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Culture's Impact on Interpersonal Communication

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  • 0:00 Culture and Communication
  • 1:00 Communication Across Cultures
  • 3:01 High and Low Context Cultures
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, explore different cultural styles of communication and discover what it means to study communication through culture. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Culture and Communication

This probably isn't going to be a big surprise to anyone, but culture influences communication. What? You mean that not everybody in the world communicates the same way? Nope. And I'm not just talking about what language you speak. Culture, the shared set of expectations, ideologies, and productions within a society, has a dramatic impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives. This is especially true of interpersonal communication, the direct exchange of information between two or more people, which is different than, say, sharing information using mass media outlets like newspapers. Interpersonal communication is all about the direct interaction between people and this means working with dozens of cultural rules. Who is allowed to talk? When? Where? What do you do with your hands? Where do you look? How much do you say? Communication is a lot more than just knowing what to say, it's about knowing a culture.

Communication Across Cultures

Now, before we get into the ways that culture can influence interpersonal communication, we've got to ask one basic question: Why do we care? As long as we interact within our own culture, do we really need to learn about other people? Well, yeah. More than ever before, we are living in a world of increasing economic interdependence. This means that people depend on each other for products. Think of it this way: Do you grow your own food? Make your own clothes? Build your own home? No. You have a role in society and you rely on other people with specialized roles to provide things that you can't do alone. That's how the global economy works. Very few nations, if any, are practically self-sufficient. Many people look at this through the lens of globalization, the international integration of economies, cultures, ideas, and technologies. Let's face it, the world is far too connected for us to ignore other people. The chance that you will get through life without ever needing to interact with another culture is slim, at best. And why would you want to? Our modern technology makes international travel easier than ever before. And, I'm just saying, there's some pretty great food out there. It'd be a shame not to try it. So, we're going to interact with other cultures and that means we need to understand how. The first thing we've got to master before even attempting to communicate with people of another culture is cultural sensitivity, the understanding and respect of differences between cultures. It is always important to go into a new communication system with the expectation that things will be different and that's okay. It's okay for people to have different cultural ideas about communication and it's okay if this is difficult for you to pick up. Nobody expects you to master anything overnight. So, try to avoid becoming too frustrated when dealing with someone from a different culture of communication.

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