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livredor
Cultural mores
Monday, 15 May 2006 at 06:31 pm
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The last part of the introduction day I went to earlier in the week was taken up by an "intercultural communication workshop". That sort of thing can be quite fun, but I was there for useful practical information, and with my parents waiting for me I didn't stay for all of it. Besides, the communications guru who was leading the workshop really annoyed me; he was desperately camp, in a slightly upper-class English pretending to be Stephen Fry kind of way, and it just set my teeth on edge.

Anyway, he started off in the traditional way, presenting us with a series of statements and dividing us into buzz groups to discuss them. And I've decided to reproduce his triggers here, because I think they could provoke some interesting discussion. I've altered some of them slightly, partly so as not to plagiarize too much and partly because it became clear in the subsequent discussion that the guru's original phrasing was leading people to discuss things different from what he actually intended us to discuss. So I've tried to make things clearer.

The plan is that if everybody gets to discussing this, it will partly make up for the lack of content posted by me!

OK, instructions for the poll. I have been nice and provided ticky boxes, not radios, but that doesn't mean you should abuse them. The plan is that you should pick one of the first three options, and one of the second three for each question. If you generally agree with a statement, but can think of some bizarre exceptional circumstances where it might not apply, choose "True", and vice versa. And "Undecidable" is meant to cover all the categories of undecidability, such as not understanding the question, not knowing, it depends, needing more information to be able to give a useful answer, etc.

I know the last question is basically impossible, particularly in the three words I've given you space for. But if you want to write an essay, write it in the comments where people can see it, rather than complaining that there is insufficient space in my margins.

Poll #729310 Intercultural communication

I usually plan to do things at particular times, and stick to that.

True
2(6.7%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

In a conversation, if I'm really interested in what the other person has to say, I stay quiet and don't interrupt to show I'm listening carefully.

True
0(0.0%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Compromise is usually better than confrontation.

True
3(10.0%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
1(3.3%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

If you don't know someone well, it's polite to maintain a certain distance from them at first.

True
1(3.3%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Honesty is more important than diplomacy.

True
1(3.3%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Generally, coaching and motivating workers makes for a better management style than informing and instructing them.

True
0(0.0%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
1(3.3%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Emotions can get in the way of an effective, rational approach to an issue.

True
1(3.3%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Modesty is an important virtue.

Very
0(0.0%)
Not really
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Exceptions to rules should be minimal.

True
0(0.0%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

My family comes first.

True
1(3.3%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

It is important to put your trust in God.

True
0(0.0%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
1(3.3%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Efficiency is the key to success.

True
0(0.0%)
False
1(3.3%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

If someone asks for my opinion, I usually spend time considering the question before I answer.

True
3(10.0%)
False
0(0.0%)
Undecidable
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably agree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
Most people from my culture would probably disagree with my answer.
0(0.0%)
I don't know how most people from my culture feel about this.
0(0.0%)

Which country do you come from?

If you think your dominant cultural influence is something other than your country, what?



By the way, when we did this exercise, my group consisted of a Japanese guy, a German, a Dutch guy, a Libyan, and me, the only girl in the group. Too small to be meaningful, of course. We got very organized about deciding the best way to represent everybody's opinion on each statement (we settled on including a voting tally rather than trying to come to a consensus), and generally got into the whole meta thing, in the way a bunch of geeks will. We were split 3:2 on a couple, but mostly we quite quickly came to a unanimous decision. Ironically, the one we had the hardest time settling on was whether compromise is better than confrontation!

The Japanese guy (who was, incidentally, rather distractingly good looking) did something that fitted right in with a remark the guru made in the followup session: apparently, in Japanese culture if someone asks for your opinion the polite thing to do is to think about it for a while. This made it quite hard to get him engaged in discussion when the other four of us were more inclined to jump right in with our opinions.


Whereaboooots: Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden
Moooood: curiouscurious
Tuuuuune: Oasis: Wonderwall
Discussion: 18 contributions | Contribute something
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rho: default
From:rho
Date:May 15th, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
21 minutes after journal entry, 05:09 pm (rho's time)
(Link)
I didn't even try to predict how other people from my culture would answer any of these because I honestly have no clue. People always tend to do things which I find strange and baffling, and I'm not really very good at noticing the patterns to what they do.

