Identifying differences in interaction

Too often, cultural differences make our communication complicated. This article highlights how awareness of differences and seeking shared identities and can be helpful in facilitating meaningful communication.

From shared identities to differences in interaction (Summary)

In our last step we talked about how every interaction is affected to some degree by identity, even our expectations and communication styles. Though we can usually manage this process fairly well in our own cultures, we can often misread or miss some important identities of others across cultures.

Identity gaps

Not every communication encounter is equal. Especially across cultures, we often encounter great differences in status, economics, values, attitudes or other factors. The article provides some examples of how these can threaten to block our communication, or potentially find polite ways to bridge the gap.

Our identity (self-view and how others perceive us) has a major effect on our communication. It influences the language and gestures we choose (Approach), the desires or hopes we have (Expectations), the way we conduct the interaction (Exchange) and the results (Outcome). And every communicative encounter leaves us redefining our identity…Subconsciously, we are involved in Identity Management constantly in our communicative encounters. The good thing is that we can learn from our experience.

Communication is the key

So even though we can observe much about a person, much remains hidden from us unless we relate.

Sharing more about ourselves and learning to ask others about what is important to them in culturally appropriate ways can enable us to relate and work together better.

Where do we start?

The article provides suggestions for some helpful processes:

  • Seek know ourselves and be students of others.
  • Think about what you expect from people. Much goodwill is created when we start to think about what others need, like or value and then try to adjust ourselves to those expectations.
  • Sometimes respecting our differences is the best way to build common ground!

Now that you are more aware of the impact of identity on expectations, we hope you’ll be better able to evaluate who you are, who you are talking to, and what you are mentally processing. Self-awareness and sensitivity to others can help you communicate more thoughtfully in your own culture and cross-culturally.

Recommended Citation:
Kulich, S. J. (2015). From shared identities to differences in interaction. The SISU Intercultural Institute “Intercultural Communication” FutureLearn course reading Retrieved from https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-communication?

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This article is from the free online course:

Intercultural Communication

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)