Intercultural Corner Culture and Communication

Intercultural Corner
by Jan O’Brien

While reading through the articles in the March edition of the IAC Voice, I clicked on the title, Mastery #5 Infographic by Natalie Tucker Miller. What immediately caught my eye and imagination were the words “…communication becomes a springboard to more open discourse”, and I found myself reflecting on the topic of culture, communication and coaching.

double divers

We each have a natural preference for how we communicate, but the way our communication style manifests can be influenced by our cultural reality. We tend to “send” or communicate our “message” (be it through the written or spoken word, our body language or even our silence) according to the perceptions and values that we have learned within our cultural group. Our message may in turn, be “interpreted” and “received” from a different cultural perspective. The interaction is circular, and effective communication is influenced by our awareness and understanding of our patterns of thinking, behaving and culturally influenced communication styles. Much depends on the context of the interaction. Direct, low context communication is linear and task-centered while indirect, high context communication is situational and relationship-oriented with verbal and non-verbal cues.

Are we communicating directly or indirectly? Do we prefer straight-talk or understatement and humility? Does our “Yes” mean “Yes” or could it mean, “I acknowledge what you said but I can’t say “No” because we would both lose face”? Do we make eye contact with a direct or moderate gaze or do we lower our gaze out of respect for our superior, our elder, or even our coach?

What are your best practices or “springboards” for effective communication across cultures and which of the Masteries are most helpful to you?

We would love to hear your stories about culture and communication so do please join us for a discussion on the IAC LinkedIn group!

Jan O’Brien IAC-MCC
Jan specializes in Cross-Cultural, Personal Leadership and Spiritual Intelligence coaching. She is committed to exploring the multiple layers of culture, self-awareness and leadership so that her clients develop an integral understanding of themselves and others — personally, professionally, culturally and spiritually.

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