Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

What Do You Know about Cultural Styles?

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

What Do You Know about Cultural Styles?

Article excerpt


When we think about building cultural competence, one of the key steps is building awareness of others. In the absence of a relationship or unique experiences, many of us never develop a true understanding of other cultures without exerting significant effort. This article presents three unique cultures (see Table 1, page 20) and provides an opportunity for readers to think about the cultures and how the variables interact with the process of serving children and families in schools.


First, we have culture one. These are a people who tend to speak softly and slowly with limited eye contact. When in conversation, they don't interject very often. In fact, they wait for a natural pause in the dialogue to speak at all. This is considered respectful communication. Encouragement of others in the group is usually done nonverbally with a smile, a nod, or a gesture. In culture one, there is a high regard for privacy and respecting another's desire for secrecy. When there is a problem, it is preferred that members of this group be patient for the problem to resolve rather than to be quick to act. Of the utmost importance to this group is the sense of community. Sharing is essential to one's well-being and the sharing includes the praise andblame that are associated with the trials of everyday life. All members take responsibility for the success or failure of the unit - it is part of being a member of the community. This group orientationmeans that members are noncompetitive and are more focused on the present than the future.


By contrast, members of culture two speak quickly and assertively. They prefer direct eye contact in conversation and affectionately address the person in conversation with them by name throughout the conversation. The conversation includes frequent interjections from both parties that do not disrupt the flow of the conversation. Encouragement of members is usually verbal with comments such as "great job" and "way to go!" In culture two, verbal skills are highly prized, so those who are more articulate are interpreted to be more successful. Individual accomplishments are coveted and members of this group manage competitive situations well. In terms of interpersonal communication, self-expression and self-disclosure between members is highly valued. Problems are solved through action and scientific explanations of problems are expected and respected.


The third culture includes a group with a speech pattern that includes both volume and pace. Words are communicated with emotion as a way to enhance understanding. There is also a kinesthetic style of communication, learning, and interacting, and nonverbal communication is extremely important. Members of this group pay close attention to social cues and are also very sensitive to the nonverbal communication of others. There is a highly developed skill in understanding and perceiving the affect of other people and situations - albeit nonverbal. The members of this culture adhere to a group orientation rather than an individual orientation, where preservation of the group is a goal of life. Members of culture three believe that success is developed through group unity, freedom, and equality. There is often a multigenerational social network along with informal kinship bonds that are as strong as formal kinship bonds. Finally, in culture three, there is a deep respect for spirituality and human connections through religion.


After reading about these three cultural groups, a process of self-reflection would be an ideal next step. Consider which culture seems the most familiar to you and to your upbringing. Consider which culture is the most different from the one that you resonate with. Do you have an idea of who might belong to each of the described cultures? Do you know anyone that ascribes to the values of one of these cultures? …

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