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Human Encounters

Introduction to Intercultural Communication

Oyvind Dahl

This book gives a comprehensive introduction to intercultural communication. The reader is introduced to essential concepts in the field, different theories and methods of analysing communication, the importance of verbal and nonverbal languages for bringing about mutual understanding and, finally, the ethical challenges that arise.

The volume also has a practical aspect. The author discusses subjects such as handling encounters with people using foreign languages; incorporating different life styles and world views; the use of interpreters, non-familiar bodylanguage; different understandings of time; relocation in new settings; the use of power and how to deal with cultural conflicts generally.

Published as a general textbook in English for the first time following a very successful original edition in Norwegian, also translated to Russian and French, this richly-illustrated book offers a refreshing and engaging introduction to intercultural understanding

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CHAPTER 4 Process Analysis: Building Bridges


A woman and a man are driving along in a car. They are approaching a petrol station. The following conversation takes place:

w: “Are you thirsty?”

m: “No!”

(Driving beyond the petrol station.)

w: “You did not stop!”

m: “No, I’m not thirsty!”

w: “But I’m thirsty!”

m: “Why didn’t you tell me?”

w: “I told you!”

The case illustrates how men and women often communicate differently. Women often suggest things by giving hints and expect that men will understand what they mean. I think most women – and perhaps some men – will understand what is meant, but most men do not understand such hints. They prefer having it laid out in clear text (Tannen 1991). When a wife says, “We never go out!” the husband feels an accusation and turns defensive: “We visited Paradise restaurant last Monday, don’t you remember?” He may not understand that what she wants is to go out today or tomorrow. Many conflicts arise because men and women are talking beyond each other. Divorces are most often caused by breakdowns in communication.

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