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American Indian mother and two daughters with drum
American Indians and drum

Diversity in ways to communicate

Negotiating the diversity in ways of communicating is a complex topic. There are many languages, dialects, communication styles, and interpretations. Some cultures, races, and ethnic groups of people have a preference for direct communication while other diverse groups tend to be indirect. Of course, there are exceptions and variations of these preferences and tendencies within each group. Stereotyping the entire diverse group, especially a negative stereotype, is not wise. Always consider individual differences as primary, and diverse group preferences or general tendencies as interesting possibilities.

For example, my wife prefers indirect communication even though the United States, especially for white Americans, tends to demonstrate direct communication. Since my wife does a lot of indirect communication, I am wise to listen for her meaning “outside” of the verbal message. Instead of asking “Would you please rake the leaves in the yard today?”, which is direct communication, my indirect wife may ask “Isn’t the the weather today perfect to be outside for a few hours?” Rather than directly asking me to rake the yard, she suggests being outside may be good. I must perceive she is thinking I might do something outside, and raking leaves is a chore needing to be completed.

Diversity of communication styles may also be differences in emotional expressiveness and emotional restraint. For example, white Americans from western Europe can often prefer communicating with emotional restraint. They are easily confused and can even misunderstand emotionally expressive communication. Emotionally expressive communication is sometimes very common in African American and Latin communities. White Western European Americans often fail to understand and fully appreciate the emotional expressiveness of African Americans or Latino Americans.

For this step assignment, you need to find a busy public place where diverse people interact and where you can observe people for a sustained period of time: 30 minutes or so. While observing people, take time to consider: How do they move about? What gestures do they use? How do they interact and relate to each other? In what manner do they pass by each other? Do they have direct or indirect contact? What are the expectations for space and privacy? Do they make eye contact? When greeting, do they hug? Shake hands? Kiss on the cheek? Are there exceptions to any of these observations?

Next, please share your observations in the comments section and respond to the comments of two to three other learners.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Diversity and Inclusion

Purdue University

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