Do I find myself communicating differently with people from different groups and cultures? Yes, I do, but not because of their cultures or differences. So, mostly, I would engage in a respectful dialogue with people I meet for the first time. Depending on their responses, I would then engage further with them. Most of my encounters with people from other countries are positive. They are usually willing to answer my “curious” questions.
I am not presently a teacher, so I do not have the experiences of communicating with children and their families from different groups and cultures.
Usually, I am open and curious and ask many questions. Most of the time, people respond positively. I think that I show an interest in them, but there was one time when someone told me to ask stop asking so many questions. What I was essentially doing is what Beebe, Beebe, and Redmond (2010) suggested we do. I actively sought information about her, asked her questions, and listened for the answers, but did not yet establish common ground. I am not even sure why she asked me to stop asking questions because to find out I would need to ask another question!
I know that I communicate differently with my children now that they are older and in their 20s. Our topics are more adult-like, too. I like talking with them and their friends because they keep me young. One of them once told me she appreciated my wisdom. Nothing like an innocuous comment like that one to make me realize my own reality!
My communication styles have evolved from my youth to today. I could see where I was once impatient and would have listening issues. I would multi-task – a phrase that was not coined back then. I would get bored easily. But today, I am more mindful of each and every person’s wish to be engaged in a respectful conversation with others. I have had some good supervisors and role models for listening, and my listening skills have improved as a result.
Beebe et al (2010) said, “A key to accepting others is to develop a positive attitude of tolerance and acceptance of those who are different from you.” I feel lucky to have the positive attitude that enables me to accept others who are not the same as me.
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Redmond, M. V. (2011). Interpersonal communication: Relating to others (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.