Reflection Paper on Cultural Influences
Culture is important in shaping an individual’s values, perception of the world or society he or she lives in, and even his self-concept. In-depth knowledge of our own and other people’s culture helps us in communicating and understanding other people. By learning culture, we learn to accept and understand each individual’s differences hence it is important to demonstrate cultural sensitivity and open-mindedness when interacting with diverse groups. We should keep in mind that there are different cultures existing in the world. By being open-minded, we do not limit our understanding to the cultural norms that the society we live in dictates. Such as in other countries like Africa where the natives wear traditional costumes which may seem offensive or funny when worn in other countries like ours. If we try to be open-minded and realize that this is actually culturally and socially accepted in Africa, we may refrain from laughing and actually admire their tradition. It is through this that we display cultural sensitivity. We should keep in mind that our own culture is not the only culture in the world.
As a plain jane type of guy who grew up in New York, my culture is not as rich as those who came from different countries like the middle east. However, I believe that it still helped me shape me as a person. My cultural difference from other people encouraged me to become more interested in interacting with others, as an attempt to learn about their own culture. There were instances when I had trouble understanding others due to cultural differences. I believe this is one of the causes of miscommunication. I have then observed that to truly have a coherence in communication, both parties (communicators) must know each other’s culture or background to fully understand the context of each other’s statements or text.
Because most of the people I have interacted with are Americans just like me, I had better relationship with them. This is because we came from the same cultural background or ethnicity so we understand each other better as compared to talking with exchange students from other countries like China perhaps. Gender also played a big role in interpersonal communication as I have observed that men relate better to their fellow men. We have relatively common goals and experiences as compared to girls. For instance, I cannot easily share my experiences in summer camp to my girl seatmate in class, as I might offend her or she might not understand me. From my observations I have inferred that interpersonal communication then is more effective and comfortable when both communicators (the sender and receiver) have more commonalities, such as gender, ethnicity and race. The differences may cause miscommunication as you do not come from the same cultural background hence you may relate ideas to different contexts. Culture therefore, bonds us together. People who belong to the same culture as ours are our immediate in-groups. But as years go by, we create smaller in-groups such as the basketball team you joined or the group of friends you have in college. When we go abroad and into a different country, we will feel so much like a tourist, as if we truly do not belong to the place. Same thing goes when we are put in a group of strangers whom we feel we are indifferent from. We feel uncomfortable and uneasy. This is our out-group. We behave differently with them because we do not have commonalities. In effect, this may cause miscommunication or no communication at all caused by the discomfort.
But just because you have cultural differences, that doesn’t mean that you have a slight chance of having good communication. This have been most influential in helping me improve my interpersonal communication skills. It helped me realize that we should not limit our relationships to those we only share a common interest with – that we should also take the effort to learn about the others’s culture and use it to our advantage. Culture differences may divide us but by being open-minded, we may actually find a common point in which both or all cultures can relate to each other. And through this, interpersonal communication can be truly effective.