Conflicting ethics across cultures

Differences in morals and ethics can lead to a great deal of cross cultural conflict.  How a culture applies morals and ethics can be described as either Universalist or Particularist.

Particularist or Universalist?

Latin, African, and Asian cultures are Particularist. The Particularist believes morality is situational, and depends on the relationships of the participants and context. Particularists know that there are multiple perspectives on any situation. How you view an event depends on your role in it, who else is involved, and the context. Hard and fast rules don’t make sense to the Particularist. How can you apply the same rules to all situations?

Germanic language ( English, German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic) countries are Universalist.  Universalists do not believe ethics are situational. There is a single truth, not multiple perspectives.  Universalists believe rules and laws are objective and unchanging, and must be followed by everyone regardless of the situation. Relationships and context are secondary or irrelevant.

Cultural differences in morals and ethics are difficult to overcome. They can cause conflict in negotiations, contract agreements, concepts of “honesty”, and trust in relationship building.

These are typical communication styles of each.

• Speak in absolutes
• Prefer direct communication with clear details of agreement
• Get down to business attitude
• Particularists may find their behavior rude and abrupt

• Speak vaguely
• Prefer indirect communication
• Often digress or go off topic
• Avoid absolutes

This entry was posted in American culture, Arab culture, Asian culture, Hispanic culture, Particularist and Universalist cultures, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Conflicting ethics across cultures

  1. J. Ellison says:

    You post was very educational especially for someone going into the journalism world; a place filled with cross culture assignments. It is really interesting to see how different ways of thinking can be split into different regions of the world. I didn’t realize that the different ways of thinking about a situation really affected how we communicate such as the “speak vaguely, speak in absolutes, or get down to business attitude”. In the book Ethics In Human Communication it talks about the Golden Rule. Everyone knows the Golden Rule but what’s interesting is that it really seems to be a universal acknowledgement. It show in the New Testament in Luke 6 and Matthew 7 as well as “sacred literature of the major world religion.” (Johannesen p.224). Johannesen mentions Judiaism, Islam, Confucianism Zoroastrianism, Jainism, and Taoism just to name a few. I think this is an appropriate rule to follow for the business world.

    Johannesen, Richard L. Ethics in Human Communication. Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2002. Print.

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