Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

2.4: Cultural Communication Competence

  • Page ID
    111268
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Learning Objectives

    • Demonstrate sensitivity in co-cultural communication.
    • Explain the meaning and characteristics of intercultural communication competence.

    Hofstede, Hall, and Tidwell's insights are particularly helpful in understanding broad cultural differences. However, we are also engaged in intercultural communication when we are communicating with people of a different race, age, and gender than our own.  In this section, we will share thoughts on co-cultural communication and explain the characteristics of intercultural communication competence.

     

    Co-Cultural Communication

    Hofstede, Hall, and Tidwell's insights are particularly helpful in understanding broad cultural differences. However, we are also engaged in intercultural communication when we are communicating with people of different races, ages, and genders than our own.  When you are communicating with what you perceive as a different co-culture than your own, here are some things to keep in mind.

    Age or Generational Differences

    Age and generational differences show up in family relationships, in the classroom, and in the workplace.  For example, teenage children and their parents or grandparents may have differences of opinion about many issues. Remember the “OK, Boomer” phenomenon from 2019? This phrase was used whenever younger people want to ignore or dismiss something a person of an older generation said.  Can you think of behaviors or even words that may be demeaning to people of a different generation than your own? 

    Race 

    Sometimes individuals don’t communicate with people of different races because they haven’t experienced such friendships before, and so there is uncertainty. Talk with people from different races backgrounds, and ask about experiences. With people who are of different backgrounds, listen and then believe their experience, and understand privilege. Even things as simple as the emoji for a thumbs up tends to be first in a white skin tone, but brown skin tone emojis exist as well. . Know that bias can creep into conversations, but understand that, apologize for it, and make a commitment to change behaviors.

    Gender

    Think critically about your own attitudes toward gender roles. Just because a woman takes on more traditionally feminine roles in a relationship doesn’t mean it’s wrong, unless she doesn’t want to do so.  Or if a male and female attend a movie together and the male cries but the female doesn’t remember self-expression can come in different modes for people.

    Differing Abilities 

    People who have a disability should be addressed as you would address anyone else. If someone appears to have cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and has an attendant with her to help facilitate communication, converse and make eye contact with the person using the wheelchair, not with the attendant.  When someone who you perceive to have Down syndrome orders food at a restaurant, ask that person, not others, what he or she wants. Expect people with a disability to be able to function independently until they ask for help.  When someone who is blind is walking down the hall, don’t grab his or her arm. Rather, if it appears if he needs help, ask him if he needs it. With communicating with a person who is deaf, make lots of eye contact, and feel free to write something down on paper if other ways of communicating aren’t working. Sign language interpreters often help in larger-group situations; however, once again, make eye contact and converse with the person who is deaf, not with the interpreter.

    Developing Intercultural Communication Competence

    The best intercultural communicators are open-minded people who are genuinely interested in other cultures, who take the time to learn about other cultures and co-cultures, and who take the opportunity to engage with and listen to others. Intercultural communication competence is a combination of attitudes, knowledge, understanding, and skills applied that allows us to:

    • understand and respect people who are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from ourselves, 
    • interact appropriately, effectively, and respectfully with them,
    • establish positive and constructive relationships, and
    • understand our own multiple cultural affiliations and how these affiliations may affect our own attitudes and behaviors.

    Taking the time to learn about other cultures can improve intercultural competence. Many people begin by asking questions or doing research on a particular culture or co-culture. Food is also a great way to find out about a culture, so consider visiting international restaurants.  Find out if an international club exists at your college and, if so, join it.  Participating in study abroad programs is yet another way to learn about different cultures. 

    Chapter Summary

    In this chapter, you have learned about the impact of cultures and co-cultures on our own behavior as well as the behavior of others.  We discussed the importance of effective intercultural communication, as well as intercultural communication barriers.  Finally, we addressed the meaning of intercultural competence and gave suggestions for competent co-cultural communication.

    Ideas for Speeches

    Topics for further research.

    Intercultural Communication is a rich source of topics for speeches and papers.  If you are interested in speaking about a specific culture, here are resources you can use in your research.

    • Access the  A to Z World Culture guide at 

    http://www.atozworldculture.com/#mode=country&regionId=7&uri=country-content&nid=20.36&key=country-culture

    Popular travel location etiquette guides and be found at

    Key Term 

    intercultural communication competence- a combination of attitudes, knowledge, understanding, and skills applied that allows us to:

    • understand and respect people who are perceived to have different cultural affiliations from ourselves, 
    • interact appropriately, effectively, and respectfully with them,
    • establish positive and constructive relationships, and
    • understand our own multiple cultural affiliations and how these affiliations may affect our own attitudes and behaviors.

    Learning Activities

    1. Select and watch one of these videos on bridging cultural differences.  https://www.ted.com/playlists/411/bridging_cultural_differences  After you select a video, write and submit your answers to the following questions:
      • Explain why you selected this video.  For example, what about the video drew your attention?
      • What specific culture or co-culture did the speaker in the video represent?
      • What were the most important points that the speaker made or attempted to make in this video?  What did you learn, as a result?
      • What is your reaction to this video?  In what way might you use this knowledge or understanding you gained?
    2. Think of suggestions you might add to those for Co-Cultural Communication section. Was a co-culture that has been left out that you think should be added? Explain.
    3. American Dream Quiz: A recent quiz was created about "privilege" to determine how many roadblocks people have encountered on their search for the American Dream. Do the quiz, located at https://movingupusa.com/calc/. What was your score, and were you surprised? How many of the things that you consider roadblocks have been within your control?
    4. Teen Vogue asks six women about Halloween costumes that co-opt their cultures. See their answers and views on cultural appropriation here: https://youtu.be/d6Y5cARFJw8
    5. Complete the Intercultural Activity in 2.5.

    References

    Karasawa, M., Curhan, K. B., Markus, H. R., Kitayama, S. S., Love, G. D., Radler, B. T. & Ruff, C. D. (2011). Cultural perspectives on aging and well-being: A comparison of Japan and the U.S. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 73(1): Pp. 73–98.

    Rockson, T. (2019). Use your difference to make a difference: How to connect and communicate in a cross-cultural world. Wiley.

    Tidwell, Charles, PhD. Dean Emeritus. Notes are from BSAD560, Intercultural Business Relations, a graduate course offered as an elective in the MBA program at Andrews University. Andrews University. 

    Working with cross-cultural couples: Unexplored issues in therapy [Video file]. (2018). Retrieved February 8, 2020, from https://fod.infobase.com/PortalPlayl...55&xtid=183978


    2.4: Cultural Communication Competence is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner.

    • Was this article helpful?