Developing Intercultural Communication Competence Assignment
You live and work in a multicultural world. To communicate well with someone whose cult ural background is different from your own, you must understand the customs, values, and characteristics of that person’s cultural heritage. One of the first requirements for understa nding others is to be open- minded about foreign cultures and eager to learn how another person’s perceptions and be haviors may differ from yours. The sections below identify steps to help you improve your i ntercultural communication competence, which is defined as “the ability to communicate ef fectively and appropriately in intercultural situations based on one’s intercultural knowled ge, skills, and attitudes” (Deardorff, 2006, p. 249). As with interpersonal communication co mpetence, intercultural communication competence involves acknowledging and balancing effectiveness and appropriateness, with a special consideration and appreciation of how k nowledge, motivation, and skill— the three factors that facilitate communication competence that we introduced in Chapter 2 —are particularly important to accomplish this delicate balance.
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Be sure to consider possible cultural differences when you interact with others. This can he lp improve your communication competence.
Understand Your Own and Others’ Cultures
The first step in improved effectiveness and appropriateness is understanding your culture as well as the cultures of those with whom you frequently interact or in which you spend ti me. In other words, you should become knowledgeable about which messages and behavio rs are most appropriate and effective within the context of a particular culture and how tho se might differ in interactions with people from other, specific cultures. Consider and explo re the unique combination of dominant and co- cultures that are part of your background and heritage, and then evaluate your interactions
with others from different cultural backgrounds. Do you express an interest in learning ab out others’ cultures? For example, when you have booked a trip to visit a foreign country, d o you attempt to learn more about its culture before you visit? While there, do you chat wit h locals and spend time in areas that are not visited by many tourists? Are you open to the s pecific traditions and preferences of that culture, or do you behave entirely as you would if you were in your dominant culture? Most people are eager to share information about their heritage and the unique features of their cultures, and you will learn a great deal not only a bout the other culture but about yourself as well. Being open to this knowledge will go a lon g way in building your intercultural communication competence and is a key way to “ackno wledge multiple views.” When you engage in communication with people from other cultur es, remember to also keep in mind the aspects and characteristics of intercultural communi cation discussed in this chapter.
Acknowledge and Accept Cultural Differences
Whether you interact with different cultural values where you live or when you are travelin g, it is important to recognize that you will encounter cultural differences. Basic informatio n about different cultures—which can be accessed online or in travel guides— can help you anticipate and accept intercultural communication differences that may arise during your interactions with others. Such attempts are an example of being motivated to i mprove your intercultural communication competence— you are propelled to want to be appropriate and effective and are preparing to do so ahead of time. For example, when in a country where a language that is foreign to you is spoken, l earning to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “please,” and “thank you” in that language is a good place to start. Also keep in mind the principles of CAT described in this chapter, and be conscious of how you adjust your verbal and nonverbal messages. Specifically, accommodate how you communicate when communicating with members of different cultures, but be aware duri ng these interactions so that you don’t overaccommodate.
These efforts help decrease negative perceptions people sometimes have of cultures other t han their own. For instance, the expression “ugly American,” coined in a 1958 novel of the s ame name by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer, has been used to describe Americans traveling abroad who act offensively with their arrogance and privilege. What factors adva nced this stereotype of Americans traveling abroad? It may be tied to the strongly individua listic culture in the United States, but it is primarily the result of specific travelers who acte d inappropriately in a new place or who were likely unmotivated to learn about where they were traveling in order to be more interculturally competent travelers. The lesson here is t hat you can facilitate your communication competence and change preconceptions by ackn owledging and accepting the inevitable differences between cultures. The Web Field Trip fe ature offers more tips on how to deal with the culture shock involved in traveling abroad.
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