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Intercultural communications


As delineated in the class readings, communication is associated with the sending and receiving of information hence meaning is created. Further, as the “Transaction Model” holds, meaning, which is the product of encoding and decoding of messages, often exists as a product of negotiation between the interlocutors and it is significant to note that the meaning is often significantly influenced by the social-cultural background of the interlocutors. Accordingly, as discussed in the class readings, it is proper to posit that communication is fundamentally impacted by the diverse cultural background of individuals. One’s attached meaning to a verbal or nonverbal cue may be different from the other’s understanding of the same verbal or nonverbal cues; this is largely dependent upon one’s cultural orientation. In effect, this paper aims to apply the identity management theory in analysing a scenario where my attempt to communicate with a person of different cultural background was unsuccessful.

Description of Scenario

Different times have seen people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds come together as a means of socializing. In the process, cultural backgrounds have continued to play a major role in the manner in which people interact and communicate. A few months ago, I was at a farewell party for a friend who was leaving the country to study abroad. The event was attended by people from diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Consequently, during the meeting, I had an opportunity to interact with a young Chinese female international student. In order to start a conversation, I said “hello beautiful” as I opened up my arms in order to hug her and then start off the conversation. Surprisingly, she stepped back and bowed her head then smiled back. Though confused, I smiled and decided to stretch my hand as I looked directly into her eyes. At this point, she turned her eyes away and excused herself hence leaving me standing and wondering. Feeling embarrassed, I decided to inquire what had gone wrong and as such, I decided to share the ordeal with a friend who had a Chinese background but had lived in Australia for quite some time. In effect, I learned that non-verbal cues in the Chinese culture play a significant role in an interaction or communication, especially where the interlocutors are strangers. First, I gathered that staring into one’s eyes was disrespectful in the Chinese culture. Secondly, hugging is not embraced in all situations, particularly where the parties are strangers; this is because personal space is respected unless the relationship is close. From the above scenario, I learned that the girl must have gotten a wrong signal from my nonverbal cues. Besides, she must have thought that I disrespected her and that I was inappropriately making advances to her. This was a clear indication of the role that culture plays when it comes to issues of communication and a clear understanding among people.

The application of Identity Management Theory in the Scenario

As discussed in the class readings, it evident that the Identity Management Theory structures out what needs to be taken into account for an individual from different cultural background to communicate successfully. Accordingly, one needs to consider three fundamental aspects before engaging with a person from a different culture; these elements include identity knowledge, mindfulness as well as skills (Oetzel, Garcia and Ting-Toomey (2008); Demarco &Matusitz, 2011).

With regards to the previously highlighted scenario, the communication between the Chinese female student and me was unsuccessful because I failed to incorporate the aspect of identity knowledge. In essence, I did not take my time to research on how the Chinese individuals interact during a first time meeting. I ignorantly imposed my cultural understanding hence not considering the Chinese culture. Secondly, I did not incorporate the aspect of mindfulness whereby I did not move from my familiar cultural frame of reference in order to understand the Chinese perspective. Ultimately, I did not take my time to understand the best skills I would use to communicate with a stranger in order to initiate a conversation without making the other party uncomfortable or disappointed. According to the theory of Identity Management Theory, one must take into consideration the concept of “identity knowledge” in that, he or she must understand if the situation should be given an individualistic or collectivist culture approach. In this case, I should have taken time to understand how various identity domains are often expressed through communication. Equally, as Ting-Toomey (2005) posits, mindfulness is often important in intercultural communication as it has three key outcomes: understanding, respect and support. Accordingly, if I would have incorporated the principle of mindfulness in my interaction with the Chinese lady, I would have understood her culture, respected her personal Space as well as supported her view of the world. Ultimately, through the concept of skills, I would have applied the nonverbal sensitivity sKills. As Oetzel, Garcia and Ting-Toomey (2008) argue, intercultural communication is often effective when one manages to combine both knowledge and mindfulness. Thus, these were the aspects that lacked in my unsuccessful communication with the Chinese female student.

In conclusion, culture is an essential element of the society and this is because of the role that it plays in different communication situations. Therefore, one must be able to understand the other’s culture before engaging him or her in a conversation. The main purpose of this paper was to analyse a situation where intercultural communication was hindered.


Demarco, M., &Matusitz, J. 2011. The Impact of Central-Place Theory Human Behavior. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment,21(2), 130-141. doi:10.1080/10911359.2011.542991

, vol.19, no.4, pp. 382 403.International Journal of Conflict ManagementAn analysis of the relationships among face concerns and facework behaviors in perceived conflict situations: A four-culture investigation’, Oetzel, J, Garcia, AJ & Ting-Toomey, S 2008, 

(pp. 71–92). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Theorizing About Intercultural CommunicationTing-Toomey, S. 2005, The Matrix of Face: An Updated Face-Negotiation Theory. In W.B. Gudykunst (Ed.),