Chapter 7 Verbal communication: How can I reduce cultural misunderstandings in my verbal communication? 153

might make no changes in his behavior (maintenance) or even highlight his own style to mark it as different from that of the other group (divergence). Jin can change his behavior in terms of nonverbal behavior (distance, posture, touch, etc.), paralinguistic behavior (tone of voice, rate of speech, volume, etc.), and verbal behavior (word choice, complexity of grammar, topic of conversation, turn-taking, etc.). Many things influence shifts in his speech, such as the status and power of the other communicator, the situa-tion, who is present, communication goals (for example, to seem friendly, or to show status or threat), the strength of his own language in the community, and his communi-cation abilities.

Communication and sites of dominanceConvergence can often go wrong. Giles and Noels (2002) explain that, although con-verging is usually well received, we can overaccommodate, or converge too much or in ineffective ways, by adjusting in ways we might think are appropriate, but are based on stereotypes of the other. People often speak louder and more slowly to a foreigner, thinking that they will thus be more understandable. Overaccommodation also works in situations of dominance. For example, younger people often inappropriately adjust their communication when talking with elderly people. Often called secondary baby talk, this includes a higher pitch in voice, simpler vocabulary, and use of plural first-person (“we”—“Would we like to put our coat on? It’s very cold outside”). While some older people find this type of communication comforting, especially from health workers, some feel it speaks down to them and treats them as no longer competent. A  similar feeling might be experienced by Blacks in the United States when Whites use  hyperexplanation. This inappropriate form of adjustment also includes use of simpler grammar, repetition, and clearer enunciation. But Harry Waters (1992) sug-gests that it is a behavior some Whites engage in while talking with Blacks (or other minority members)—perhaps based on real communication differences or perhaps based on stereotypes, but certainly leaving hurt feelings or resentment on the part of the Black listeners.

Writers have outlined the ways in which word choice, turn-taking and length, or topic selection may also serve to exclude others, often without us even being aware of it (Fairclough, 2001; Tannen, 1994). Don Zimmerman and Candace West (1975) found that while women “overlapped” speech turns in talking to men, often with “continuers” (“mm hmm,” “yes”) that continued the turn of the male, men were more often likely to interrupt women, often taking the turn away from them. And when women did interrupt men, the men did not yield the turn to women, while women did yield the turn to men. Jennifer Coates (2003), observing storytelling, found that men and boys often framed themselves as heroes, as being rebels or rule-breakers. In analysis of family communication, she found that there is “systematic” work done by all family members in many families to frame the father as either the primary story teller or the one to whom children tell their stories. Coates concludes, “Family talk can be seen to construct and maintain political order within families. . . . to conform roles and power structures within families” (p. 158), giving men more power in most mixed-gender storytelling over women. We can see that each aspect of verbal communication could be used in ways to impose power over others, often based on group identity, cultural difference, maintenance of group power, or, simply put, prejudice.

Baldwin, J. R., Coleman, R. R. M., González, A., Shenoy-Packer, S., & González, A. (2014). Intercultural communication for everyday life. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.Created from apus on 2022-03-30 00:24:39.


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