Chapter 18

Context, Perception, and Reality

The Cross-Cultural “Shortcut”

Given all the information available on cultural relationship strategies, beliefs, values, and rules about what to do and what not to do, it’s always nice to have a few shortcuts! Fortunately, one of the best shortcuts is the ability to understand context, perception, and the reality it creates. It allows us to be “people readers” without having to become cross-cultural communication experts. People readers can intelligently intuit the words beneath the words—or the words not being said. They can sense the underlying meaning of what someone is saying by considering the entire communication context. We all do this naturally to a certain extent; however, we usually do so within the communication context with which we are most familiar. We therefore need to develop our people reading skills to use with cultures that have very different communication context than our own.

Context in communication provides color, description, individual expression, and emphasis to the communication style. It helps create the desired perception in the communication process. And this perception of what someone has communicated provides his or her message with meaning, which then creates our individual realities.

Communication can have more or less context depending on the topic, the individual, and the culture. The more context to a communication exchange, the more information there is to observe and listen to. A communication with ...

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