It's About Time (essay)

It’s About Time

Have you ever had trouble working with others because of their approach to time? Some people are prompt in completing their part of a project, while others are slow. Some people are in time for meetings, while others are late. Some people focus on getting the task done on time, while others spend time chatting and making sure everyone is feeling comfortable. Why are we different in the way we approach time?
Edward T. Hall, a famous sociologist ,found that there are cultural differences in perceiving time, he distinguished between two types of cultures –monochronic and polychronic .People of monochronic cultures ,such as northern European and Anglo-north Americans ,tend to do one thing at a time. They value speed and punctuality. They are efficient and focused. They are controlled by their schedules. On the other hand those of a polychronic culture ,such as Latin and Arab countries ,tend to do many things at once. They value flexibility over punctuality and tend to change plans often and easily. They are controlled by human relationship more than their schedules. You may have heard of ”Mexican time,” “Brazilian time” or “Spanish time.” This refers to the flexible approach to appointments and schedules in those countries: If you make a plan to meet your Spanish friends for a drink at 9 p.m, they may come at 9:30 or 10:00 with no apology .
Of course, there are always exceptions to these cultural tendencies that is to say ,not all Americans are punctual, and not all Spanish observe schedules seriously. There are many individual differences. According to some psychologists, not only culture, but family and personality types also influence and polychronic and say these are personality types found in every culture. Monochronic people are organized logical and patient .Polychronic people are creative, intuitive ,and impulsive.
Conflict happens when we try to apply a monochronic approach to a situation that demands polychronic time or vice-versa. A common example of this is if someone travels to a culture that perceives time differently than in his or her own culture: English-Canadian tourists (monochronic culture)may be frustrated by slow restaurant service in Italy (polychronic culture). A polychronic person may have trouble meeting all the deadlines at an American university ,since most American professors expect students to follow schedules strictly. Even in one’s own culture, it may be difficult for someone who is casual about appointments and deadlines to work efficiently enough to satisfy a boss who values punctuality. And someone who likes to follow a fixed work schedule will be upset by a workteam or a boss who changes tasks or time without notice .
Perhaps most difficult is the fact that life requires both approaches to time-some tasks like taking out the garbage, are predictable and can be approached in a monochromic way .however a monochromic approach doesn’t apply to things like falling in love  or resolving an argument .
The next time you feel annoyed when someone keeps you waiting remember that people of different cultures families and personality types may have different ideas of time it is true that the late person may be rude lazy or disrespectful. But if you are dealing with a polychronic person he or she is simply managing time differently from the way you manage it likewise if you are late for an appointment and your friends gets angry, remember that he or she may be running on monochronic time. Respecting each other different attitude to time may reduce conflict.

Think It Over

1.       In your opinion, to which culture do you belong? Give reasons.
2.       How can understanding of the above cultural time system be helpful in getting along with others?
3.       Do you agree with the opinions expressed in the essay? Explain.


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