RACHEL DUNIFON: Thank you. So I'm really happy to introduce this next session, which is focused on intercultural fluency. I'm Rachel Dunifon, and I'm the Associate Dean for Research and Outreach in the College of Human Ecology. And just very, very briefly, I'll tell you a little bit about our college and how we think about our international work and specifically about intercultural relationships.
So the College of Human Ecology's mission is improving lives by exploring and shaping human connections to the natural, social, and built environment. We're a group of faculty and students with a common focus on applied interdisciplinary work that improves human lives.
And we know that, in order to do such work, one needs to understand and value the context in which human lives are lived and that diverse and international cultural context in which humans are living their lives. So the notion of intercultural relationships and intercultural fluency is really central to what we do.
I'm going to briefly tell you about two signature programs of our college that highlight our work in this area. The first is our Global Health Program, in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, which includes a major in global and public health sciences and a minor in global health.
And a key component of both the major and the minor are that students are required to engage in an experiential learning experience where they're challenge to extend and integrate what they learn in the classroom with what's going on in the international applied public health setting.
Many of these students undertake this experience in summer programs, in Tanzania, the Dominican Republic, India, and Zambia that are overseen by our lecturer, Jeanne Moseley. And a really innovative part of these programs are that they're structured so that the experiences, that students have out in the field, then come back to the classroom and inform the creation of the next cohort of students, who are going to take part in the program, and also inform the curriculum of the program, itself.
So for example, when students come back from their experiences in Tanzania, certain students, based on the types of transformative experiences that they had there, are recruited to work in designing the curriculum that will be used for the next cohort of students.
And they also play a role in selecting the next cohort of 14 students who are going to be taking part in the Tanzania program. They interview the students, who are going to take part, and help select that cohort. And then, before the next cohort departs for Tanzania, the previous students write letters to them, containing words of wisdom, based on their experiences there.
And I'll just quote from one of those letters. I think this program is special, because it focuses on helping us to create and follow through with new relationships. To do so requires practicing communication skills and patience, two of the most important takeaways for me from this trip.
Communication is not just about speaking but also about your actions, especially if a language ability is limited. The smallest facial expression or gesture can weigh a lot. These are universal. To even practice communication, especially cross-cultural communication, requires patience. There have been many times where my patience was tried, and I was forced to practice maintaining a level-head.
So those are the words of wisdom from one student in Tanzania, that she's taking to impart to the next cohort as they're about to leave.
The other program I wanted to briefly highlight is called CIPA, or the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, which is a professional master's degree program in our college. About 65% of CIPA students are international, and they represent more than 20 countries.
And these diverse students come together, to work in teams, to address public administration projects, both in the US and around the world. So for example, a team, consisting of students from the US, Canada, China, Mexico, and Pakistan, is working in Costa Rica to help inform that government's programming in the area of adolescent health and education policy.
And they're really learning so much more from each other's own perspectives. Many of them have experiences working, in governments, in their own countries, that they're now bringing to bear and really testing the extent to which that applies, in the Costa Rican context, and really learning from each other in very enriching ways.
So these are just two examples of the work going on in our college that i think is very relevant and can be informed by the conversations that we're having here today.
So I'd like to now introduce the next presenter, Adriana Medina-Lopez-Porillo, who's just flown in here from Myanmar. She's Associate Professor of Intercultural Communications in Spanish at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
She's an experienced intercultural trainer. She's designed and lead workshops for higher education, not-for-profit, governmental, and corporate clients in the US and abroad. And one of her favorite things to do-- and I don't blame her for this-- is to train for the Scholar Ship, which is a transnational academic program housed on a passenger ship-- so that sounds awesome-- and offering both pre-departure and on-site orientation is for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
Those are two of the many things she does. Her research focuses on study abroad, intercultural competence development, emotional intelligence, and personal leadership. And among her publications are book chapters entitled "Interculturality versus Intercultural Competencies in Latin America," "Developing a Global Learning and Living Community," and "Intercultural practices." So welcome.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Thank you.
Can you hear me OK, with the mic?
