Topic 11
Getting there and Looking Ahead


Becoming Interculturally Competent

Defining intercultural competence

Being able to interact in a meaningful way with people from other cultures. This involves learning languages and expressions, modes of behaviour and a sense of values that allow one to live with, conduct business or perform any other social activity with people from diverse cultures.

Individual components

Contextual Components

Historical, economic, political, relational, public, private,

Approaches to the study of intercultural competence




Improving Intercultural Communication

Consider the physical and human setting: timing, physical setting, and customs

Seek to understand diverse message systems

  • Try to learn the language of others

  • Understand cultural variations in the use of language

  • Remember words are "culture-bound"

  • Be aware of subcodes

  • Be aware of nonverbal codes

  • Be sensitive to diverse coding systems

Know yourself: your culture, attitudes, and communication style

Develop Empathy

  • Understanding empathy

  • Hindrances to empathy

  • Constant self focus

  • Tendency to note only some features to the exclusion of others

  • Stereotyped notions concerning gender, race, and culture

  • Defensive behavior

  • Lack of motivation

  • Improving empathy

  • Pay attention

  • Communication empathy

  • Use culturally accepted behaviors

  • Avoid ethnocentric responses

Encourage feedback (nonverbal, verbal, and silence)


Develop communication flexibility

Enter into dialogue with others to gain practice and feedback on your communication skills. Don't let small blunders put you off, keep working on it as you get better and better over time.

Work to become interpersonal  / intercultural allies where you establish bonds across cultures, sharing values, activities, interests, on an equal power basis. (Like in Contact Hypothesis).

Building  Coalitions can arise through the establishment of multiple identities, as in the case of multi-cultural selves. By becoming interculturally competent you will enhance your identity interculturally. Living between two cultural worlds can be difficult (as we saw on acculturation and conflict) however it can lead to new cultural bridging and the promotion of peace and positive relations.

Learn about cultural adaptation

Challenges of adaptation

  • Coping with ethnocentrism

  • Coping with language and problems

 Improving the adaptation process

  • Acquire knowledge about the host culture

  • Increase contact with the host culture

Ethical considerations

Social Justice and transformation 

  • Dare to make people feel uncomfortable, beginning with your self

  • Actively promote change in how systems are organised around priviledge

  • Don't keep it to yourself

Forgiveness  is sometimes needed to maintain relationships and cross the cultural divide.  This goes hand in hand with tolerance and positive inter-group contact.


Guidelines for an intercultural ethic

The future of intercultural communication


Optional Activity: Describe, Interpret, Evaluate activity. Look at this image and engage in a conversation with others about it. Then evaluate your styles of communication used. Consider whether or not you have been using D-description, I-interpretation, or E-evaluation in your statements.

Martin & Nakayama suggest this activity and they promote descriptive statements as they say that "only descriptive statement are non-judgmental."

. . .


When I am talking to another person or group of people...

Do I give them full or partial attention?
Do I seem at ease or tense?
Do I often change the subject without taking the other person into consideration or Do I let others change the subject when they want to?
Do I depreciate or magnify the statements of others?