And two of the questions require more explanation for me to feel as if I've given an honest answer. Emotions can get in the way of a rational approach to an issue, but they can also sometimes be useful. I think it's important to balance the emotional and the logical in any decission.

And for "efficiency is the key to success", I put "false" because I think that there's a whole lot more to it than that. You can be as efficient as you like, but if you're no good at whatever it is that you're doing, you're not going to get anywhere. It's an important component of success, but there are a whole lot of othercomponents too.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:May 21st, 2006 04:25 pm (UTC)
5 days after journal entry, 04:25 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Fair enough. I think the question of how people in your culture generally feel is really hard to answer, partly because it depends so heavily on how you define "your culture". There are definitely issues where I feel like I'm an outsider: for example, I am much more extrovert than most people around me, so I tend to be more willing to engage intimately with people I don't know well, and also more willing to be positive about myself.

I think your points about emotions and efficiency are exactly the kinds of "false" those questions were looking for. There are definitely some people who take the attitude that efficiency is always key, and emotions are always negative, whereas others take a more balanced view, like yours. I'm not sure there are whole cultures where these things are decided in one direction or another; it seems to me more a personality thing than a cultural thing. Though there are definitely cultural differences in how much emotion it is acceptable to show in public in different situations.
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rysmiel: scale error
From:rysmiel
Date:May 15th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC)
24 minutes after journal entry, 01:12 pm (rysmiel's time)
(Link)
Nuance ! Nuance ! Subtlety, and more nuance !

I usually plan to do things at particular times, and stick to that.

That's just perfectly normal obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

In a conversation, if I'm really interested in what the other person has to say, I stay quiet and don't interrupt to show I'm listening carefully.

I focus; I pay attention. [ And in NorAm my "paying attention" body language reads unduly flirtatiously and this is a whole different sack of ferrets. People who regard paying attention as ipso facto flirting are a pain. ] But I also demonstrate paying attention by engaging with ideas and the consequences thereof.

Compromise is usually better than confrontation.

It depends; compromise between well-meaning people, usually, though I do believ it's possible for well-meaning and honest people to still come to an impasse. There is no moral virtue whatsoever to compromise between a fire brigade and a fire.

If you don't know someone well, it's polite to maintain a certain distance from them at first.

Definietely, though with room for variation depending on what their preferences are in the matter.

Honesty is more important than diplomacy.

Very definitely. Most people from my home culture SFAICT disagree markedly.

Generally, coaching and motivating workers makes for a better management style than informing and instructing them.

I'm not entirely sure I see the distinction, unless one took either to the extreme, in which case neither would be good; insofar as I have a management style, I think it partakes of both.

Emotions can get in the way of an effective, rational approach to an issue.

Definitely, and I appear to part company with much of the Western world on how much and where civility requires one not to let them.

Modesty is an important virtue.

I'm disniclined to think so, for most values of "modesty". [ On the assumption that in this context this is not a body-modesty question ]

Exceptions to rules should be minimal.

In an ideal situation of intelligent and flexible rules that handle the real world well, yes. Or in other words, if a lot of exceptions are being required, it's probably worth reconsidering the ruleset in use.

My family comes first.

My family of choice comes very high indeed. I am fortunate in my family of birth in how it overlaps with my family of choice, but any value of "family comes first" that's pushing people to stay in abusive situations is evil.

Efficiency is the key to success.

Though I am fond of efficiency, I'm not sure I can accept a value of "success" defined narrowly enough that efficiency is the only key.

If someone asks for my opinion, I usually spend time considering the question before I answer.

Depends. If someone asks me a question now concerning something I've been thinking about off and on for a decade, odds are I'll have a position already thought out.

[ Of course the icon's relevant. It's a cultural moray. ]
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lethargic_man: beardy
From:lethargic_man
Date:May 15th, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 05:53 pm (lethargic_man's time)
(Link)
[ Of course the icon's relevant. It's a cultural moray. ]

*groan* That's worthy of me, that is!
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buymeaclue: default
From:buymeaclue
Date:May 15th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 02:25 pm (buymeaclue's time)
(Link)
>[ And in NorAm my "paying attention" body language reads unduly flirtatiously and this is a whole different sack of ferrets. People who regard paying attention as ipso facto flirting are a pain. ]

As a North American who's in the process of trying to train herself out of reading 'paying attention' as 'flirting,' I gotta say, I agree.
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livredor: portrait
From:livredor
Date:May 21st, 2006 04:41 pm (UTC)
5 days after journal entry, 04:41 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Nuance ! Nuance ! Subtlety, and more nuance !
I really like you. Definitely a good demand, thank you.