RACHEL DUNIFON: Yeah.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, everybody? Great. Well, we're going to start, right away. I have been given the toughest spot in the program, which is the one right after lunch. So my task is to keep you awake and keep you with me. And I think I can do this.
So let's go, right away. What I would like, if we can go through some planning, that, at the end of the session, you should know at least the three practices that you can use when you're talking to people, whose accent you may not understand.
That you can contrast some characteristics of high and low context styles. We'll talk about that. Also, that you can loosely start thinking about your own style of speaking. And, finally, you may be able to code switch a little bit from one way of communicating than another.
So these are some of the things that I would like for you-- and for you, also, to have at least three ideas as to how to just maybe better communicate with someone, who seems to have differences from you.
So let's start. We're going to go from the very, very general to more specific. Why do we communicate? Well, we communicate to share information. We also communicate to make requests, to develop friendships and relationships. We also communicate to have fun.
So we communicate. And when we're communicating, we have some challenges. One of the challenges that we have is language. So it's easier to communicate with someone if we share the same language. They other one is the whole cultural aspect behind the language.
We're going to start with language challenges, right now, because, given that this is such an internationalized campus, I think you are very much exposed to people, like me, who have not only pronunciation difference and accent difference, but, also, maybe, although English is their first language, it may be an English that you are not used to, your ear is not used to.
So some of the aspects that may be a little challenging or different have to do with the accent, with the pitch range, pitch intensity, volume, for example, articulation, and rate. So these are some of the things that, actually, when we're talking, even though it's the same language, there may be something there that you are not grasping.
For example, my native language is Spanish. And sometimes I'm saying with a Spanish-- not so much a pronunciation, but I give the accent to words that I would accentuate in Spanish, some of the cognates.
And my husband, who's a native, from the United States. His language is English. Sometimes he doesn't get it. I'm saying the word correctly. But I just said, instead of "pronounci-Ation" I said "pronouncia-Tion" or something like that, weird. And that just totally throws him off.
So I've been thinking a lot about these things, living with someone, and, well, I'm living in the United States. I'm from Mexico. So this is always something that interests me.
So let's do a quick exercise. I am going to put you to work. I don't want for you to be listening to me, especially since you are very much experts on these issues as well. But I do want to have you do this exercise to remind you what it is to be a native speaker speaking a different language.
So how are we going to do this? I'm going to walk you through it. And then you're going to do it. So you're going to be in pairs. So maybe tables with three people, you need to move. You'll have to make sure that you have someone.
And then that couple needs an A and a B. So let's do that first. Go ahead, everybody, grab a partner. And sit down with your partner. Make sure that you have your partner.
OK, everybody. So by now, you should all have an A and a B. OK, everybody. Everybody has an A and a B. This is what's going to happen. And I'll just introduce the topic.
As you see, it's going to be communication, this hour, because, when it comes to being with someone, what we do is we communicate. We exchange. We have an exchange.
So this is why we're doing this, right now, because it's like really one-on-one. Once you're in front of the person, when we're doing this human exchange, these are some of the things that happen.
Now, I want for you to do this exercise and to embrace it, wholeheartedly. And then we're going to debrief. I'm going to ask you how you felt. This is going to be most effective if you are really honest.
I think one of the problems with this type of environment is that, since we care so much for the other, we forget to actually be a little honest in how we're feeling, and then we miss a great growing opportunity or an opportunity of growth in that situation.
So we're going to do it. And then we're going to talk about it. So this is what you have to do.
B is going to start. And it's just going to be a one minute and a half conversation. B, raise your hand, B's. OK, B's, you're going to tell your partner where you grew up Or whatever it is. If you were not from one place but from several, you say that. Just whatever, choose the city, you can describe, you can describe your family. This is just a topic of conversation. This is just an excuse, so whatever it is.
Now, here's the trick, B. My B's, the trick is that, every seven words, you need to put in a color. And it cannot be the same color. So I will model.
I grew up in Mexico City, with-- red-- my mom and my two sisters-- black. And so on, right? So this is what you are going to be doing for one minute and a half, B's.
Everybody take a deep breath. And stay with me. Stay with me. See, this is already eliciting emotional reactions. That's lovely. That's OK. So take a deep breath. And B, you have one minute and a half. Again, the color needs to change. That's the only rule.
