boy waving while standing on the Great Wall of China

Introduction to ten cultural value dimensions

Over the decades a number of scholars and researchers identified cultural value dimensions and general geographic clusters for these cultural value dimensions.

Please note that there is a wide range of variation in cultural values that individuals in the same cultural cluster may actually express. This means an individual’s personal orientation may not reflect the generalized tendency of a specific geographic cultural cluster. At the same time, research does reveal that a large number of people within these geographic clusters do share similar values. So, it can be a starting point to begin understanding the similarities and differences between your preferred values and the cultural values of others.

Please allow me to share a personal example. Americans, in general, tend to be direct communicators but please realize not all Americans prefer direct communication. I as an American, happen to be a very direct communicator. However, my wife, who is also an American, prefers to be indirect.

Let’s say it is autumn and time to rake the leaves in my yard. Rather than saying, “I suggest you rake the leaves today” which is very direct communication, my wife might indirectly say, “It is such a nice day outside today. This might be a good day to spend time outdoors.” It is very likely I would not figure out that she is asking me to rake the leaves. I often miss the message she is indirectly sending to me. If my CQ were higher and more developed, I would be better at perceiving the meaning of her indirect communications.

An example might be that while direct communication is a tendency and very common in the United States, Germany, and Nordic Europe, there are individuals who prefer indirect communication in those same geographic locations. Indirect communication is very common in Arab countries, Confucian Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa but there are individuals in those exact locations who prefer direct communication.

Cultural clusters provide possible insight into where we may likely find the presence of a cultural value dimension. We have the opportunity to use cultural intelligence to determine if diversity or differences in cultural values might explain a challenge, misunderstanding, confusion or miscommunication. Using CQ provides an opportunity to recognize difference and diversity in order to adapt our behavior which facilitates effective and appropriate interaction across diversities.

The remainder of this week we will explore ten specific cultural value dimensions and ten general cultural clusters.

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