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Emotions in Intercultural Communication

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Emotion and Intercultural Communication David Matsumoto San Francisco State University Seung Hee Yoo Yale University Jeffery A. LeRoux San Francisco State University

To appear in Helga Kotthoff and Helen Spencer-Oatley (eds.), Handbook of Applied Linguistics, Volume 7: Intercultural Communication. Mouton – de Gruyter Publishers.

Keywords: Emotion, emotion regulation, openness, flexibility, critical thinking, intercultural communication, intercultural sensitivity, intercultural adaptation, intercultural adjustment Address all correspondence to David Matsumoto Department of Psychology San Francisco State University 1600 Holloway Avenue San Francisco, CA 94132 TEL: 510-236-9171 FAX: 510-217-9608 Email: dm@sfsu.edu

Emotions in Intercultural Communication

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Emotions and Intercultural Communication In this chapter, we examine the role of emotions in intercultural communication, and suggest that the ability to regulate emotion is one of the keys to effective intercultural communication and adjustment. Previous work on intercultural communication effectiveness has generally focused on its cognitive components, including cultural knowledge, language proficiency, and ethnocentrism. Instead, we focus on emotion in intercultural communication episodes, and particularly on the skills necessary for the resolution of inevitable intercultural conflict. We argue that emotion regulation is a gatekeeper ability that allows people to engage in successful conflict resolution that leads to effective, long-term intercultural communication. We first describe the role of culture in the communication process, and then the concepts of intercultural communication, adaptation, and adjustment. We describe factors that previous research has identified related to adjustment, and then discuss strategies for engaging in successful intercultural communication, focusing on the role of emotions, but also highlighting the importance of critical thinking and openness/flexibility. We discuss a growth model of intercultural adjustment potential that has at its core the ability to regulate emotions. We review empirical support for this importance of emotion regulation to predict intercultural adjustment, and then review literature examining possible cultural differences in emotion regulation. Throughout, we blend literature from both communication and psychology in producing a unique perspective on this topic. The Role of Culture in the Communication Process Cultural Influences on Verbal Language and Nonverbal Behavior Encoding and Decoding Cultural groups are often characterized by distinct languages, and subcultures often have dialects within a language. Each is a unique symbol system that denotes what a culture deems important in its world. That words exist in some languages and not others reflects the fact that different cultures symbolize their worlds differently. For example, Whorf (1956) pointed out that Eskimo language had three words for snow while the English language had only one. The German word schadenfreude and the Japanese word amae, which do not exist in English, are other examples. Self- and other-referents differ across languages (Suzuki, 1978), as do counting systems. Linguistic differences in counting systems are thought to contribute to differences in math achievement between the U.S. and Asian countries (Stigler and Baranes, 1988). Culture not only affects language lexicons, but also its function or pragmatics. For example, Kashima and Kashima (1998) examined 39 languages and found that cultures whose languages allowed for pronouns to be dropped from sentences tended to be less individualistic, which they interpreted as reflecting different cultural conceptualizations of self and others. Gudykunst and his colleagues have shown that perceptions of personalization, synchrony, and difficulty in ingroup and outgroup communications differ according to meaningful dimensions of cultural...
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