These are the two rules, then. Every seven words a color, and every time the color needs to be a different color. Now, the listener, the role of the listener is just to listen. Just be there for them.
And now, A's, this is what you need to do, very important. You need to check your own reactions. And when we talk about them, you need to be very honest. That's all I'm asking of A. B, good luck, you have just--
--you only have a minute and a half. I'm going to count it. So B, go. Go, go.
So A is going to do exactly the same thing. A is going to tell whatever from your childhood, the city you grew up in, your family. You know, make it light. And remember, every seven words, a color, it has to be different color. B just relaxes now and pays attention. And B, now, starts noticing his or her own reactions to what's going on in front of him or her. Go.
Phew, taking everybody, a deep breath. I want to hear you taking a deep breath. Mm, ahh. Yes.
Now, we're going to have a short conversation about this. But please, just let's first focus on how you were feeling and what was happening when you were the person saying and telling the story. So both of you had both experiences of being the listener and being the speaker.
So let's focus, right now, on being the foreigner-type of experience, which is, I was telling my story, and I had to insert the word. So very briefly, how did it feel for you? So just raise your hand, I'll cover it just-- yes, please.
SPEAKER 1: Difficult.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Difficult, yes. What was difficult?
SPEAKER 1: I had to count how many words, and usually it didn't turn out to be seven. So I would say the color, but then I have two words left over.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. So you were actually having to focus on the dynamics of the rules of the exercise. And it was difficult for you.
SPEAKER 2: Distracting.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: It was distracting, yes. I saw someone.
SPEAKER 3: I was saying that Michelle and I have talked before. And we always have a very natural conversation. And it felt almost like I had nothing to say, because I was constantly searching for a different color or word. And it really made the conversation stop.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, yes, yes. Now this is for you, to remind you how it feels, for us non-native speakers, when we're trying to come up with something, and you see our blank faces staring at you. Because it's like, oh, my gosh, right, it's difficult. Now I'm trying to see the verb, the syntax, the tense, even the vocabulary. Thank you, a couple more. Yes, please, in the back.
SPEAKER 4: I was, for example, as a speaker, very uncomfortable and self-conscious, because I kept trying to count words and figure out what color did I already say. And I wanted to just have a nice, smooth conversation, and that wasn't really happening.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Yes. And sometimes that's not even possible. Thank you, yes. Uncomfortable. It's awkward. A couple more that are different from those. Yes, please.
SPEAKER 5: I would say a word just to end the sentence. I was really counting my words, so I wasn't even thinking about trying to tell her, actually, where I'm from or anything. But [INAUDIBLE].
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, yes, yes. At this point, it's like whatever. I don't care what I'm saying, right? Yes. Yes, please.
SPEAKER 6: As a listener, you need a lot of patience, because--
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Oh! Oh, good. Yes, as a listener, were about to be there. We're just finishing the speakers, yes. She's transitioning us quickly. Yes.
SPEAKER 7: Imagine how much harder it would be if I were trying to say something heavy-duty, where I was really trying to think about what I was saying and construct an argument, then have all this other stuff to think about on top of it.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Thank you. And this is a reminder, how many of you speak two or more languages? Yes, this is just a reminder, because sometimes we even forget this.
We're in this for so long that we forget like, oh, my god, this student could possibly be struggling in these ways. I'll just take one more. I saw a hand. Where was it? Yes.
SPEAKER 8: It completely fractured the construction of my narrative. And I was trying to explain to her where I was from, but I was just focused on these little word groups and couldn't tell her anything. And I'm stressed-out, feeling self-conscious about the words. It just came out like really simplistic and not being able [INAUDIBLE] where I'm from.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: I know. Yes. Thank you. Now, the listener, how did it feel, for you, as a listener?
SPEAKER 9: Well, I wanted to let him move ahead, but I had to be very patient.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Yes. So this is where we need to be very honest with ourselves and leave the political correctness aside, because we all have different reactions. And it depends if we had breakfast that day, if our dean was putting pressure on us for a certain project or not, if we had slept, all that, depending on how we are of the moment, we receive people in different ways.
