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Addressing Communication Style Difference in Cross-Cultural Conflicts

Addressing Communication Style Difference in Cross-Cultural Conflicts

Author: marlene johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will be able to use strategies and techniques for addressing communication style differences in conflict or conflict resolution situations..

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Video Transcription

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Communication can really open the door between people, or it can create misunderstanding, particularly when there are communication style differences. And often there are when people come from different cultures. I'm Marlene, and I'd like to talk about that with you today. I'd like to talk specifically about strategies and techniques for addressing communication style differences.

And we all know that these differences, of course, are culturally derived ways of communicating. Neither party intends to be sending a particular message that would be misinterpreted. It's just very natural and correct for the way the person communicates in their culture. So when two or more people are speaking, and they're from different cultures, there can be misunderstandings.

Now, quite often it's not even apparent there are style differences until something happens. There's been a miscommunication. So when that happens it's always good to notice and raise the issue, because that can open the door to promote better understanding. So noticing and raising the issue. Now, it starts with self awareness. We've talked about a lot of different ways that we communicate, both verbally and non-verbally.

And I think it's crucial that we continue to ask ourselves this question. What are we communicating? What am I communicating if I'm communicating to someone from another culture, because it's impossible not to communicate. Even when I have my mouth shut I'm communicating something through eye contact, gestures, body language. And of course, when I speak I'm either being direct or it could be indirect. So we're sending messages at all times. So what are the messages that we're sending?

When we notice that there's been a disconnect somehow in that message back and forth between sender and receiver, simply to raise it and put it on the table can be very helpful if it's handled well. So how do you handle it well? Well, it's very important not to use blaming or shaming language. I like to think of it as simply reporting what happened.

So, for example, someone did something with either eye contact or gestures or body language, perhaps they looked away while you were speaking or they used a gesture that you misunderstood or they moved in too close to speak with you when you were having a conversation. You could bring up whatever that was by saying, you know, when you did that, eye contact, gesture, whatever it was, I reacted the way I did because to me that means-- and then tell them culturally what that means, and how you reacted instantaneously because it had that meaning.

So it's not blaming when you talk about it that way. But it's talking about the behavior and your reaction to it because of the culture you come from. So handled that way it can really open the door. I think it's also helpful to be revealing, self revealing. Perhaps you've discovered something or you had something happen if you traveled abroad where perhaps you realized that you were doing something that someone misunderstood, and you realize how easily that can happen. That kind of self revealing statement can be helpful, too, in the right context.

So I think it's also important to remember that fluency, becoming really fluent in another culture takes years. And most of us don't have that opportunity to participate or immerse ourselves in a culture. So what we want to become is culturally competent. And that means being aware that we're always sending these messages in a variety of ways and that we can notice and recognize when it's happening. And then we're able to speak about it in a way that could be helpful. And when we do, that could be a great opportunity to promote cross-cultural understanding. So I've enjoyed this tutorial, and I look forward to next time.

Terms to Know
Communication Style Difference

A difference between the culturally-derived communication styles of two or more people attempting communication.