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Chapter Outline

  1. Fundamental concepts—Culture and intercultural communication

    1. Culture and co-culture—Culture is a matter of perception and definition, and co-culture is a term used to describe the perception of membership in a group that is part of an encompassing culture.

      1. In-groups are groups with which we identify.
      2. Out-groups are groups that we view as different.
      3. Social identity is the part of the self-concept that is based on membership in groups.

    2. Intercultural communication describes the process that occurs when members of two or more cultures or co-cultures exchange messages in a manner that is influenced by their different cultural perceptions and symbol systems, both verbal and nonverbal, and the salience, or weight attached to a particular person or phenomena.
    3. To understand the relationship between interpersonal and intercultural communication, one model illustrates the relationship between interpersonal relationships and intercultural communication and shows that some interpersonal transactions have no cultural elements while others are almost exclusively intercultural and without personal dimensions.
    4. Cultural differences are numerous, as there are a number of ways communication varies within and between cultures.

  2. Cultural values and norms are captured by five subtle yet vital values and norms that shape the way members of a culture communicate. These are as follows:

    1. High- versus low-context—Low-context culture uses language primarily to express thoughts feelings and ideas as directly as possible, while high-context culture relies heavily on subtle, often nonverbal cues to maintain social harmony.
    2. Individualism versus collectivism can be described as members of an individualistic culture viewing their primary responsibility as helping themselves, as opposed to members of a collectivistic culture feeling loyalties and obligations to their in-group.
    3. Power distance describes the degree to which members of a society accept an unequal distribution of power.
    4. Uncertainty avoidance is a term used to reflect the degree to which members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous situations and how much they try to avoid them.
    5. Achievement versus nurturing is described as an achievement culture placing a high value on material success versus a nurturing culture regarding the support of relationships as especially important.

  3. Codes relate to culture, as there are different verbal and nonverbal communication systems.

    1. Verbal codes are similar and different among the world's languages.

      1. Verbal codes exist across cultures, as each language has its own unique style that distinguishes it from others. When a communicator tries to use the verbal style from one culture in a different one, problems are likely to arise.
      2. Verbal communication styles vary along three cultural differences.

        1. Directness or indirectness is the degree to which language is, or is not, used to express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly and logically.
        2. Elaborate and succinctness is the degree to which a language is, or is not, rich and expressive.
        3. Formality and informality is the degree to which individuals are open or more standoffish.

    2. Nonverbal codes exist; while there are similarities across codes, the range of differences in nonverbal behavior is tremendous.
    3. When decoding messages, the potential for misunderstandings for communicators from different cultural backgrounds is great.

      1. Attribution is the process of making sense of another's behavior, and because most behavior is ambiguous and may have several interpretations, the attribution process can lead to faulty interpretations.
      2. Patterns of thought vary in the way members of a culture are taught to think, and reason shapes they way they interpret others' messages.

  4. Developing intercultural communication competence involves having a set of skills and behaviors and being able to choose the appropriate one when needed.

    1. Motivation and attitude describe the desire to communicate successfully with strangers, along with a cultural-general attitude.
    2. Tolerance for ambiguity has to do with the level of uncertainty when encountering communicators from different cultures; intercultural communicators must welcome ambiguity.
    3. Open-mindedness involves being free of ethnocentrism, which is an attitude that one's own culture is superior to others, and prejudice, which is an unfair and intolerant attitude toward others who belong to an out-group; stereotyping is applying prejudiced views about an entire group of people.
    4. Knowledge and skill are needed for communicators to possess enough knowledge about other cultures to know how to best communicate, because communication with people from different backgrounds is culture specific.

      1. Passive observation is noticing what behaviors members of another culture use and applying them effectively.
      2. Active strategies are gaining insights about intercultural communication through seeking information from films, books, etc.
      3. Self-disclosure is volunteering personal information to people from another culture, such as expressing cultural ignorance.

  5. Social media in a changing world—Social media collectively describes all of the channels that make remote personal communication possible.

    1. The characteristics of social media are, in some ways, similar to face-to-face communication; however, there are some differences as well.

      1. Media richness describes the abundance of nonverbal cues that add clarity to a verbal message. However, social media channels are leaner, with increased use of hyperpersonal communication, which is characterized by accelerated disclosure and relational development.
      2. Synchronous communication is two-way and occurs in real time, whereas asynchronous communication occurs when there is a gap in time when a message is sent and received.

    2. Mediated communication affects relational quality; for example, mediated communication makes communicating easier.
    3. Communication competence with social media can be improved by using the following guidelines.

      1. Be careful what you post.
      2. Be considerate by respecting others' need for undivided attention, keeping the tone civil. Be mindful of bystanders, and balance mediated and face time.

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