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Updated 01.31.1999


Specific vs. Diffuse
This dimension measures how far people get involved with other's life space.  Take a research group as an example.  In specific-oriented cultures, the project leader would segregate out the task relationship he/she has with a subordinate, and insulates this "work relationship" from other dealings.  Therefore, the leader's authority only reaches where his/her work relationship with the subordinate is defined, and each area in which the two persons encounter each other is considered apart from the other.  Work and life are sharply separated in specific-oriented cultures life the U.S.

In diffuse cultures, however, life space and every level of personality tends to permeate ALL others.  For example, a teacher would be treated by the student not only as an instructor in the classroom, but also has certain influence on the student's home life.   The boss-subordinate relationship usually does not stop only in the office; the boss is likely to have a say in other aspects of his/her employee's personal life.   Because of the importance of loyalty and the multiplicity of human bonds, diffuse cultures tend to have lower turnover and employee mobility.  Most East Asian cultures are highly diffuse-oriented.  The following are some characteristics of both cultures. 



Direct, to the point, purposeful in relating
Precise, blunt, definitive and transparent
Principles and consistent moral stands independent of the person being addressed
Indirect, circuitous, seemingly "aimless" forms of relating
Evasive, tactful, ambiguous, even opaque
Highly situational morality depending upon the person and context encountered
Reconciliation between Specific- and Diffuse-oriented cultures: Recognize that privacy is necessary, but that complete separation of private life leads to alienation and superficiality.  Some tips:

For Specific-oriented People

For Diffuse--oriented People

Study the history, background and future vision of the diffuse-oriented people
Let the meeting flow, occasionally nudging its process
Respect a person's title, age, background connections
Study the objectives and principles of specific-oriented people 
Be quick, to the point and efficient
Do not use titles or acknowledge skills that are irrelevant to issues being discussed
Universalism vs. Particularism
Individualism vs. Communitarianism
Affective vs. Neutral
Specific vs. Diffuse
Achievement vs. Ascription

Books for your reference