Communication styles tend to vary between different cultures. Understanding one’s own communication traits and recognizing differences in communication traits between cultures is important for a mutually courteous interaction.
I personally identify as a westerner from the United States and my communication style borrows heavily from American culture. In American society, open and free communication marks everyday conversations. This open communication transcends boundaries of age, gender and societal status and is not shared universally. In other places, those variables can play an important role in how people communicate with one another (DeVito, 2009) In Japan, for example, communication is like a game of ping pong, with rigid volleying back-and-forth. In America, communication is based more on intuition. Communication is more about conveying a point or feelings than it is an art form or dialogue filled with social courtesy. In business, Americans do not like coded messages, preferring dialogue that is direct and to the point, an approach sometimes misinterpreted in other cultures as rude or impolite. Conversely, the tendency to openly show emotion in conversation allows Americans to be perceived as friendly. I personally tend to communicate directly whenever I feel the situation calls for it and I suspect that this trait comes from family members and friends that do the same and immersion in American society.
One of my greatest strengths as a listener is that I try to take time to listen to what other people say, process what they are trying to convey—both verbally and nonverbally--and recognize their opinions before I speak my mind. This makes me answer questions efficiently and directly, yet sensitively address what I have been asked. When giving information, I make it a point to observe fine details such as body language and facial expressions to make sure that I am effectively conveying what I am trying to convey and being sensitive to another person’s emotions, as it is important to adequately express and receive emotional communication (DeVito, 2009, p. 162-3).
My most prevalent weakness as a listener is that I sometimes find it challenging to tolerate people who take a long time before making a point without showing impatience. I would like them to convey their message as quickly as possible so that I can respond promptly. It is important that I work on patiently listening, appreciating the time of the speaker as just as valuable as my own, keeping fidgeting to a minimum and maintaining eye contact. I also struggle when I feel as though a conversation is dragging on, particularly if I am communicating with someone who has a communication style very different from my own and does not prefer to “get to the point” as quickly as possible. The best way for me to deal with this is to increase my flexibility and work on realizing, when I am in a situation, that different people communicate in different ways and have strengths and weaknesses that are different from my own (DeVito, 2009, p. 171).
In summation, the importance of self-awareness in communication is important, just as in other fields. Different cultures communicate in different ways and even within cultures, individuals communicate differently. By working to maintain the strengths I have, largely related to emotional intelligence in communication, and striving to improve my patience and flexibility through practice, I hope to develop stronger communication skills that will aid in both professional and personal aspects of my life.
DeVito, J. (2009). The Interpersonal Communication Book, 12th Ed. Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.