|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/11/16 18:34 中图读者俱乐部|
Beforehand preparation leads to success; unpreparness results in failure.
The past is as clear as a mirror, the future as dark as lacquer.
The future is called“perhaps,”which is the only possible thing to call the future.
未来可以被称作“可能”，那是唯一可以用来称呼未来的词汇。In these matters the only
certainty is that nothing is certain.
There are a number of ways one’s uncertainty avoidance orientation may manifest itself in interaction. In the dialogue presented below, Kelly and Chang are interacting about a dinner invitation. Kelly, from the United States, possesses a relatively weak uncertainty avoidance index, while Chang, a Chinese, comes from a culture with a relatively strong uncertainty avoidance index.
Chang: Hey, Kelly, let’s do something tonight.
Kelly: All right.
Chang: Please come over to my house and I’ll cook dinner for you.
Kelly: I have invited some friends over to my house for dinner tonight, but I don’t know if they’re coming.
Chang: Well ... as soon as you know if theyre coming, let me know.
Kelly: I won’t know until tonight.
Chang: What time?
Kelly: I won’t know until they call me. They’ll probably call later this afternoon.
Chang: How will you know whether or not to cook enough for everyone?
Kelly: Oh, I’ll make up something on the spot. I like to cook. I’ll whip up something fast.
Chang: But ... what if they dont come? Won’t they call and let you know?
Kelly: No ... if they dont come, I’ll know that something else came up. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.
Chang: Maybe we should plan my dinner for some other night.
In the above dialogue, Chang is confused by Kelly’s easy going attitude toward the evening’s plans. Coming from a strong-uncertainty-avoidant culture, Chang would prefer to plan ahead to avoid uncertainty and prepare her script for the evening. Kelly, on the other hand, is perfectly comfortable making plans based on how the evening progresses. Without a plan, how will Chang know how to act?
The United States is a country with low uncertainty avoidance; while China is a country with a comparativetly high uncertaity avoidance.
At the core of uncertainty avoidance the inescapable truism is that the future is unknown. Though we may all try, none of us can accurately predict the next moment, day, year, or decade. As the term is used by Hofsted, uncertainty avoidance“defines the extent to which people within a culture are made nervous by situations which they perceive as unstructured, unclear, or unpredictable, situations which they therefore try to avoid by maintaining strict codes of behavior and a belief in absolute truths.”
High-Uncertainty avoidance try to avoid uncertainty and ambiguity by providing stability for their members, establishing more formal rules, not tolerating deviant ideas and behaviors, seeking consensus, and believing in absolute truths. They are also characterized by a higher level of anxiety and stress: People think of the uncertainty inherent in life as a continuous hazard that must be avoided. There is a strong need for written rules, planning, regulations, rituals, and ceremonies, which add structure to life. Nations with a strong uncertainty-avoidance tendency are Portugal, Greece, Peru, Belgium, and Japan. (see Table)
On the contrary, we find countries like Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, the United States, Finland, and the Netherlands have a low-uncertainty avoidance need. They more easily accept the uncertainty inherent in life and are not as threatened by deviant people and ideas, so they tolerate the unusual. They prize initiative, dislike the structure associated with hierarchy, and more willing to take risks, are more flexible, think that there should be as few rules as possible, and depend not so much on experts as on themselves. As a whole, members of low-uncertainty avoidance cultures are less tense and more relaxed - traits reflected in the Irish proverb“Life should be a dance, not a race.”
Differences in uncertainty avoidance affect intercultural communication. In a classroom composed of children from weak, uncertainty avoidance cultures we might expect to see students feeling comfortable in unstructured learning situations and students also being rewarded for innovative approaches to problem solving.
In the following intercultural conversations, we see assertive communicating style can help in uncertainty reduction. In the first conversation, we see Lee, who is from China, interacting with Daniel, who is from Ukraine. Lee seems unassertive and unresponsive. In the second conversation, we see Jim, who is from the United States, interacting with Foday, who is from Sierre Leone. In comparison to Lee, Jim seems assertive and responsive. Jim’s assertiveness and responsiveness help him reduce uncertainty about Foday and Sierre Leone.
