Finished reading: Edward T. Hall, The Dance of Life

Edward T. Hall, The Dance Of Life: The Other Dimension Of Time, 1984

I picked up The Dance of Life from the St. Louis Public Library after seeing it on the list of books suggested by Dan Pink at the end of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. I had never heard about the book, or about Edward Hall—so why not give it a go?

There were three concepts that stuck with me:

  1. Monochronic time (things done serially, one at a time) and polychronic time (things done in parallel)
  2. High-context culture (much of the message conveyed implicitly) and low-context culture (little implied beyond the words used)
  3. Synchrony between people (and within people) when they communicate

And, generally, it seems to be mainly about the idea that different cultures live in and consider time in different ways. To explain this he uses his experiences living on a Navajo language when he was younger (added to my to-read list: West of the Thirties: Discoveries Among the Navajo and Hopi, a memoir of his time there). I guess that’s an obvious point—different people are different— but time seems so fundamental, especially after enough years in engineering. But it isn’t. We created it. And depending on how one approaches life, and ranks dealing with people or dealing with tasks, time is going to be strict or fuzzy. And knowing the what or why isn’t really as important as knowing that there’s a difference—something to be aware of when one steps into an invisible mess.

Here are some notes, including bibliography, in Evernote: The Dance of Life. Mostly it’s just the bibliography. As with most books I pick up without knowing much about them or their topic before diving in, it takes a great deal of the book before I’ve sufficiently changed mental gears in order to really get into the thing.

A few other links to works by and about Edward Hall:

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