But let's, in this particular case, how were you feeling as you were listening to this person trying to say these things? Yes, please.
SPEAKER 10: I thought she was probably a stupid person.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Yes. Thank you for your honesty. Because this is one issue that we have with foreigners, thinking, not only do we have to shout a little louder, but this person must be stupid. And this is the interesting thing. How many of you, as you were doing it, actually felt stupid? See, that's the thing. Us, as we were struggling, we're actually feeling stupid. And the other person is looking at us like we're stupid. That's a bad combination, Right But it totally happens, absolutely. What else? Yes.
SPEAKER 11: I just had to say, I'm trying to learn another language right now. And compared to how stupid I feel when I'm trying to learn that language, I felt brilliant just counting words and colors.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, yes, yes. Yes, of course. Of course, learning the language is a little harder than this, yes.
SPEAKER 12: I felt worse throwing colors in.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: You did?
SPEAKER 12: Yeah.
SPEAKER 13: Learning a language, I would much rather stumble along, where, at least, I'm trying to imitate something real.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, well. And this is just trying to imitate something real. Yes, sir. Yes.
SPEAKER 14: It also reminded me of learning another language, because she would add a word associated with her mother. She said she had a black mother. And I'm just looking-- it's not.
And then she said her father was green. And then suddenly, my mind would then drift into something else.
It was just like I was listening to a foreign language. I'd grasp onto something, and then, oh, wait, it's gone.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Well, that's the purpose for us, just to be reminded, a little bit, what it is on one side and the other. And what are some of the things that we can do, practical skills, to actually be able to stay there, in the process, with the person?
You all have, if you read-- what is it-- a folder, yes, the binder. You have a handout, actually. Where I wrote, there, some ideas of things that we can do. And it's on the second page. It looks like this with some squares.
But if you go to the second page, I just wrote, there, some ideas for you. And most of them come actually-- I'm sorry, on this, it would be page three. It's the second actual page, but it would be page three.
So I was thinking, the first thing is to have some self-awareness about how I'm feeling about the other. Like, oh, my gosh, I'm really thinking that this person is stupid. I just need to pay attention to that, right?
Or I'm feeling impatient. Did anybody feel impatient in this particular case? We have some people who actually felt impatient. I have so much to do on. I'm here. I'm struggling with this person. And I just cannot understand her.
So self-awareness is very important. I think compassion for oneself is very important. Because we think, sometimes-- I don't know if this is you, but some of us think that we need to be perfect at everything.
And I should really be understanding this person, and I don't. And I don't know where the "I should" comes from, because, if I understand you, I understand you. And if I don't, I just don't.
So just being self-compassionate, being patient with yourself and others. Now what are the things that we can do for the other when we're in this situation?
Really show patience but from the body language on. As in, if you're talking to me, actually look at me. Don't start looking at the clock or don't start tapping with your pen-- type of thing. Like really be there and tell the other person, take your time.
I have to tell you that I have reached a proficiency in English, where I can actually teach a class and that type of thing, and I can be in front of you hoping that you're actually understanding what I'm saying.
But if I have a person, who's showing impatience at me, I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but my English proficiency goes by the minute. The more impatient I see you are, the more I lose it.
So actually, in this negotiating the interaction with each other, we're actually sending messages that are affecting the other. I'm suggesting these things so you can actually support the person, who's talking with you, in such a way that they can actually say what they need to say. So showing patience through your body language is very important.
The breathing, I am so serious about this. There's research that shows that oxygen actually is medicinal for us. It reduces stress.
And tell the person, that you're talking to, to take their time, like literally. Even if you're in a hurry, pretend that you're not. Make that encounter the most important thing you have to do at that moment.
Acknowledge, also, when you don't understand. We try to be, I think, sometimes-- maybe you are not. But I see this happening. We try to be so nice with each other, that we're pretending that the other person doesn't have a thick accent, and we cannot understand them.
So please, remember that all the non-native speakers do know that English is not our native language. So it is like let's discuss the elephant in the room. I'm sorry, I am not understanding what you are saying. Let's work on this together.
