Marla has been planning the company’s first annual conference. She has been consumed by this responsibility for weeks—working nonstop, even on weekends. Several days earlier, her colleague, Marcus, thinking that she might need some help, asked, “How’s the conference planning going?”
“It’s fine, everything’s under control,” Marla muttered.
The Friday before the conference is scheduled to begin, Marcus notices that Marla seems even more frantic. Wanting to be helpful, he asks again how things are going. “They couldn’t be worse,” Marla snaps. “Two speakers dropped out yesterday, and the room they had promised us for breakout sessions won’t be available after all. Now I hear there might be an airline strike.”
“I’m sorry,” Marcus said. “How can I help?”
Marla stared at him. “Now you offer help? Where have you been? I could have used help weeks ago!”
Marcus was stunned. “But I thought. . .You never asked,” he said.
“A blind man could see how busy I was,” Marla exclaimed.
Taken from Chan, J. (2009). Chapter 3: Getting Your Message Across. In, Communication skills for managers, 5th Edition (pp. 27-50). American Management Association International
Please answer the following questions:
1. What happened in this situation? What did the Sender perceive, and what did the Receiver perceive?
2. Comment on some assumptions Marla might have been making. What were they, and how might those assumptions have informed this situation?
3. Have you experienced similar situations in your workplace or community interactions? If so, briefly describe the situation (without divulging people’s names, the names of organizations, etc.) A short paragraph will suffice in answering this question.
4. Please watch the following video on low-context cultures and high-context languages and cultures. The video is 4:44 long. Then answer the question below the video.
If you had to guess, would you say that Marla comes from a high-context culture? Or would you say that she comes from a low-context culture? Why? Write a sentence or two in answering this question.
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