Bridging Differences: Effective Intergroup Communication.
In an age when "multiculturalism" has become a "god term," Gudykunst has authored a highly readable, theoretically grounded, and practical guide for helping us understand and communicate with "strangers" -- or "poeple who are not members of our own groups and who are 'different' (on the basis of culture, ethnicity, gender, age, or other group memberships).... "(3)
Chapter titles include: "Effective Communication with Strangers," "Understanding Diversity," "Our Expectations of Strangers," "Attributing Meaning to Strangers' Behavior," and "Being Perceived as a Competent Communicator." Subjects discussed include: ethnocentrism ethnocentrism, the feeling that one's group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other groups. , stereotyping, prejudice, decategorization, communication skills (becoming mindful mind·ful
Attentive; heedful: always mindful of family responsibilities. See Synonyms at careful.
mind , tolerance for ambiguity, empathy empathy
Ability to imagine oneself in another's place and understand the other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. The empathic actor or singer is one who genuinely feels the part he or she is performing. , flexibility, ability to reduce uncertainly), resolving cultural and ethnic conflict, relationships, and building community.
The chapter titled "Understanding Diversity" focuses on how culture influences our communication while acknowledging that communication also affects culture. After defining "culture" the author introduces two dimensions to apply to a given culture. The first is called the individualism-collectivism continuum. "Emphasis is placed on individuals' goals in individualistic in·di·vid·u·al·ist
1. One that asserts individuality by independence of thought and action.
2. An advocate of individualism.
in culture, while group goals have precedence The order in which an expression is processed. Mathematical precedence is normally:
1. unary + and - signs
3. multiplication and division
4. over individuals' goals in collectivistic col·lec·tiv·ism
The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government. cultures." (45)
In brief, certain cultures emphasize personal identity and values while in other cultures group identity and values predominate. When cultures are classified along this dimension, one can begin to appreciate the characteristic communication styles, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the author.
A second dimension involves classifying a culture on a low to high context communication continuum. Quoting Edward Hall For other persons named Edward Hall, see Edward Hall (disambiguation).
Edward Hall (also Halle; c. 1498-1547), English chronicler and lawyer, was born about the end of the 15th century, being a son of John Hall of Northall, Shropshire. (Beyond Culture, New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Doubleday 1976) the author notes that in high context communication "most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit transmitted part of the message" whereas in low context communication "the mass of information is vested in the explicit code."(50) Gudykunst relates these two concepts accordingly: "It appears that low- and high-context communication are the predominant forms of communication in individualistic and collectivistic cultures, respectively.... members of low-context, individualistic cultures tend to communicate in a direct fashion, while members of high-context, collectivistic cultures tend to communication in an indirect fashion."(51)
The author concludes by examining ethnicity, gender, and other forms of diversity and by introducing a model to help the reader begin to appreciate the dependency of communication styles on such concepts. Such a base of understanding is necessary if one is serious about building bridges.
This is an insightful volume and can be a useful resource for teachers as well as anyone working within a multicultural environment. It provides a framework for understanding, but goes beyond this by helping the reader assess his or her own communication style and offering guidelines and approaches for more effective communication.