“All communication is cultural -- it draws on ways we have learned to speak and give nonverbal messages. We do not always communicate the same way from day to day, since factors like context, individual personality, and mood interact with the variety of cultural influences we have internalized that influence our choices.”
My experiences abroad taught me a great deal about what culture, context and communication can look and feel like, how openly embracing these natural realms of diversity can give way to new perspectives and how they are not always a positive experience as well. But, it was not until I arrived back home in the U.S. that I was able to see those thoughts manifested in reality as I understood deeper that culture does not have to cross borders. In my everyday interactions, almost immediately from my arrival back home, I saw how the definition of culture shaped people’s responses to breaking news. Shared beliefs, values, goals, and practices of a particular group of people should not offend us or draw us away. As quoted by Stephen Covey by way of St. Francis of Assisi, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It is the living out of this quote through faith that culture and context come together.
In the end, if we genuinely want to be more conscious about our interactions among other cultures, and truly want to meet people where they are within their context, we can start by taking a look at ourselves and the ways we learned to think, act, speak in our own cultures the way I had to take a look at my inner circle and interactions. Ultimately, this will give us a good understanding of what differences exist that make us uncomfortable and point us in the opposite direction from our cultural biases. The best part about learning in this realm is that you don’t need to necessarily hop on a plane to experience, understand and apply your results.