It's much better than pretending that I hear you, and you start, also, going like, yes, whatever, when it's not, yes, whatever. You're really not understanding what the person is saying. So just acknowledging that-- ah-- it makes us feel much better.
Like oh, yes, let's just acknowledge that I don't speak English as my first language. Woo, we got that out of the way. So if I say something that you are not understanding, just ask me, right? Because we do know that we don't speak the language as a native.
Ask the question as has many times as you need. Again, it comes through with this, like, well, if I ask a question, they're going to realize that I'm not understanding the pronunciation. Well, yes. That's it.
Avoidance-- so you maybe don't talk to that person, you cannot pronounce their name. Sometimes this happens to me in parties. And my name is not that hard. But sometimes, people, when they hear my name, they just turn around and go, since they wouldn't be able to say it again. And we all are so politically correct and so nice, that I have to say your name correctly.
I'm so past that. No, you don't have to. If you don't have the muscles in your mouth to actually pronounce my name, that's OK. But just don't avoid the interaction, because you cannot understand, fully, what the other person is saying.
Have people repeat and try to feel comfortable being uncomfortable. Because I think, to me, this whole intercultural communication is our learning to be in an uncomfortable space and staying there, whatever it takes, so we can actually negotiate whatever it is that we we're negotiating.
So well, yes, move beyond the accent. I love that. The person is smart, right? The speaker is smart whether they have the perfect enunciation for you to understand them or not.
Plug into the context and that content and fill in the blanks. When someone is telling us something out of context, it is much harder to understand. But ones we click on the flow, we understand them.
This just happened to me. I just came back from Myanmar. I was there for 14 days, 15. And my last day, I had ordered-- I got this horrible cold being there. And I ordered some lemon with hot water. And I was drinking tea, black tea with milk.
So the waitress was taking care of me, very nicely. So she started saying something, and I totally misunderstood. I just couldn't understand what she was telling me. So I was like, OK, what are we talking-- I was trying to think, what are we talking about here, just to kind of plug in, in the context.
I recognized that what she was saying had to do with my drinks. So once I was able to plug into that, what she was telling me, because she then said something about the bathroom and diarrhea. But they were like just these words that I was understanding like this.
What she was saying-- and I got these once I understood that that was our context. She was telling me to not drink my hot water with lemon and tea with milk, because lemon and tea don't go together. And that this is going to make me go to the bathroom.
But all this to say, once I was able to catch on what we were talking about, I was able to totally be in the conversation, although I was not understanding everything she was saying.
So these are just some skills, some little practices that you can do, that I'm sure you do. But still, maybe increase your practicing of those.
Please just jot down, on that piece of paper, for yourself, three of them that you think that you can practice in this coming week. Three of these, that you may or may not be doing, but that you think you can practice.
Moving right along-- and I'm just taking you through a very wide ride. We're not going really in-depth with the issues. For that, we would need more time.
But another topic of conversation is communication style. Because most of the time, we're talking to people who are a little bit more direct than us or more indirect, with a different aspect. So we have some challenges that we can notice.
So let's look at this. We're going to talk a little bit about communication style. So we have these two people. And she's saying, it looks like we're going to need some people to come in on Saturday. And the guy says, I see.
Can you come in on Saturday? Yes, I think so. That would be a great help. Yes, Saturday's a special day did you know? How do you mean? Well, it's my son's birthday. How nice. I hope you all enjoy it, very much. Thank you, I appreciate your understanding.
Now, how many of you think that she is going to expect for him to go there on Saturday? Is she expecting him to be there on Saturday?
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: So some of you are saying yes. How many of you think that he will not be there on Saturday? Yes, right. In his own way, much more indirect way, he was saying, I'm not going. But she was not catching on to that. Because she's expecting that, when people mean "no," they actually say, no, like the word, N-O.
He said it several times. He actually implied "no," at the very beginning, just with the "I see." Because he knew she was going to ask him.
But instead of saying, oh, Saturday, no, I cannot. Sorry, I'm busy. I cannot come. He just said, I see. So actually, three times he said "no" in his mind, but she was not catching on.
