In regards to conflict for people from individualist and collectivist cultures, how does silence function differently for each one?

Quick answer:

In an individualist culture silence can function as a space to contemplate one's thoughts in private without being considered rude, since the culture doesn't rely on that individual, but the individual relies on themselves. In a collectivist culture silence can be a break in communication and become an obstruction within the flow of society.

Expert Answers

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In an individualistic culture, people's main priority tends to be their own needs rather than the collective needs of the group. In such cultures, independence is valued above all else and needing to rely on anybody else is considered a weakness. In individualist cultures, people are considered successful if they do not require assistance from anybody else to live their best life.

In an individualist society, therefore, silence wouldn't be such a big deal. Quality communication tends to be scarce anyway, with everybody looking out for their own needs. Silence could even be seen by members of this community as a positive thing, as it would give them time and space to further their own ambitions.

Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, are about putting the needs of the group or the community above your own. Notions of family and community are of the utmost importance, and members of the community put their individual talents to use collectively for the common good. Social norms are put in place to support the society as a whole, rather than the individuals in it.

To a collectivist culture, silence would be devastating. With family and community being the center of everything, communication is a way of life, from chatter about the mundane things in everyday life to the important decisions that need to be made.

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