Individualistic vs. Collectivistic Cultures: Differences & Communication Styles

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  • 0:02 Audience-Centered
  • 1:22 Individualistic Cultures
  • 2:21 Collectivistic Cultures
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
In this lesson, you will learn the difference between an individualistic and collectivistic culture and how it affects communication styles and message delivery.


Different cultures embody specific values, or thoughts or ideas that they view as important. Values play a central role in determining if a culture is individualistic or collectivistic. In the business world, it is important to understand how values have a direct influence in the communication process. In this lesson, you will learn the difference between individualistic and collectivistic societies and how they impact communication messages.

An individualistic society depends upon the values of freedom and independence, while a collectivistic society depends on group harmony and consensus. The values in each society play an intricate role in developing communication styles for a business message targeted at each specific audience.

Jim Snow is a prime example of a consultant whose work depends on understanding different cultures' view of values. He is an international consultant who speaks to business audiences across the globe about employee motivation and success. Jim has to be aware of a culture's stance in order to not offend an audience. He creates audience-centered research based on what their values, beliefs, and needs are in order to deliver an effective message. Let's see how he adapts his message for different cultures.

Individualistic Cultures

Individualistic cultures view individuals as independent and able to succeed by themselves. Audiences in an individualistic society react well to messages that speak to individuality and personal achievement. Societies, such as the United States, embrace an individualistic culture based on the tenets of freedom, individualism, and self-reliance.

In fact, the United States' adoption of individualistic values can be traced back to our early history and the Industrial Revolution and the belief that freedom, independence, and self determination were critical to the success of our country. Some cultures view an individualistic ideology as selfish and self-centered. Jim's presentation to an American audience is based on how success is easily attained through individual achievement and internal motivation. He calls his speech 'Only You Can Do It.'

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