From “ARG” to “AHA”: A Report Arrested with Revelations

Oprah and her iconic mind-blown, "aha" moments.

Understanding Intercultural Communication
Ting-Toomey & Chung, 2nd edition

CHAPTER 3

Requirement I: Important Aspects –

Important Aspect A

I found the notion behind the section entitled “Discovering Cultural Value” to be an important aspect to anchor this chapter. According to the authors, not only to our cultural backgrounds shape our behaviors, but they also become a standard of comparison by which we judge the communications of others. “They are the contents of self that drive our thought, emotions and everyday decision-making processes,” assert the authors, adding “They serve to shape motivation to explain human behavior” (p. 43). Understanding the vast impact culture has on not only our perspectives, but also our judgments, suggests that perhaps we should re-evaluate the culture that we can so ostentatiously flaunt as our standard for others’ behavior, values and communication styles. Maybe we are being influenced for our betterment, but it’s also incredibly possible that we have been brainwashed in a sense to believe so. Every culture has its aspects of merit, and I think it would do us well to hone in on that which is respectable in each.

Important Aspect B

I found the section entitled “Identity: Individualism-Collectivism Value Pattern” to be another important aspect. Never before had I made the distinction between the general attitude of a culture group cross-referenced with those found within it. For example, in the introduction section leading up to this one, the authors note that while two cultures may “differ in terms of the value characteristics, wide variations exist on the distinctive cultural individual level of analysis within each culture,” (pg. 44). This is reiterated when the gender variable is added to the individualism-collectivism analysis. The book points out the breakdown in the U.S., but then nearly retracts the statements when speaking comparatively with other cultures on the aggregate level (pg. 48).

Important Aspect C

In addition, the portion describing the “we” identity versus the “I” identity was a third important aspect. After defining that individualism is a quality often found to promote self over service, the authors define collectivism as “the broad tendencies of a culture in emphasizing the importance of the ‘we’ identity over the ‘I’ identity” (pg. 44-5). This is an important concept to grasp as it pertains to the underlying values of many aspects of our lives such as patriotism, parenting and prospective employment opportunities. To illustrate an example of each, the ideals of democrats, only-children and ladder-climbing employees seemingly align more closely with the “I” identity perspective. On the other hand, republicans, multi-sibling children and horizontally moving employees appear to have ideals that more closely align with the “we” identity perspective. Which is better or worse is solely dependant on your values – or, as we learn in this book, from the culture from which your value set is derived.


 

Requirement II: Aspects that Apply to Your Life –

Applicable Aspect A

I found the notion behind the section entitled “Sex Roles: Feminine-Masculine Value Pattern” to be the most applicable aspect to daily life in this chapter, specifically as it refers to the workplace. I have started a new job in my field this summer and have been struggling with the interpersonal office dynamics. Reading this section gave me a bright, shining “aha” moment accompanied by the divine glow of an angelic chorus. This is not an exaggeration, but rather further proof of the issue the authors are delineating. Issues are chalked up to “cultural differences” so much that the notion seems a bit watered down in the workplace and is, therefore, often left unattended to. Specifically, I was interested to find out that I exhibit a masculine value pattern as it pertains to the workplace. I, reportedly the pentacle of “girly,” was shocked to agree with this assessment upon digging deeper into the chapter. While I value norms and “achievements and tangible-based performance” in the workplace, my superiors at my new jobs exhibit feminine value patterns such as “work[ing] in order to live” and the importance of quality of work/life balance issues” (pg. 52). This is an extremely applicable concept to grasp in the workforce because neither value set is wrong, but that does not mean that is what your boss may think.

Applicable Aspect B

"Are Men Getting Handsomer?" inforgraphic illustrating the increased attention to self appearance men have gained in the last two years based on Haute Look's assessment of their purchasing habits.

A comedic illustration of gender roll fluidity.

Also within the section “Sex Roles: Feminine-Masculine Value Pattern,” I found the portion as it applies to the socialization process of gender roles applicable as well as interesting. Again, I had another “aha” moment and learned something else about myself that makes things finally click in the trials and tribulations of my dating life. While I will abbreviate the seemingly endless stories of dates gone awry, I now see one of the root problems: my expectations. The authors describe that in families identifying with the feminine value pattern, “boys and girls learn to be caring and concerned with both facts and feelings” while in families identifying with the masculine value pattern, “boys learn to be assertive, tough and ambiguous, but girls learn to be nurturing and relational-based” (pg. 51). My first application of this knowledge is to wonder which value pattern breeds better opposite-sex compatibility because I could imagine a case for both. Secondly, is cross-compatibility between the two value groups possible? And my third, and most important reaction, is to understand a huge societal issue girls in our culture face daily. We generally seem to want men who were raised to have a masculine value set and then suddenly switch to a more feminine value pattern when we date them. If this is even possible, it seems as unreasonable level of expectation to hold for men when we seem to believe too often that we should not have to reach out of our norms for any man. While I digress into language skirting stereotypical, it is not meant to be abrasive toward those attitudes, but rather to shed some light on a potentially self-defeating injustice that only the woman who are encouraging it can stop.


 

Requirement III: Unclear Aspect –

Unclear Aspect A

According to the authors, “cultural values are deposits of wisdom that are passed from one generation to the next” as well as “cultural blinders to alternative way of thinking, feeling, motivating and relating” (p. 52). They assert that this is because cultural values can serve as many useful functions as reinforcements of unhealthy habit of poor communication. I wonder how this intersects with revolution and trend change over time. I wish the authors would have divulged a bit more through the evidence of research findings and world or U.S. history examples about how this comes about and what patterns, if any, are involved in these instances. Can the human race, perhaps the most dangerous species of them all, really be so well analyzed as to be predictable?


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