Cultural Codes

Cultural rules or codes of communication are at play in any interaction we observe. It’s interesting to see that it all comes down to the showing respect, or displaying authority and power (or so it seems). The same components of these rules are throughout (respect, slang/jargon, cursing, and attentiveness) just used in different ways depending on the culture and context. While interviewing co-workers, all agreed that the use of cursing in meetings would appall their mothers, however completely acceptable in the workplace. Then it was noted that if you were in a presentation to a higher up (Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates, say) or for customer (at a conference) you would refrain from cursing. This is reminiscent of the Teamster’s who’s behavior was modified in cases of asymmetrical relationships.

Again, I’m reminded of “places”. My mother would say to me “this isn’t the time, nor the place”. Grandma might say “be mindful of your place”. At work one might say “this isn’t the place (the right context in which) to discuss this (idea/proposal)”. Cultural rules of communication are driven by places. When my mom would say it’s not the time, nor the place – she is prescribing a rule of watching what you say in the right location… for instance not asking about sex during my parent’s dinner with friends. Grandma on the other hand was concerned with your station in life – whether that is to be mindful of your superiors or elders, or your social class, with sets of rules associated with each. Finally, my co-workers comment is one that indicates that the context is not appropriate for the discussion of the proposed idea – the rule – hold or ‘table that’ until the appropriate time and place (or context).


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