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Cultural norms about communication

Different cultures have different norms concerning the communication process itself. Some cultures are formal and polite, with people speaking only when invited to comment by a high status person. Other cultures value a more individual style, where people are expected to interrupt and make points strongly. Individualist behaviour in the presence of people from a 'polite' culture would probably be labeled rude. For example, Americans are direct and open in making their argument, while people from many Far East countries are polite. When people from these cultures come together, the more individualistic group members will tend to assert their views, interrupt and dominate the conversation. The polite group members will be offended but not say so directly because they don't want to be rude and cause the other to lose face.

Cultures also have norms about the acceptable space, or silence, to be given between speakers. In many Latin countries, one can expect to be interrupted before completing one's point, while in many Asian countries people are expected to leave silences for thought and consideration before answering points. Continually breaking the silence can be seen as 'weakness' by Asians and as 'strength' by Latins! In the Anglo cultures, the second speaker often interjects at the precise moment that the first speaker finishes or, sometimes, when the former pauses for a long breath. This means that to contribute to a group which includes Anglo cultures, you have to quickly enter the conversation with a loud voice.

It is notable that one's communication pattern may be different when using your home language and a second language. For example, the French can be very argumentative in the French language, but polite and needing pauses when speaking in English. There should be defined some mutually acceptable ground rules for two-way communication such as:

Listen with good attention and respect

Allow a silence for understanding before putting across one's own points

Do not interrupt others

Summarize what the other has said before making your own point

Ensure that all parties take turns in putting ideas across

Communication will require patience and persistence by all parties; all groups must expect to work more slowly. Those with a higher level of language skill must exercise self control in giving those with less language skills more time to comprehend and formulate ideas. Conversely, those with less natural language fluency should be prepared to speak out and request clarification where necessary. Unfortunately, people are often too polite or too proud to admit misunderstanding. Therefore it is important to be a careful observer of non-verbal signs of confusion, involvement and disagreement.

The dominant talker types do not like silences and do not understand that some people need that silence to think. Even within the same culture, there are differences in people's speed of response. For example, some people typically 'think before they speak' while others 'jump in at the deep end', thinking as they talk. These differences become divisive where the dominant talkers judge the slow talkers as less intelligent or less prepared, and the slow talkers perceive the dominant talkers as intimidating, rude or unfocused in their presentation. This dynamic also can occur between people of different disciplines, for example the salesperson may accuse the engineer of trying to blind him or her with scientific jargon, while the engineer may label the salesperson as being evasive in his or her answers.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 769

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