I usually plan to do things at particular times, and stick to that.
That's just perfectly normal obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

I don't agree. I don't think it's OC, I think it's how most people at least in my circles act. The examples the guru was giving were things like, agreeing to meet someone at 2 pm next Tuesday, and actually showing up at 2 pm on Tuesday. Not necessarily planning your day in minute to minute detail, though that would obviously head in the same direction. He claims that in southern European and many Arab cultures, people agree to meet at some point in the next few days, depdending what happens. And there are definitely cultural differences in whether an invitation for 6 o'clock really means 6 o'clock, or some time between 6:45 and 8.

I focus; I pay attention... But I also demonstrate paying attention by engaging with ideas and the consequences thereof.
Yeah, I think that's the difference that question is trying to get at. If I'm paying attention, I ask lots of questions and often interrupt, or at the very least I make encouraging noises. I don't just sit there in a listening pose and wait for the person to get to the end.

It depends; compromise between well-meaning people, usually
See, you're just like our buzz group. You can't commit yourself to one definite view of whether compromise is better, you automatically see both sides of the question of the virtue of compromise! That's a problem inherent to the question, I think; people who believe in compromise are unlikely to come to the conclusion that compromise is always better, because that would be a very uncompromising kind of stance.

I do believ it's possible for well-meaning and honest people to still come to an impasse.
An impasse isn't the same as a confrontation, though. (I think another problem with the question is that the alternatives presented aren't truly in opposition.) Coming to an impasse is not at all the same as insisting on continuing to argue or fight until the other person concedes.

There is no moral virtue whatsoever to compromise between a fire brigade and a fire.
I have to say, that seems like a singularly irrelevant example! Even the most compromising of compromisers would surely not expect a negotiated win-win settlement with forces of nature, the question surely applies to people with differing opinions.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:May 22nd, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)
6 days after journal entry, 04:45 pm (livredor's time)

It's really bad when I have to break up an _LJ comment_ into several parts

(Link)
If you don't know someone well, it's polite to maintain a certain distance from them at first.
Definietely, though with room for variation depending on what their preferences are in the matter.

The thing is, it probably is polite, but I'm really bad at it. Physical distance, sure, I don't crowd other people because I don't like to be close to strangers myself anyway. But if someone at all makes a good impression on me, I want to get to know them better. A lot of people do respond well to this, they see me as being more friendly and approachable than the cultural defaults. But I expect the people who are annoyed by it probably don't tell me about it.

Honesty is more important than diplomacy.
Very definitely. Most people from my home culture SFAICT disagree markedly.

I have a lot of sympathy for the view that people should just say what they think and not mess around trying to flatter eachother's egos and keep to social conventions at the expense of communication efficiency. But at the same time, I think there is room for diplomacy, and sometimes it's worth the effort of a circumlocution if it leads to a conclusion that is more satisfactory for all concerned.

I find that a lot of people who praise honesty and straightforwardness are actually making excuses for being bullies, they don't care about hurting people's feelings and will use that sort of line to justify being thoughtless or actively unkind. (I definitely don't mean you, in case that isn't obvious.) Just, I'm less gung-ho than I used to be about always preferring honesty.

Generally, coaching and motivating workers makes for a better management style than informing and instructing them.
I'm not entirely sure I see the distinction, unless one took either to the extreme, in which case neither would be good; insofar as I have a management style, I think it partakes of both.

Yeah, we all thought this question was a bit weird in my buzz group. Obviously management requires a balance between exerting authority and treating one's subordinates with respect. Presenting it as an either or situation just seems silly.

Emotions can get in the way of an effective, rational approach to an issue.
Definitely, and I appear to part company with much of the Western world on how much and where civility requires one not to let them.

Using strong feelings as an excuse for selfish or stupid behaviour is really not something I approve of. But I'm not sure that means that emotions are always problematic.

I don't like giving precedence to emotions myself, but that's because I trust my brain to come up with sensible solutions in a rational way, and anything that interferes with my ability to think scares me. I am not sure how far that is a universal, rather than just an expression of my preferences, though.

