Communicating in a Culturally Diverse World

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Okay, so let's get down to it. What is it that we are talking about when we say communication? Communication is the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and feelings. It is a transactional process, that is, it requires a sender and a receiver, which, in turn, means that the quality of the communication (is it properly understood) depends not just on the sender, but also on the receiver. What? Yes, it takes two. Turn to page 26 in Intercultural Communication, let's run through a sample conversation, so that we get the gist of what's going on.

Let's say that Susan (the source) is beginning to feel hungry. This stimulates her to encode a message about her hunger and choose the channel of spoken words to tell her partner, Jack, "Let's go have lunch now." Jack, the receiver, is reading the Sunday newspaper (noise= anything internal, external, or semantic that interferes with the communication process), and decodes only the sounds of her voice not the meanings of the words. He responds (feedback) by saying, "Huh? Wha'd you say?"

We can see right away that although Susan in a clear and grammatically correct way spoke her desire for them to go have lunch, the communication failed, because the receiver's attention was disrupted by noise. In this case, Jack's attention was occupied by the newspaper (external noise). Had he been thinking of possibly losing his job, his state of internal anxiety would have blocked Susan's message (internal noise). If Susan had called him a profane name when suggesting they go to lunch, he would have been stopped by the semantic noise (her use of language) and not have focused on her desire to go eat lunch.

Knowing that the communication process is not just about outgoing messages, but also involves a willing and attentive receiver of those messages, points out our first obvious tool for better communication-analyze your audience. Think about who that message is for, encode it in a way that will gain that person's attention and time its...
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