Communicating across Cultures

Communicating across Cultures

Communicating across Cultures

Communicating across Cultures


From high-level business negotiations to casual conversations among friends, every interpersonal interaction is shaped by cultural norms and expectations. Seldom is this more clearly brought to light than in encounters between people from different cultural backgrounds, when dissimilar communication practices may lead to frustration and misunderstanding. This thought-provoking text presents a new framework for understanding the impact of culture on communication and for helping students build intercultural communication competence. With illustrative examples from around the globe, the book shows that verbal and nonverbal communication involves much more than transmitting a particular message--it also reflects each participant's self-image, group identifications and values, and privacy and relational needs. Readers learn to move effectively and appropriately through a wide range of transcultural situations by combining culture-specific knowledge with mindful listening and communication skills. Throughout, helpful tables and charts and easy-to-follow guidelines for putting concepts into practice enhance the book's utility for students.


I have written this book for use as an intermediate text for undergraduate courses in intercultural communication. This book is for students, teachers, and practitioners who would like to integrate knowledge and skills in practicing mindful intercultural communication. Mindfulness means being particularly aware of our own assumptions, viewpoints, and ethnocentric tendencies in entering any unfamiliar situation. Simultaneously, mindfulness means paying attention to the perspectives and interpretive lenses of dissimilar others in viewing an intercultural episode.

The book presents a new framework, namely, the identity negotiation perspective, to explain why we experience emotional vulnerability in communicating with dissimilar others. Our group-based identity (e.g., cultural identity) and person-based identity (e.g., personality traits) influence our particular ways of perceiving, thinking, and behaving in our everyday cultural milieu. However, when we encounter dissimilar others, our habitual ways of seeing and thinking are often thrown into disequilibrium.

As cultural beings, we are like fish in an aquarium—who can live comfortably inside their aquatic milieu without realizing the importance of the water or the tank that surrounds them. In encountering people who are culturally different from us, their dissimilar ways of thinking and behaving challenge our fundamental ways of experiencing. In encountering people who are culturally dissimilar, or when we are staying in an unfamiliar culture, our identities undergo turmoil and transformation. Emotional vulnerability is part of an inevitable identity change process.

The key, however, is to prepare ourselves with competent knowledge and skills so that we can enjoy this eye-opening intercultural learning journey. This book offers you the foundational concepts and skills so you can travel effectively across a diverse range of intercultural situations. Through the theme of mindfulness and the framework of identity negotiation, we put a compass and a map in your backpack to guide you through your different intercultural excursions.

This is a culture-general book that uses examples from many different cultures to support or clarify the various concepts. Since many of you will be engaged in different types of intercultural encounters, a culture-general book will prepare you to cross diverse cultural boundaries flexibly and . . .

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