order to fulfill obligations to do right by various people.
People of P-time cultures interact with numerous people at a time; multi-task and can accomplish many tasks in a short period of time. P-time cultures tend to value relationships and people as well as doing right by them, even if it means cancelling or postponing prior engagements. A great example of a P-time point of view would come from an old Thai proverb which states, “Do good, get good. Do evil, get evil. ” This proverb represents their view of the world around them which is to simply maintain the harmonious balance rather than conquer it, as in many M-time cultures.
Some of today’s P-time cultures are Arab, African, Indian, Latin American and Southeast Asian. Misunderstandings are bound to occur when these two types of cultures interact. For instance, P-time cultures tend to interrupt more in conversation because of the flexibility, multiple activities and multi-tasking nature that is encouraged throughout their culture. Interruption in conversation during a scheduled appointment could be perceived as rude and unprofessional by someone of an M-time culture. Also, P-time cultures can be viewed by M-time cultures as spontaneous and unstructured.
Considering M-time and P-time cultures see the usage and wasting of time completely opposite of each other, many problems could be encountered with things like running late for and canceling appointments, breaking commitments, and even the amount of things being taken on at once. Though M- and P-time cultures are very distinctly different, it is important to remember that many cultures contain degrees of both. For example, in Japan, their time system combines both M- and P-time. When dealing with foreigners and technology they are Monochronic. However, when dealing in interpersonal relations, they are Polychronic.
It is also important to remember that how M- and P-time are acted out within a culture is purely contextual. For instance, an individual from any culture might be particularly Monochronic for work on a daily basis. However, when it comes to social events and obligations, exhibit Polychronic behavior, and always run late or cancel. Therefore, though there is much room for miscommunication in interpersonal relations between both M- and P-time cultures, a little effort in background information can keep a savvy individual one step ahead in the world of communication.
General Discussion Question 2 Though all cultures have a language that is seen and understood as a general means of communication, we all communicate so much more than simply the meanings of our words. Through Paralanguage, the underlying meanings assigned to our words and all the features that accompany speech can be emphasized. Characteristics of paralanguage can vary greatly across cultures and based on things like tone of voice and other vocal sounds, paralanguage can affect the meanings we assign to any given message.
Paralanguage characteristics can vary greatly from culture to culture, however cultural differences are most prevalent in the use of volume. Vocal qualities consist of many components, but the simple volume of a message can speak a thousand words and even change the meaning of a message, in matters of ignorant intercultural relations. For example, in Japan, a soft, gentle voice reflects good manners and helps to maintain social harmony. The very opposite is a true reflection of a loud, intense volume. Another example can be seen in the Arab culture where volume connotes strength and sincerity.
Arabs tend to generally speak loud, and view soft-spoken individuals as weak. If two men from these cultures were to be involved in a business endeavor and were unaware of the cultural differences ahead of time, they would most likely run into communication, trust and respect issues. Through the tones in our voice, we communicate so much more than our words and their meanings. Tones of voice can decipher whether there is a question being asked, when a command is being made, and even emotions, like sadness, anger and excitement. Through tone of voice you can also detect things like sarcasm and wit, versus a more serious tone.
Tones of voice can also allow a listener to understand the emotional state of the person speaking. For example, if someone were in trouble and needed help, the tone in their voice would help you to realize they were in trouble rather than celebrating something, regardless of the languages spoken. Not only do tones in the voice help decipher meaning behind a set of words, but also many other vocal sounds can do the same. How a person’s voice sounds can influence perceptions related to social class and credibility. Also, the level of comprehension and retention of the actual words being spoken can influence perceptions.
For example, if you were speaking to someone and asked them a question, if they were to answer slowly, running around the subject possibly and not really answer the question, that may affect your perception of how good of a listener that person is, regardless of anything else. Other vocal cues provide information regarding personality, ethnic background and even rhetorical activity. Cues such as slang, accent, dialect and other things of that nature, help to give a lot of background information on a person. By the paralinguistic sounds people use, many assumptions regarding character and content can be made.
In conclusion, paralanguage emphasizes the meanings of everything we say through tone of voice, vocal cues and even the volume of a voice. What is acceptable and not amongst cultures varies greatly therefore, it is necessary to understand differences cross-culturally regarding paralanguage. The meanings of words carry so much more than a literal definition when you add paralanguage characteristics, however when we take the time to understand who exhibits which particular paralinguistic traits prior to any intercultural relations, huge communication issues can be avoided.