Chapter 10: Intercultural Communication

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter you should be able to:

  • Define intercultural communication
  • List and summarize the six dialectics of intercultural communication
  • Discuss how intercultural communication affects interpersonal relationships
  • Define intercultural communication competence
  • Explain how motivation, self- and other-knowledge, and tolerance for uncertainty relate to intercultural communication competence
  • Summarize the three ways to cultivate intercultural communication competence that are discussed
  • Apply the concept of “thinking under the influence” as a reflective skill for building intercultural communication competence

It is through intercultural communication that we come to create, understand, and transform culture and identity. Intercultural communication is communication between people with differing cultural identities. One reason we should study intercultural communication is to foster greater self-awareness (Martin and Nakayama). Our thought process regarding culture is often other-focused, meaning that the culture of the other person or group is what stands out in our perception. However, the old adage “know thyself” is appropriate, as we become more aware of our own culture by better understanding other cultures and perspectives. Intercultural communication can allow us to step outside of our comfortable, usual frame of reference and see our culture through a different lens. Additionally, as we become more self-aware, we may also become more ethical communicators as we challenge our ethnocentrism, or our tendency to view our own culture as superior to other cultures.

As was noted earlier, difference matters, and studying intercultural communication can help us better negotiate our changing world. Changing economies and technologies intersect with culture in meaningful ways (Martin and Nakayama). Technology has created for some a global village where vast distances are now much shorter due to new technology that makes travel and communication more accessible and convenient (McLuhan). However, there is also a digital divide, which refers to the unequal access to technology and related skills that exist in much of the world. The digital divide was a term that initially referred to gaps in access to computers. The term expanded to include access to the internet, since it exploded onto the technology scene and is now connected to virtually all computing (van Deursen and van Dijk). Approximately five billion people around the world now access the internet regularly, and those who don’t face several disadvantages.

People in most fields will be more successful if they are prepared to work in a globalized world. Obviously, the global market sets up the need to have intercultural competence for employees who travel between locations of a multinational corporation. Perhaps less obvious may be the need for teachers to work with students who do not speak English as their first language and for police officers, lawyers, managers, and medical personnel to be able to work with people who have various cultural identities.



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