18 Aug Cultural Impotency (and other lessons you haven’t learned from your mother) – Part 1
Here’s the deal: From now on, whoever asks me for relationship or cultural advice, or how to communicate their feelings to other people, gets charged.
Or I can offer a cheaper version. Read my blog series on these three topics that are completely dependent on one another, instead of racking up a bill.
Let me start by saying that I really don’t remember how many books I’ve read on these topics. I’ve buried my nose in everything—from very simplistic titles to the most sophisticated works on the market. From silly, straightforward sentences to pieces I’ve had to reread a few times to even understand. With that being said, I definitely have the subjects covered.
And yes, they’ve all helped me (as well as many others) out a lot. Yet, there’s still a big need for more books to be written on these interrelated topics.
And while I can’t give you “expert” advice, I’ll try to give you something to think about before you go to sleep at night. If you feel like you already know everything, then I challenge you to pause and reflect on how many times you’ve failed at communicating, let a relationship slip between your fingers or misunderstood unfamiliar cultural issues. If you couldn’t care less about learning and broadening your well-defined path of thinking and acting, then please go do something out of your comfort zone, and have some fun for a change!
Now what we need to do is clearly define our terms. I’ll stick to the old-school way of teaching this, so please take a deep breath and keep on reading.
1. Let’s start with the basics. What exactly are relationships? I’ll use the definition from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:
— The way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other
— A romantic or sexual friendship between two people
— The way in which two or more people or things are connected
If examples are needed, a relationship is how you relate to your dog, husband, girlfriend, boss, policemen, nature, and even to yourself. The relationship you have with yourself is arguably the most important one, because it takes into account how much you value yourself as well as your time.
2. What do I mean by communication?
— the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, or feelings with someone else
— a message that’s given to someone, like a letter or telephone call
I know you already know all of this, and I also know you’re bored, but hang in there. There will be a punch line and I promise the next blog will be about sex!
I’ve met several experts in communication who have zero ability to apply their vast knowledge into the real world. If you take one of them out of their office and put them on a street or place they’re not familiar with, they won’t last. Lawyers and doctors are, generally speaking, a good example. They’re trained to think in certain ways. Therefore, while brilliant in their fields, they often seem to lack prowess in sending and responding to messages outside their specific way of thinking.
On the other hand, you might meet a blue-collar worker, like a plumber, who’s an excellent communicator. He makes you understand what, how, and why the work he’s doing needs to be done. He can also do it in such a pleasant, clear way that you actually get the message. And that’s the whole the point of this discussion isn’t it? The most important factor is to get the message being conveyed for what it is, not for what might be, could be, should be, or have been.
I often interact with a highly-educated, intelligent person, who’s considered to be very well travelled, well read, and highly-sophisticated. Every time I communicate with this person I try to put myself in that specific frame of mind, which includes how I communicate through my physical appearance, that means no more red lipstick, no more high heels, a dead serious face. Yet I still get misunderstood and misjudged. Why? Because while I have the chameleonic ability to put myself (sometimes literally) in other people’s situations I often just need to be exactly who I am, regardless of whom I may insult or offend.
Sometimes you have to take the risk of being misread. In real life, I don’t really give a damn, but for research purposes, I obviously care immensely! Most of us can’t put ourselves into other people’s mentalities or frames of mind, so that’s where the third and final (I promise!) definition comes in:
3. How do you define culture?
— The beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time
— A particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.
— A way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (like a business)
And this is where people like me come in: Multicultural mutts who have learned and experienced several cultures, and have tried to understand and identify with several more on top of that.
I have a friend who can adapt to any culture, any time, or any place. You’d swear this person came from whatever culture we talk about and is often taken for a native of different places. But, alas, even the best of us, lack something—or a lot of things—unfortunately. This specific person has trouble communicating, which has led to several other problems.
Now that we’re all done defining our terms and hopefully understanding them, I shall – in my next blog – proceed to give real life examples of cultural mistakes, relationships failures and the very common instances of miscommunication.
Until then, please remember relationships, communication, and culture are completely related. Therefore, you can’t read or write a book about one of these terms alone.