ESSAY: An Extended Commentary - The Dysfunction in Washington D.C.
By David Compton
It's been more than palpable that the American Government has been malfunctioning this year. We all have our opinions as to with who or whom the blame lies. Yes, the tax bill that is being jammed down our throats will now likely pass since Senator McCain has made the very unfortunate decision to indicate that he will vote "Yes". This bill has the approval of about 28% of the American Public and is another indicator of how lawmakers turn a deaf ear to their constituents. I hold out hope that these voters will make them suffer the consequences of this in next year's election. We shall see.
The dysfunction may very well lie with the cultural context of the Executive and Legislative Branches. I often teach classes on multi-cultural marketing that addresses that people of different cultures often have difficulty communicating because of the context within which they operate. If we were to take a look at the world, it safely can be said that that the cultures of all of the nations will exhibit behaviors that are primarily "low context" or "high context". In a low context culture attitudes include:
1. Relationships get in the way of business. "It's nothing personal but we no longer have need of your services here."
2. The written word is final no matter what others may believe what the intent was of the parties.
3. The message is in the facts, details and contracts. "Just the facts!"
4. Time is very critical. "We need to get this done by Christmas"!
Does this sound familiar? It should. The U.S.A. is a low context nation along with Canada, the U.K., Northern Europe, South Africa and Australia.
In other nations the people exhibit a high context style of interaction that includes:
1. The development of relationships is of utmost importance.
2. Non-verbal communication is as, if not more important, than the verbal communication. Examples are gestures and facial expressions. There is more focus on the "intent".
3. The showing of respect for others in the conversation is the key to effective communication.
4. Time schedules are fluid and schedules are flexible.
Nations whose cultures exhibit these attitudes include Latin America, Asian Nations, Middle Eastern Nations, Russia, and African Nations (Except South Africa).
Challenges often occur with clear communication, other than possible language barriers, when a person from a low context culture attempts to communicate with a person from a high context culture. The low context native may want to get right down to business and not waste time while the high context native may want to take time to see if they feel comfortable dealing with this person and develop a relationship with them. The best initial solution for these two is to understand the perspectives of the other person they are dealing with, make the adjustments in their own approach to make the other person feel more comfortable with the discussion. This is the core compromise of communication that now has been lost.
This is the core of the current problem with the executive and legislative branches of our government. There is nothing really new about this except that the differences between the two branches have become very amplified, attenuated and delicate this past year. The legislative branch has always been more of a high context environment where the members have become accustomed to understand the value of relationships, comity, collegiality and showing respect with civil disagreement with their colleagues. The executive branch is more low context and more driven to get done what needs to get done within deadlines and other limitations. This has always been a source of conflict between the two but the tension has escalated this year to the point where effrontery and acrimony are the rules of the day and strident resistance is the dominating behavior.
While this resistance became more escalated under President Obama with the legislative branch becoming more fractious in their behaviors with one another because some lawmakers did not like having a President Obama, this zeal for non-cooperation has become the official perceived intractable mandate for many members. Trump's own confrontational Twitter feeds have amplified this combativeness to the highest levels of contentiousness most of us have ever seen with our politicians. We are at the flashpoint of a catharsis that we will see play out early in 2018. Too many people who have remained silent and reticent for too long are now too tightly wound up and are ready to unleash their frustration. As has been said before the Chinese have always found "interesting times" to be a virtue for one to experience. Life for all of us is about to get very interesting. And, as usual, we are having to learn our lessons the hard way.* maid of honor wears in red color that won't cost much