Daniel: Hi, I’m Daniel.
Lee: Oh, hi.
Daniel: What’s your name?
Lee: Lee Dong.
Daniel: Hi, Lee.
Daniel: I’m not from here. I’m from Ukraine.
Daniel: You’ve heard of it?
Lee: Ah, yeah, I think so.
Daniel: Ukraine is in Eastern Europe, between Poland and Russia.
Daniel: Yeah. Have you ever been to Europe?
Lee: Yeah, but I was pretty young at that time.
Daniel: It must have been quite an experience, though.
Lee: Ah ... do you know what time it is?
Daniel: Its about 3 oclock.
Lee: I have to go now. Bye.
Daniel: Bye, Lee, nice meeting you.
Lee: Lee Dong.
Jim: Hi, I’m Jim. I don’t believe we’ve met.
Foday: Hello, Jim, I’m Foday.
Jim: Hi, Foday,swheresare you from?
Foday: I’m from Sierre Leone.
Jim: Oh really?swheresis Sierre Leone? I know it’s on the African continent, but I’m not sure where.
Foday: It’s on the western coast between Guinea and Liberia.
Jim: Oh, toward the north? How big is it?
Foday: Yes, that’s right. We’re about the size of your California.
Jim: That’s interesting. What kind of government do you have in Sierre Leone?
Foday: We have a constitutional democracy.
Jim: Is that based on English law?
Jim: Who’s the president, and how long a term does he serve?
Foday: His name is Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. He is elected for a five-year term.
Jim: Oh yeah ... I think I’ve heard of him. By the way, you speak English very well. Is that your official language?
Foday: English is the official language of my country, but it is only spoken by a literate minority of about 20 percent of the population.
Jim: Really? What language does the other 80 percent speak?
Foday: People in the north speak a vernacular language called Temme, while those in the south speak Mende.
Jim: That’s fascinating. I suspect that most citizens are Muslim?
Foday: About 60 percent are Muslim, with about 20 percent Christian. The other 20 percent or so vary.
Jim: I understand that mining is a major industry in Sierre Leone. I hear you mine diamonds.
Foday: Yes, they are a big export. But many people live by simple subsistence farming like my father.
Jim: Foday, it has been really nice meeting you. I’d like to introduce you to my wife. She’s over there.
Foday: Thank you, I’d like to meet her.
Foday:他叫Ahmad Tejan Kabbah，任期5年。
In comparing the two conversations, notice how much more uncertainty Jim reduces in his short conversation with Foday than Lee does with Daniel. Jim is assertive in initiating conversation with Foday. Lee, on the other hand, says very little even when prompted by Daniel. Daniel is probably more uncertain about Lee after the conversation that before. His lack of assertiveness and responsiveness probably leaves a negative impression with Daniel.
Assessing Your Uncertainty Orientation
The purpose of this questionnaire is to help you assess your orientation toward uncertainty. Respond to each statement indicating the degree to which it is true regarding the way you typically respond:“Always False”(answer),“Usually False”(answer 2)，“Sometimes False and Sometimes True”(answer 3),“Usually True”(answer 4), or“Always True”(answer 5).
1. I do not compare myself with others.
2. If given a choice, I prefer to go somewhere new rather than somewhere I’ve been before.
3. I reject ideas that are different than mine.
4. I try to resolve inconsistencies in beliefs I hold.
5. I am not interested in finding out information about myself.
6. When I obtain new information, I try to integrate it with information I already have.
7. I hold traditional beliefs.
8. I evaluate people on their own merit without comparing them to others.
9. I hold inconsistent views of myself.
10. If someone suggests an opinion that is different than mine, I do not reject it before I consider it.
To find you score, first reverse the responses for the odd numbered items (i.e., if you wrote 1, make it 5; if you wrote 2, make it 4; if you wrote 3, leave it as 3; if you wrote 4, make it 2; if you wrote 5, make it 1). Next, add the numbers next to each statement. Scores range from 10 to 50. The higher you score, the greater your uncertainty orientation.
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