Communication is a significant part of day to day life and is present at all times. The cultural framework in which human being interaction takes place is probably the most significant inspiration on human communication. Culture offers the general structure through which humans learn to organize their thoughts, emotions as well as behaviours in relation to their surroundings. Even though “people are born into a culture, it is not inborn, rather it is learned. Culture teaches one how to think, and it conditions people how to feel in addition to instructing people how to act, particularly how to interact with other human beings” (Gibson, 2000, p. 18). Culture provides people with an implicit theory concerning the way they behave as well as the manner in which they interpret the behaviour of others.

The term communication refers to “the exchange of meaning” (Gibson, 2000, p. 18). According to Adler, “the process of communication is highly complex, multilayered and dynamic” (1997, p. 68). The main reason for this is because “communication is always dependent on the perception, interpretation and evaluation of a person’s behaviour which includes verbal versus non-verbal as well as consciously versus unconsciously sent messages” (Adler, 1997, p. 68).

Context includes the factors that lie outside the interactional partners as well as the relationships but yet can have profound influence on them: the situational, historical, cultural, social, psychological and physical circumstances that surround a communication episode. Communication exists in a context that determines, to a large extent, the meaning of any verbal or nonverbal message. The same words of behaviours could portray different meanings when they happen in various contexts. The context also affects what you say as well as how you say it. You communicate differently depending on the specific context you are in.

Communication on Situational Context

In a similar way that you take into consideration the audience when preparing a speech, you are also required to consider the context in which your speech will be given. Situational context refers to the definite reason as to why you are talking or presenting. The manner by which words are delivered in a speech, from the words used to how they are mentioned, depends on the situational context. For instance, it is not possible to read a eulogy at a wedding. The situational context is what the people who are communicating think of as the event they are involved in, which in other words refers to the act people are engaged in when talking, such as having class, studying, being in a wedding event, playing a game, and many more (Adler, 1997, p. 68).

“The situational context is a narrow context established by the physical as well as social situation, by socially defined times and places, and related to participant’s role” (Adler, 1997, p. 68). Depending on these factors, one may chose to agree, disagree or take a neutral position in a conversation. A communicative situation aims at resolving the recurring issues of communal life. Social circumstances are pre-made in a well-built socio-cultural framework in consideration to the types of circumstances that actually subsist in a culture as well as the manner in which they are instigated and performed. Throughout “the process of socialization and in-culturalization, a member of society is taught the habits and rules that are necessary to perform the various situations of daily life and in institutions” (Hall, 1976, p. 76).

Environmental context on the other hand refers to the physical space in which you are speaking. Whether you are in a party with friends of in a study room with classmates, environmental context can influence both your message as well as delivery. The audience tend to connect with the speaker in various ways depending on the environmental context (Hall, 1976).

Communication on historical context

The context of communication affects the expectations of the participants, the meanings that participants assign to messages, and their subsequent behaviours. The historical context is the background provided by previous communication episodes between members of the involved group. For instance, the police and different citizen groups may have a history of pessimistic communications working as a background against which the present incident is being evaluated. Thus, in historical context, conversations are comprehended in connection to conversations that had been done earlier.

The historical context involves the anticipations of the presenter and the addressees in situations that occur on a regular basis or have taken place in the past. For instance, if a salesman does a yearly sales presentation for a specific customer there will, over time, evolve certain expectations about what will happen ad how things will go. However, this doesn’t mean that things will always go as expected.

The historical context of communication is also the background provided by previous communication between the participants. For example, John writes a message to Alex to tell him that he will pick up the draft of the report they had left for their manager. When Alex sees John later in the day, he asks him if he got it. Another person listening to the conversation would not understand what the two are talking about but John and Alex understand what they are talking about because of their earlier exchange. Based o the earlier conversation, participant may choose to agree, disagree or remain neutral (Eveland, 2004).

Communication on socio-cultural context

Culture affects the entire spectrum of communication: beyond its linguistic influence, it influences people’s movements, their conception as well as use of time, and it directs peoples’ ways of seeing and expecting, their feelings as well as their naming of such feelings. The great influence that culture has o communication explains why there are a lot of miscommunications. Cultural context relates to the values as well as beliefs of a group. It includes the beliefs, values, orientations, underlying assumptions, and rituals that belong to a particular culture. When two people from different cultures interact, misunderstandings may occur due to their different cultural values, beliefs, orientations, as well as rituals. The manner in which a piece of information can be effectively presented to a group of young people is totally different to the manner by which it is presented to a group of elderly women. Moreover, the way a person from a certain cultural background perceives a piece of information is different from the way another person from a different culture (Imada, 2010).

“The cultural context in which human interaction takes place is most likely the most defining influence on human interaction” (Imada, 2010, p.14). Culture generates the entire structure through which humans learn to organize their thoughts, behaviours as well as emotions in relation to their surroundings. And even though individuals are born into traditions, it is not inborn. Traditions are taught. Culture “teaches people how to think, it conditions people on how to feel, and instruct them how to act. Of particular, culture teaches people how to interact or communicate” (Beebe et al. 2007, p. 98).

There is a very strong connection between culture and communication. The type of communication that dominates in a given culture is directly related to the kind of culture or to the role of social context in that culture. The social context is here used to refer to the network of social expectations that determine an individual’s behaviour. In some cultures most conversational information lie in the context and are referred to as high-context cultures. In other cultures context carries relatively little information and are referred to as low-context cultures (Rokeach, 1973).

Social context on the other hand is a personal issue. It involves the way the speaker is related to the audience and the expectations involved in that relationship. The way a person communicates with his employer is different from the way he communicates with a relative. The social context is the nature of the affiliation that already exists between the participants. The better you know someone and the better relationship you have with them, the more likely you are to accurately interpret their messages (Rokeach, 1973).

The socio-cultural context examines the ways our meanings, understandings, rules as well as norms are worked out interactively in communication. This context is mainly concerned with the formation and ratification of social reality. From our interaction with the social groups or the neighbourhood we are able to comprehend the world, relate to as well as build reality. In the sphere of socio-cultural context it is believed that our identities are formed through social interaction for the reason that we are an extension of the groups we belong to (Berger, 2005).

Communication on temporal context

The temporal context refers to the timing of communication. This takes account of day, week, season, or significant event in an individual’s history. This context relates to a message’s position within a sequence of events. For instance, the conversation you would hold when someone informs you about the death of a close relative is different from the one that you would have after someone has won a game (Berger, 2005).


The contexts interact with one another. Each context influences and is influenced by the others. For instance, being late for a date (temporal context) may result to changes in the level of friendship (social context), which would depend on the cultures of you and your date (cultural context), and possibly will result to changes in where you go o the date (situational/ physical context). Throughout the communication life and in each communication interaction, one always has choice points – moments when you have make a choice as to whom you communicate with, what to say, what not to say, and the way to phrase what to say and so on (Roloff & Anastasiou, 2001).


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