Sometimes what were doing is some of us are more proficient into reading cues that are not verbal. And some of us rely more on the words that we're saying. And that's what, in the textbooks, you read as low-context and high-context.
So for some of us, just the words and the facts are very much the priority of what we're saying, and that's what we're paying attention to. So we do have these categories within that have to do with how direct or indirect we are in our speech.
Of course, it completely depends on the context. How person or status oriented we are? How much do we talk about ourselves, enhance who we are and what we do? The use of silence, and, also, if face is important for us or not, if we are actually going to take care of the image of others and the image of ourselves.
And there's always a degree of difference. When we talk about these patterns, I think they're very important for us to know that they exist. There's huge degrees of variance. And contextually, they can change.
So I think, for me, what's important is that we know just to recognize that. If you tend to be more of a direct person, and you're talking to someone, and you feel like you're not getting the answer--
Like somehow, I'm trying to get her to tell me what she thought about my paper. And she's just saying, oh, it was interesting. Oh, yeah, yeah, it seems like you did a lot of research. And I keep saying, yeah, but what did you think? Well, yeah, it must have taken you a lot of work.
I mean you're still like, this person is not saying something, right? If we just can remember that it may be that what she's saying is not-- we cannot touch it. But you almost know that there's something there that the person is not saying.
The issue with communication styles is that a lot of times we actually think that the other person is either manipulating us or lying to us, that type of thing. And that's when we need to be aware that it can be just a style.
If you go to your handout, again, the very, very first page that looks like this, with the columns, it suggests categories. And again, these categories are not written in stone, but, at least, they are a starting point.
So we have, on the left, what low-context communication may look like, to the right, what high-context communication may look like, and then different categories for each.
For low-context communication, again, we rely the most on words. And we tend to think that the speaker is responsible for the message. So in low-context communication, you, as a listener, are expecting that me, as a speaker, I'm going to say it clearly, I'm going to go to the point, so you don't have to work a lot on negotiating the meaning.
High-context communication, though, is different than that. Because there's so many more things involved in that process. And the speaker actually relies on much more than just the words, but the status and the position and the age and all these things that are happening when the communication is taking place.
And there is much more negotiation for the high-context. Meaning that I am actually expecting a lot of you, as listeners. I'm expecting that you are going to be decoding this information with me.
And I think we all have like high-context, for example, with our siblings and with our family or with a close friend. We make a joke, and we just say, blue. [LAUGHS] [INAUDIBLE] because we had this shared experience that had to do with "blue" and all that. So that's more like a high-context type of situation.
And then we have the very low-context situations, where we don't know anything about each other. Although we always have our own identities and all that. But if I said blue, you're going to be like, yes? Keep going, right? What is that with blue?
So please look at this, the direct style and indirect style, the person-oriented. Take a couple of minutes to read those and choose where, in the continuum, you think you fall for most situations.
Again, this is very contextual. But if you had you choice of things being like this all the time, that's one way of doing it. And we're just playing the game, so you look at the categories. So place yourself. If you pass the five, you are on the other side. So I just see there's five on one side, and five on the other side.
So the question is, of those categories, there are five categories, where do you think you fall on, most of the time, for most of your interactions?
Yes, yes, so again, what you need to do is to look at this and mark, for those five categories, where do you think will you be, more on this side or more on that side, for those scales.
What is the tendency? Do you tend to reveal your intentions, to say "no" when you mean "no," like actually, verbally say it, or do you tend to actually not say "no," like the guy just said, well, that may be difficult? So where in those categories?
With a person-oriented style and status-oriented, do you tend to be more informal and casual, try to have more symmetric interactions? Or do you put more emphasis on formality? And in asymmetrical interactions, do you use a lot of honorifics, et cetera?
For the use of silence, for example, as it's saying there, do you tend to feel uncomfortable when there's silence, and you then fill in the blanks a little bit? Or are you very comfortable with silence?
And sometimes, when you disagree with someone, are you saying, with your silence, that you disagree? Or do you say, with you silence, that you agree? Because those are different things.
For example, I notice that people say, well, if you are not in agreement with what we're saying in the faculty meeting, if she didn't say anything, what are we thinking?