Modesty is an important virtue.
I'm disniclined to think so, for most values of "modesty". [ On the assumption that in this context this is not a body-modesty question ]

I don't think it's about body modesty, no. The ensuing discussion was about whether you should be open about your strengths or make sure not to draw attention to the things you're good at. I wouldn't expect you to favour body modesty either, mind you.

In an ideal situation of intelligent and flexible rules that handle the real world well, yes. Or in other words, if a lot of exceptions are being required, it's probably worth reconsidering the ruleset in use.
My feeling about this question was that a lot depends on whether one is discussing descriptive or prescriptive rules. If the rules are to tell you how you should behave, I'm inclined to think that a good legal system should allow for the possibility of exceptions (in distinction to crimes, that is). Descriptive rules are kind of useless if they have lots of exceptions; in that case, exceptions would definitely mean reviewing the rules and replacing them with something better.
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livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:May 22nd, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
6 days after journal entry, 04:46 pm (livredor's time)

Part the third, sorry for being so babbly

(Link)
My family of choice comes very high indeed. I am fortunate in my family of birth in how it overlaps with my family of choice, but any value of "family comes first" that's pushing people to stay in abusive situations is evil.
Yeah, we all had a hard time with that question because it depends so much on how one defines family. I think probably the overall answer is no, because of your second point.

Though I am fond of efficiency, I'm not sure I can accept a value of "success" defined narrowly enough that efficiency is the only key.
That's a very interesting point about success, actually. Thank you.

If someone asks me a question now concerning something I've been thinking about off and on for a decade, odds are I'll have a position already thought out.
Whereas me, even if I really have no clue, I'll answer straight away and do my thinking on the fly, in fact trying to formulate an answer helps me to think. If I really, really don't know I'll say "I don't know" immediately, I won't take time to consider whether I know or not.

[ Of course the icon's relevant. It's a cultural moray. ]
I am sufficiently fond of the icon to forgive the pun.

It does strike me, reading your answers to this exercise, just how much you feel at odds with your home culture. You've put "Most people would disagree with me" for nearly every question! I mean, I sort of knew that was the case, but I hadn't understood it so viscerally until I came to this. I'm not really going anywhere with this comment, I'm just remarking that I've noticed it.
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lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:May 15th, 2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 05:55 pm (lethargic_man's time)
(Link)
If someone asks for my opinion, I usually spend time considering the question before I answer.

I find I dichotomise strongly on this depending on whether the context is face-to-face (jump straight in) or email (think hard and often go off and research).
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livredor: letters
From:livredor
Date:May 22nd, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
6 days after journal entry, 04:48 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
That's interesting. I suppose the question was directed mainly towards face to face interactions, but even so. I tend to answer even emails immediately, but only in my head. So often when I come to actually write down the answer, it's something I've been saving up for several months with the intention of writing about it!
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buymeaclue: default
From:buymeaclue
Date:May 15th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 02:21 pm (buymeaclue's time)
(Link)
>Exceptions to rules should be minimal.

I voted true, but what I mean by that is that rules should be set up so that there's minimal need for exceptions. That is, if exceptions start cropping up, the rule is as likely to need adjusting as the exceptions are.

>Efficiency is the key to success.

And voted true here as well. But I have a broad-spectrum view of what counts as efficiency (and would include 'go slow to go fast').

I'm not actually sure what I mean by 'my culture.'

Wanted to say thanks for these polls, incidentally. They make me think.
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buymeaclue: default
From:buymeaclue
Date:May 15th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 02:22 pm (buymeaclue's time)
(Link)
Also, I think confrontation can be a valid route to compromise.
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buymeaclue: default
From:buymeaclue
Date:May 15th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 02:23 pm (buymeaclue's time)
(Link)
>Emotions can get in the way of an effective, rational approach to an issue.

Also also, I might answer differently to this question ending in "an effective approach" than to it ending in "a rational approach."

Okay, no more comments from me.
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(no subject) - jennifer (5/15/06 10:14 pm)
redbird: default
From:redbird
Date:May 15th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry, 06:51 pm (redbird's time)
(Link)
Like rysmiel, for me the answers depend in part on how family is defined (in particular, to what extent is family a choice rather than something you're handed by birth and other people's decisions) and in part on whether the question I'm asked for an opinion about is something I've considered before.

