Individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, not collectivism. The individualism-collectivism dimension is one of the most important of the value dimensions, which occur when "varying degrees of importance [are placed] on those deeply felt views of what is right, good, and worthwhile," that distinguish cultures from one another. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. They see each other as only loosely linked, and value personal goals above that of the group. Individualistic cultures tend to have a more diverse population, and are characterized with emphasis on personal achievements, and a rational assessment of both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of relationships with others. Individualistic cultures have such unique aspects of communication as being a low power-distance culture, and having a low-context communication style. Highly individualistic cultures include the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Italy.
Low Power Distance
Individualistic cultures are classified as low power distance, or horizontal, cultures. Low power distance cultures are characterized by relatively equal power sharing and discourage attention to status difference and ranking. Low power distance cultures challenge authority, encourage a reduction of power differences between management and employees, and encourage the use of power legitimately. Despite this, these cultures don't expect to completely eliminate power difference. People within this low power distance culture, however, are more likely to respond to such imbalances in power with more negative emotional responses than in the alternative, high power distance cultures. Low power distance cultures include Austria, Israel, Denmark, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and Sweden. The U.S. ranks 38th on the scale.
Low-Context Communication Style
Individualistic cultures are also classified as having a low-context communication style. This means that communication is precise, direct, and specific. Unlike in high-context communication, reading between the lines is not necessary in low-context communication. This explicit communication is used in order to prevent any form of misunderstanding between cultures. The ability to articulate the thoughts and opinions one holds as well as to express them eloquently are encouraged, as is persuasive speaking. Low-context communication is all content and no relationship dimension.
- Rothwell, J. Dan (2010). In the Company of Others, An Introduction to Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 65–84.