If you didn't say anything when we talked about this proposal, are you agreeing or disagreeing? If you didn't say anything, what are we doing?
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Most of the time, we're thinking that the person is agreeing, right? Well, in other contexts, actually, if the person is disagreeing, that's going to be silent.
So these are just interesting things to notice, for us, when we're talking with people from different environments, from different nationalities, from different backgrounds. The way they create their meaning, with their silence, with the words that they use, may be different from the way we are creating it.
So what I'm going to ask you is to stand up. And if you wrote there that you have a more of a direct style, stand on this side of the room. And if you thought that you have more of indirect style, stand on this side of the room.
So this is indirect. Sorry, this is direct. This is direct. And this is indirect.
And don't go all the way to the wall, because the room is too-- come a little bit closer, everybody. Come a little closer. So these are the-- you're saying that you're more direct on this side. And you're saying that you're more indirect on this side, right?
SPEAKER 15: [INAUDIBLE] up there.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Oh, well, I know, just put--
SPEAKER 15: I'm really strong on one side, and one's strong on the other.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: But we're just talking about direct and indirect.
SPEAKER 15: Oh, just this one?
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes, yes, yes. So your attention, please. At the moment, we are only talking about-- stay with me. At the moment, we are just talking about the first one, the direct and indirect, not all the five categories but just the very first category.
So let's hear, just for the sake of this conversation and staying very, very honest-- I'm going to just start with the direct people-- tell us, when you're talking to someone, who's a little bit more indirect than you are-- I mean they're a little or more-- what are some of the things that come to mind when you're in a conversation and this person is more indirect than you are?
What are some of the things that come up to you? How do you label a person, do you think, in this conversation? What are some of the thoughts that come to you about this? Yes, please.
SPEAKER 16: Indecisive.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Indecisive. Yes.
SPEAKER 16: I just stop talking and start asking questions.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Why?
SPEAKER 16: To find out what they really think and what they really feel.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Because you're sensing that you're not getting what they're really thinking. Yes, what else? Thank you. Yes.
SPEAKER 17: I look at their body language. If somebody's sitting there, and they're silent, but they're kind of like closed up or making a face or something, then I know that they probably don't agree, but they don't want to say anything.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: One more or two. What are you thinking, maybe, sometimes? What do you think the usually direct people think about the indirect communicators?
SPEAKER 18: Frustrating.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: It's frustrating, right? Yes. Yes.
SPEAKER 19: Why are you wasting my time?
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Why are you wasting my time? Yes, yes. Yes, please.
SPEAKER 20: Sometimes I try to have indirect people around me, because I know I sometimes say things. And I think indirect people think, sometimes, more before they speak. And actually, that helps.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. Thank you. Now what I wanted for you to notice is that, although these are just styles, they elicit, sometimes, some reactions where we feel that-- without anything else but their style, we're thinking maybe they are less comfy. They're hiding something. They're not telling me what's really there.
So my dear, self-appointed, indirect communicators, when you're talking to someone who's more direct than you are, how do we perceive-- the we, because I'm here-- or tend to perceive people who are more direct than us? Yes, please.
SPEAKER 21: I can't believe they said that.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: I can't believe they said that. See? Thank you. What else? Yes.
SPEAKER 22: Sometimes aggressive.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: They are a little bit aggressive or sometimes a lot aggressive. See? And we'll see where you're coming from, but it comes from some values that we have about how communication should go and what's the purpose of the communication. Anybody else? Yes, please.
SPEAKER 23: Well, often, I mean, you know, like I feel like people are sometimes foisting their opinions on me instead of just trying to seek consensus or feel people out. But if I feel like if something's very direct, then it closes out my space for my little theory, let's say.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: So it feels a little bit imposing. Yes. Thank you. So imagine, then, that, when we are talking, we already have that going. We haven't even engaged in a conversation. And as soon as we start, it's like, I already feel imposed on. This person is rude and so forth.
Now, the value of this conversation, I think, is that, when we start actually paying attention to what people value and why you're communicating the way we are, direct people tend to value what?
