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Would You Act Like That in Front of Your Grandmother? Context and Intercultural Communication

Context guides communication. Informal language intended for a comedy club audience often does not transfer well to a formal speaking situation such as a corporate board meeting. Nonverbal behavior present in a conversation among friends becomes inappropriate around a dinner table with extended family. Communication styles among co-workers could create problems when used to speak to a police officer. Accepted communication behaviors for one culture may be offensive or even illegal in another culture. Informal gatherings as part of a larger, more formal diplomatic meeting (as shown in the image) require a very sophisticated level of contextual communication expertise that takes years to develop. In short, understanding the context of a communication scenario plays a very large role in successful interaction.

In this week’s Discussion, you consider how communication behaviors change based on the context in which they take place. You explore the influence of context on communication style and the impact of context on intercultural communication. Consider the relationship between context and communication. How does your communication change based on where and to whom you are speaking? Why do you alter the way you communicate to fit the context in which you are speaking?

Select two of the three following contexts to focus on for this Discussion: educational, personal, and professional. For each of the two contexts you selected above, ask yourself the following questions:

· What language do you use?

· How formal or informal is it?

· Do you speak loudly or more softly?

· Do you speak faster or more slowly?

· What kinds of nonverbal communication behaviors do you use? Do you look someone in the eye? Use hand gestures? Change your facial expressions? Reflect on how understanding context can help you overcome intercultural communication challenges. How can you apply this knowledge to future intercultural interactions that you may face?

Select two different communication contexts. Consider the communication style choices individuals would have in these two contexts:

Would they use a formal or informal style or register?

What nonverbal behaviors would be effective?

How would the communication be paced?

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