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The Importance of Cultural Awareness in Interpersonal Communication

Cultural Awareness and Intercultural Communication

In America, we have a very wide and diverse collection of religious cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds. Intercultural Communication, as cited by Beven (2020) and stated by Kim(2010) is “...the communication process in which individual participants of differing cultural and subcultural backgrounds come into direct contact with one another” (p.3.1). In order to be competent communicators with people with different cultural backgrounds, one must be patient, understanding and show interest and respect for the other person’s feelings and cultural preferences.

There are a few reasons that explain why it is important to be aware of someone else’s culture when attempting to communicate. One reason is to avoid being ostracized. According to Beven(2020) to be ostracized is to be“...removed from a group or from society at large if you violate the formally stated laws of the land or traditions of the areligious group”(p. 3.1). It is never a good feeling to be avoided or looked at like an outcast. Another reason it is so important is to clarify communication. When there is not a central understanding of what is being communicated, interpersonal communication can be misinterpreted in the decoding process.

When this happens, it could take much longer to send a message to the receiver, than it would with mutual understanding.

Culture has a huge impact on nonverbal communication. In the textbook Making Connections: Understanding Interpersonal Communication , Beven(2020) mentions several instances that would be considered nonverbal communication that is influenced by culture. One instance she discusses is how in the United States it would be considered rude to not shake someone’s hand in a professional setting, whereas Muslim men and women tend to not engage in physical contact of the opposite sex. In order to show respect for this cultural difference, one would have to learn about another culture and find a greeting that did not violate either side’s cultural norm and comfort. Beven(2020), cites ( Gibbs, 2017; Jafar, 2017) in stating that an alternative would be to put your hand over your heart or bowing.

Culture also has a huge impact on verbal communication. One example of verbal communication that can have a negative impact on interpersonal communication, Beven(2020) states, as cited by (Kemper, Ferrell, Harden, Finter-Urczyk, & Billington, 1998)“..elderspeak” in which younger individuals speak slowly to aging adults, repeating themselves and using fewer words”. This makes the older generation feel dehumanized and patronized as mentioned by Beven(2020) as cited by Simpson (n.d.).

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