SPEAKER 24: Honesty.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Clarity. What?
SPEAKER 24: Honesty.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Honesty.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: What?
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Time, efficiency. Now the honesty part is a little loaded. We can discuss. I'm sorry we don't have 30 more minutes. Because this is a very touchy thing.
What do we value, here, as indirect communicators?
SPEAKER 25: The process
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: What?
SPEAKER 25: The process.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: The process. What else?
SPEAKER 26: The relationship.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: The relationship. So when you ask someone, oh, let's go to watch a movie, let's watch Superman versus Godzilla. And you say, oh, my gosh, that's like just-- that's a crappy movie. What a stupid thing to say.
Some of us indirect folk are going to think-- maybe we also think that it's a crappy movie. But if you like it, it's not that it's dishonest. But because the relationship is so important for us, we may just not say it or just pass it. Or we may even go with you, because we are valuing the connection and the interaction.
It's not there we're liars and you're not. It is that there is more to the interaction than the efficiency and so forth. So what's important for us is to recognize that, when we are crossing these communication styles, they can be very loaded.
But what we are not seeing sometime, not considering is that maybe the fact that they value the efficiency, the going to the point, the honesty no matter what, has its value the same way as they value the face-saving much more than a direct communicator.
And here is the thing. If we learn from each other, we indirect ones could come a little closer to actually saying it. And direct people could come a little closer into being more mindful of how the things that we say land on the other. Do you see that?
So actually, we do need each other, because, since we value different things, we can bring to the table the different things. Anyways, it's a good consideration for you as you are working with international students or your international colleagues.
And actually, this is across genders and across class and across so many things. But as we are communicating with others, when something comes up for you that can be a judgment, the first question you could ask yourself is, well, hm, what value is this person enacting that is different from me?
Because although I wish this person would just say, blah, this is like this, this person is not going to say that. And you see, with your international students or the colleagues, because the US tends to be more direct. It's more of an expectation that we're direct.
But it doesn't matter how many times you tell us, oh, tell me exactly what you think. It's safe. I'm telling you to tell me what you think. I don't feel safe that way. The more you go like this, tell me! We're like, leave me alone!
So it was interesting, because you were saying about being imposed on and creating this space. Yeah, say it.
SPEAKER 23: It closes out-- I feel like, if I'm imposed, it closes out the space for my feelings or my agency or what my opinion really is.
ADRIANA MEDINA-LOPEZ-PORTILLO: Yes. So a good recommendation for you all in this, for whenever you are exposed to someone who's more indirect, instead of saying, let's talk about the project. I'm going to tell you what I think. And then you tell me.
A good way of engaging would be, take your time, and you tell me, first, what you think, then I'll tell you. Because once you said it first, for us, it's a little harder to say. Especially if we disagree with you, it's a little harder.
Now for some of us indirect folks, when we're interacting with them, it would be also important to be able to verbalize, I need more time or I need more space, so we can actually interact with each other.
Please, take a seat. Please. Thank you so much for playing with me.
As a wrap-up, let me just tell you-- OK, everybody, just stay with me just a little longer. As a wrap-up, you have-- OK, everybody. I know this is fun. Stay with me. Stay with me.
In your handout, you actually have some ideas-- And the very last page would be page four-- about or how to negotiate interactions with people. How can you be more clear on what ideas you have? How you can simplify and specify, clarify, confirm, organize your ideas, rephrase.
So these are just some ideas, for you to take home, for when you are talking to people. How helpful it can be to actually do these things, again, rephrase, paraphrase, ask questions, making sure that the message is landing on the other side.
Not necessarily just to ask, are you understanding me? Because I'm going to say, yes, although I'm not understanding you. But in what ways I can actually make sure that the student or the staff person or your colleague is actually following you and understanding you.
So thank you so much for your attention. Take these with you. And thank you.
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Adriana Medina-López-Portillo, assistant professor of intercultural communication and Spanish at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, spoke at Cornell's third Internationalization Symposium, "The Globally Engaged Campus: Defining and Redefining Where We Are," May 18, 2016. The symposium explored Cornell’s opportunities for meaningful international experiences on the Ithaca campus.