I'm not sure how large "home culture" is for these purposes, and suspect my answers to the second half of each wavered because of that--my interrupting conversational style is normal to the more local (New York City) definition thereof, much less so if we define my home culture as the United States.
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leora: ouroboros
From:leora
Date:May 17th, 2006 04:17 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry, May 16th, 2006 08:17 pm (leora's time)
(Link)
I'm no good with simple answers.

Planning to do things: Depends on the things. Most of my day is unplanned. If I have stuff to accomplish, it is often planned. For example, I might plan to see someone at a particular time or I might plan to get errands run. But I don't plan when I will do the laundry or dishes, which will be done when I have the energy and ability. Also, planning is kinda completely different when you have a serious disability. Serious, rigid planning becomes stupid, because you can't rely on having ability at particular times. However, general planning becomes more vital, because it's so much harder to get stuff done.

Conversation: No, I make supportive sounds like mmmhmmm and yeah if I'm interested. If the person triggers my NY upbringing, I go into overlapping conversation, which is a form of being truly engaged. If I'm being self-conscious or know the person needs more silence, I try to suppress all forms of feedback (with my lothario who prefers an extreme form of no-interruptions communication this includes an attempt to avoid facial expressions, breathing changes, and other body language that is a reaction to what is said) until it is my turn to speak. I try to do what works. But vocal and overlapping are my native styles.

Compromise vs confrontation - uhhh need more context and definitions - way too vague. Generally confrontation leads to compromise if stuff is going right, or at least to a mutually okay resolution.

Polite distance - generally, unless you are making a strong enough initial impression that they'll be flattered and welcome you being closer. I can usually read people well enough to know what level of distance is okay, Whether I have the strength to do so and act on it is a different matter.

Honesty vs. diplomacy - depends on the specifics. Diplomacy that doesn't have anyone find out that the train isn't built right and will lead to massive deaths is a mistake. Tactless and unnecessary is also a mistake.

Coaching, motivating, informing, instructing... why are you posing this as an either/or? Really, wtf? You should be doing all of those things. My beliefs as to what works in training is best understood by looking at what I chose to do within Support.

Emotions can get in the way. They also can help. It's best to understand why you feel the way you do.

I see no use for false modesty. Being aware of your weaknesses and not pretending to not have them is not what I consider to be modesty. If you consider being hoenst about who you are and what you can do to be moesty, then yes, that's a virtue. Otherwise, bah.

Exceptions - unless the rules are phenomenally well designed, exceptions are necessary. Again, Support is a decent guide of my feelings on this matter.

My family comes first - to me, but it should not in general. That is, I prioritize my family, but the world should not give me unfair preference. Also, my family is the family I build for myself, not the family I was born into.

Trust in God, not a value to me.

Efficiency - yes, and efficiency means less waste, waste is bad. With enoguh efficiency, there is less work that needs to be done. Work is a necessary evil. My culture tends to value work for its own sake. I do not. I value results. If you can get the job done in 5 minutes, then that's awesome and better than someone who spends two weeks on the same result. If you can get paid for a week's worth of work for those five minutes, great, feel free to relax and explore the world during your free time.

Opinions - yes, but in most cases I have done so before they have asked the question, so I do not appear to give it much time for consideration.
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doseybat: default
From:doseybat
Date:May 19th, 2006 10:16 am (UTC)
3 days after journal entry, 01:16 pm (doseybat's time)
(Link)
What is "overlapping conversation"?

If I am really interested I often interrupt with questions, which I guess is the opposite of the listening attentively option..
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leora: ouroboros
From:leora
Date:May 19th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
4 days after journal entry, 12:39 pm (leora's time)
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Overlapping is a style where you do freely interrupt. You may begin responding to something before the other person finishes speaking, and then they shift course to respond to that. You may finish what they're saying with them to show that you're getting it and involved. You make free use of low-content speech like "yeah" and "I get it" while the other person is speaking.

When it works (when all involved speakers are using the same method and can use the same method) it's a very energetic, involved conversation. But many people aren't raised with this style, and it is seen as massively rude. This is a common conversational style in New York (the state), which is where I grew up. And I suspect a decent part of why New Yorkers are considered rude. We talk fast, we talk at the same time. But if everyone is following the same rules, it works fine.

I've learned to modify this, because it doesn't work for everyone. But I still feel most energized by a conversation and most satisfied when I can use my native style. It does feel like involvement.
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