Direct versus Indirect Communication
The chapter regards direct versus indirect communication strategies, especially comparing American culture to other cultures. Persons of different cultures have their special ways of communicating. Some cultures teach their members to explain a simple thing with numerous words while others, like American, require persons to be precise. Communication should never include speaking misleadingly and evasively. The chapter describes how a political science professor gives the first assignment to her class to help them learn always to talk directly about a subject. As mentioned above, the chapter compares communication strategies of American culture to other cultures. For instance, Shu Ying, a student from Taiwan, fails to give crucial information when asking for permission to attend class an hour later (Fox 13). Ying does not directly say what he needs but instead begins with presenting his schedule and expecting his lecturer to notice that there is a timetable conflict, involving his Chinese classes and the first hour of the lecturer’s class. The lecturer expects him to say directly what he wants to say.
My culture, Chinese, is indirect. The indirectness is seen where points are explained using many words and examples. The communication is such that a speaker explains something giving a large amount of information and allowing room for listeners to make conclusions. It incorporates giving background information before even getting to the point. The culture asserts for politeness expressed by a careful choice of words. However, there are situations that require direct communication (Barrett 197). For instance, when writing an application letter, direct communication is vital since the employers receive thousands of applications and would have no time for reading stories. For this reason, direct culture has to be employed. Therefore, it is similar to that of the United States.
The professor designed a first assignment that teaches how to talk directly about something. The students are to imagine that they have been waitlisted, and so they should convince the professor via writing to be allowed to enroll. This technique reflects the American directness. The professor wants the students to learn to say what they want to say and not to explain using many words. She wants a message within sixty seconds. An academic argument is simply a direct thesis. American culture requires point blank method of communication. People should say what they mean and not speak words that will demand the listener to read between the lines. The assertive, short, confident, and logical expression written in a natural way reflects the directness portrayed by American writing.
Shu Ying wants the professor to allow him to miss the first hour of each lecture. In turn, he wants to be given an extra half-hour for make-up. He does not make a convincing case. He shows the professor his schedule so that the professor may comprehend that the Ying’s Chinese class conflicts with the first hour of the professor’s class. Further, he says that the entire writing courses that he could take were closed. Ying fails to advance vital information because he originates from an indirect culture. Ying cannot directly tell the professor what he wants, as he was taught to be polite in his culture. The status of a teacher requires respect and Ying considers that it is rude to say something straight. It is a cultural difference as the professor expects exactly the reverse of what is in the mind of Ying. She expects Ying to communicate his message in the most effective and efficient way.
The majority of students is facing similar problems to which the US mainstream is subject. They may not have done sufficient research on a topic or have finished their paper at three in the morning. They could also misunderstand the assignment or the reading. In many cases, students have little or no experience in writing papers using whatever language. The stories portrayed in specific features by foreign students are too complicated to understand where the difficulties arise by simply looking at the written texts. Determining something to be either elusive or not, it is crucial to comprehend individual students. This familiarizing needs to regard the student’s emotional background, understanding levels, personalities, and maturity.
The author describes two strategies of writing by giving examples of students who are from different cultures. The US students have been taught to go straight to whatever they are trying to say. The other students from other cultures, for example, the Japanese and the Indian Raj, have difficulties in expressing what they want to say. The professor has a problem establishing what a student is trying to tell her. The difference in the two groups is that one group comes from high-context cultures and another one originates from low context cultures. Thus, the culture where people grow affects their communication (Barrett 197).
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Raj bears the problem of connecting words to create a flow in his work (Fox 15). He finds it extremely difficult to connect anything to a certain point. Winding his thoughts around a central point challenges him. He has made many attempts. For instance, the author presents him staring the fifth draft of a paper in which he is completely unable to connect the last sentence to the whole thing. Whenever Raj is writing, he has to wander through many things and a reader has to read too much to figure out Raj’s point. The professor takes time to talk to Raj about his life in an attempt to guide him in establishing a theme for his self-analysis paper. The author works towards helping Raj avoid his subtle central theme.
The Japanese and Ivorians are high-context culture people. They have sophisticated formalities, indirect conversation strategies, subtle preference, and roundabout strategies of showing respect, rank, and age (Fox 18). It explains the reason for rude treatment of the Japanese student who applied what they call respectful communication. The lecturer was used to being direct to the point.
The widespread communication way of speaking and writing in world cultures is indirect communication. Most cultures have ways of putting a point across using many words that do not address the point in a straight way. They give a description with the information contained within the words. It explains the reason for misunderstandings between American and other cultures.
The US directness of writing is described through the author’s interaction with the students of diverse cultures. The students find it hard to say something that can be said in a few words. For instance, Ting, a student from Singapore, explains how upset he feels regarding how he was judged during his entrance performance assessment. People from Singapore never give direct opinions on most matters, especially those pertaining to the government. According to Fox (21), psychological, poetic, linguistic, and rhetorical strategies are contributors to indirectness. The combination of these strategies gives a wealth of words that the majority of world cultures uses to explain the issues. They make world students indifferent regarding western communication. For instance, a student from Chile finds something written by American childish. The expectations are something to be described with numerous words, which makes them interesting.
Kevin feels that writing an essay is a complicated thing. He is used to doing mathematics, where one works on one thing at a time (Fox 27). Kevin perceives essay writing from a mathematical standpoint; therefore, he finds it hard. However, the guidance of the professor where he was asked to keep his thesis next to his computer to prevent him from deviating makes his work better. This fact has surprised me because he views a whole paper as one thing rather than interwoven ideas (Fox 27). Kevin is different from Raj because the former has little to write since he is used to mathematics while the latter has so much information to write that he does not know how to summarize. Kevin looks at writing from a mathematical perspective, but Raj has been cultured to say one thing using many words.
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The major idea in this chapter is direct communication. The author wants learners to comprehend the art of being precise in what they want to express. Various examples she has drawn from around the world show persons, especially students, who are unable to communicate. They are tied by various issues that hinder their communication. The biggest problem is the difference in cultures. Cultures that exhibit indirectness nurture their members not to be straight in what they are saying, but rather play with words to give the meaning (Griffin et al. 156). The most interesting thing in the chapter is how humanities bear much difference in communication. Directness is described as being precise in what you want to say. Indirectness is what is called beating around the bush in the United States, which means speaking much and misleadingly. Having the information internalized in the words or in the physical context is called indirectness. The audience role is to comprehend and be able to accommodate others who are of different cultures. I identify with the Japanese student who was cut off and told to stop speaking indirectly. I come from a high-context culture where we prefer to give background information and never assume that the audience has knowledge of the subject (Samovar et al. 136). Understanding that the culture in the United States requires direct communication has created a desire to continue learning more how to communicate directly. I will always know that there is no room for ambiguity.