Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
positive results. The problem when talking about motivation is that it is a very sub-
jective proposition. What motivates person A may not motivate person B. In an
attempt to motivate you, we suggest that you discover a positive reward that may
result from your intercultural meeting. In most instances, such a reward will be
achieved when you decide to accomplish certain goals as part of the intercultural
encounter. As Morreale, Spitzberg, and Barge point out,“Goals are particularly rele-
vant to communication competence because they are a way of assessing your effec-
tiveness. A communicator who achieves his or her goals is effective, therefore, more
The goals that motivate you might be eitherextrinsicorintrinsic. Extrinsically, you
might decide that being a competent communicator will provide practical rewards,
such as financial gain, respect, or power. Your intrinsic motivations are more personal
and harder to access—particularly in the intercultural communication environment.
All of us are interested in ourselves and the people who are close to us both physically
and emotionally. We are concerned primarily with our families. As our personal circle
widens, it includes relatives and friends. Interest in other people then moves to neigh-
bors and other members of the community. As we get farther and farther away from
people in our immediate circle, intrinsic motivations in the intercultural event might
become more difficult to access. Think for a moment about your reaction to the news
that someone you know has been seriously injured in an automobile accident versus
your response to reading that 1 million people are suffering from severe famine due to
the civil war in Syria. In most instances, you would be more motivated to learn about
your friend than about the people thousands of miles away in the Middle East.
Although this is a normal reaction, it may keep you from being motivated to deal
successfully with people of cultures different from your own. Yet for you to be a com-
petent intercultural communicator, you must learn to go beyond personal boundaries
and try to find reasons to be motivated. Make that your goal, and improvement will


Knowledge, as our next intercultural competence element, works in tandem with
motivation in that is asks you to be motivated enough to gather a fund of knowledge
on other cultures. This element is often referred to ascognitive flexibility, as it refers to
the ability to augment and expand knowledge about people from cultures different
from your own. According to Morreale, Spitzberg, and Barge, you need two kinds of
knowledge to be competent—content knowledgeandprocedural knowledge.“Content
knowledgeis an understanding of topics, words, meanings, and so forth required for
the situation.Procedural knowledgetells us how to assemble, plan, and perform content
knowledge in a particular situation.”^98 Chen speaks more specifically of this cognitive
facet of intercultural competence when he writes,“Thecognitiveaspect of intercul-
tural communication competence is represented by intercultural awareness, which
refers to the ability to understand cultural conventions that affect how people interact
with each other.”^99 What makes up those“cultural conventions”is not an easy ques-
tion to answer. Put in slightly different terms, what are the cultural differences that
make a difference? In many ways, this book is about those differences. For example,
throughout this book, we plan to offer you“knowledge”regarding cultural values, atti-
tudes, norms, worldviews, language, identity, differing problem-solving methods,
levels of self-disclosure, values, and the like.

62 CHAPTER 2•Communication and Culture: The Voice and the Echo

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