Influences on Communication Amongst Friends: Culture, Gender & Technology

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  • 0:01 Friendship
  • 1:08 Criteria
  • 2:10 Culture & Communication
  • 3:41 Gender & Communication
  • 5:00 Technology & Communication
  • 6:20 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.

Communication is one of the fundamental aspects of a friendship, but it can be deeply influenced by outside factors. Explore the impact culture, gender, and technology have on communication between friends, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.


Wow! Look at these two aspiring researchers, engaged in psycho-social behavioral research. I mean, obviously, there are some problems with their methodology, but in general, this is solid research. That's what they're doing, right? Exploring the foundational principles of friendship, complex platonic relationships based on high degrees of intimacy?

Friendship is one of the most important tools we use to organize ourselves within a society. It helps us create social connections, it promotes psychological and mental health, and it teaches us empathy and communication skills. Friends are important parts of our lives, but our relationships with them are very complex because friendship is always a choice. This makes friendship relationships different than, say, a family relationship, in which networks are built on irreversible connections of genetics and heritage. So go ahead little guys, continue your research, but be sure to maintain a proactive paradigm of interpersonal productivity. In other words, play nice!


Friendships are extremely common. So common in fact, that for a long time, researchers kind of forgot to study them! The real focus on friendship as a research topic is something that is still expanding, but generally, researchers define friendships as being very intimate platonic relationships, meaning they're not based in sexual attraction between two people. Now, you can be friends with spouses, parents, siblings, or romantic partners, but that complicates things, so for now, let's just stick with strictly platonic friends.

There are five criteria often used to define a friendship. First of all, it must be voluntary; you can't force a true friendship. Second, it must be personal, rather than just a superficial relationship. It also needs to be mutual and equal, meaning that friends respect each other as equals. Lastly, friendship must be affectionate. You have to like your friends.

Culture & Communication

So those five criteria define friendships, but what builds a friendship is communication. Friendships are built on stories we tell each other, from our personal histories to our goals to our thoughts about that movie we just saw. So communication is important to friendship, but how we communicate with friends is defined by more than just our desire to maintain the relationship.

One major factor in how friends communicate is their culture. Your culture defines pretty much everything about you, and this includes our ideas about friendship.

Let's compare a few examples. In some cultures, people are expected to be very emotional; that's how people communicate. So communication with friends will be directed by that. However, in other cultures, people are expected to be more reserved. In general, these friends rely on nonverbal signs to communicate their feelings, and only their friends know them well enough to pick up on those clues.

Cultural values also define what we communicate about. Think of who you are in your society - your social class, education level, place of birth, occupation. What is supposed to matter to you? If you are a middle-class parent in your 40s, for example, cultural values tell you to care about your children and maintain a good home. So these topics dominate your conversations with friends.

Gender & Communication

Our cultural values have a strong impact on the ways that we communicate with friends. This is true of all friendships but especially true of friendships with people of various genders. Now, real quick, let's define what that means. Sex is the biological dichotomy of male and female, and yes, there are some differences in how men and women communicate based on different brain chemistry.

Gender is the cultural definition of how people of a certain sex should behave. This is where we see a real impact on communication. In some cultures, friendship between men and women is not encouraged. In others, people believe that adult males and females cannot be friends without underlying sexual tension. And in some cultures, people of diverse genders interact as easily as friends of the same sex or gender.

It all depends on what your culture teaches you about gender, but since people of certain genders are expected to act certain ways, this can influence communication. We teach that women are better communicators, while men bottle their feelings. Is that a biological, universal difference? No. It's just our culture, but we can immediately see how this could impact a friendship.

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