Do you ever wonder if an assumption you made about an individual based on his or her appearance was hurtful? After participating in a class activity about hurtful assumptions, I learned that, no matter one’s race, ethnicity, sex, gender, et cetera, everyone experiences having damaging assumptions made about them by others. This activity provided multiple insights on the similarities and differences from my own positionality to others, the consequences of failing to adapt to others communication, and the importance of improving one’s intercultural communication through knowledge, motivation, and skill.Through sharing our positionalities in class, I noticed the similar and different characteristics between my own and others. For my positionality, I shared that I grew up in the upper-middle class, so whenever my friends talk about paying for their car insurance or phone bill, and I mention that my parents pay for mine, my friends instantly assume that I am a spoiled brat who gets everything handed to me. By sharing this, I was very afraid that the people in the class would not understand and instead think that I am ungrateful; however, there was another student who has experienced the same occurrence.
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This shows that the majority of the time certain assumptions happen to more than one individual. Not only were there similarities demonstrated, there were differences as well. For instance, I have never experienced and may never experience the assumptions expressed by other classmates, but by listening to what these individuals have encountered, I learned what affects people and what is considered upsetting. In addition, by understanding assumptions that are hurtful, people are closer to obtaining the ability to avoid making an unnecessary, harmful assumed statement. Sharing similarities and differences between positionalities of individuals helps with adapting communication.When individuals fail to adapt their communication to others, they experience major consequences. Ways that people display their inability to adjust their communication is presented through the barriers of assuming superiority, assuming similarity, assuming differences, and using stereotypes. Assuming superiority is viewing one’s own particular culture or form of identification as higher than all of the others, and an example of this is racism. Other barriers include assuming similarity, which is pretending there is no difference between two individuals, and assuming differences, which is automatically assuming a person is different from you.
Both of these portray that everyone perceives the world in their own way, and when an individual assumes that he or she is similar or different from another, that person may fail to be mindful of individual worldviews and cultural values or may avoid a person due to his or her mindset of being unable to communicate based upon appearing different. Lastly, attributing qualities to a certain group is known as a stereotype, which is another instance of a communication barrier. This barrier is completely inaccurate, and it prevents the consideration of the uniqueness of groups and individuals, which leads to conveying that all of these barriers cause individuals to remain closed off and disconnected to the many benefits that the act of bridging differences and adapting to others brings. Through understanding these communication barriers and the consequences that comes beside them, people possess the capability to successfully communicate with others.
Ways to improve intercultural communication and one’s ability to adapt to others consists of developing knowledge, developing motivation, and developing skill. First, in order to develop knowledge, one must seek information, which involves studying other cultures or noticing unspoken messages that display a culture’s values, norms, or rules. Broadening one’s mindfulness is a part of the developing motivation, the second strategy of adapting to others. Being mindful means to be aware of how one communicates with others and understanding what is occurring at a certain moment, rather than being oblivious. The last strategy is developing skill, and this contains becoming other-oriented.
Other-oriented means keeping one’s integrity while focusing on the needs and concerns of others. This is attainable through creating messages and delivering them at the appropriate time and place. Through developing these prominent strategies, an individual gains the ability to effectively communicate with others of the same culture and to adequately use intercultural communication. Furthermore, the greater the difference in culture between two people, the greater the potential for a misunderstanding, thus showing the major importance of developing and efficiently using these communicating strategies.Through this activity of sharing hurtful assumptions, I learned the importance of understanding the similarities and differences between individuals, the consequences of not adapting to others, and the strategies that help improve one’s intercultural communication. I learned for the future to be more mindful of others and give them the benefit of the doubt rather than instantly assuming something harsh about he or she based upon appearance.
In addition, I understand how to appropriately communicate interculturally by avoiding the use of barriers, and by incorporating the three strategies of adapting. This class activity helped open my eyes, and if other individuals had the chance to experience it, the immense increase in the development of their communication skills would be inevitable.
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