A multi-view conceptual framework
A multi-view approach is proposed here as one where interactants seek a reciprocal understanding of communication effectiveness within and across cultures (Figure 5.1 ). It is characterised by an inquiry into the home country and host country’s perspectives of their communication culture in order to establish intercultural awareness. In the case of Chinese organisations in Africa, inclusion of Western cultures provides a context, given the significant role Western countries have played in the emergence of the formal economic organisation. Engaging Western theory, however, does not underplay or negate the strides made in the development of more indigenous theories of communication such as Afrocentricity (Asante, 1999, 2012) or Asia-centricity (Miike, 2007).
It is argued that adopting a multi-view in the Sino-African context allows for a “dialectical approach” (Martin &. Nakayama, 2010) where meaningful intercultural communication can be built on non-Western and Western perspectives of ICE, and on “awareness of difference as much as similarity and of uncertainty as much as certainty” (Xu, 2013, p. 387). The multi-view perspective opens up new possibilities for researchers to
ENABLERS of ICE (2)
DEVELOP and IMPLEMENT INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY (4)
- (Outcome of multiple views and considerations)
ULTIMATE STATE IN INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION
VALUES and GUIDING PHILOSOPHIES
NATURE OF COMMUNICATION (premised on ontological assumptions)
DEEGREE OF INTERACTION (premised on epistemological assumptions)
OBJECTIVE OF COMMUNICATION (premised on axiological assumptions)
PROCESS & STYLE OF COMMUNICATION (premised on methodological assumptions)
o Communicants reciprocally identify synergies and/or gaps in communication culture
Seek common ground
Acceptance/ Accommodation / Tolerance of differences
o Communicants reciprically acknowledge.
Integration of communication goals
respect, and accept differences in communication culture
o Communicants reflect on implications of synergies and gaps in communication culture
Adaptation / Modification of styles and processes
Approach communication encounter with mindfulness and sensitivity
- o Efforts at learning own and others communication culture creates the knowledge that builds intercultural awareness
- o Intercultural awareness can engender mindfulness and the intercultural sensitivity that may enable appropriateness in intercultural communication
- o Achievement of integrated cultural communication goals signifies effectiveness of intercultural communication
- o Adoption of appropriate/adjusted processes and styles and/or acceptance or tolerance of those of others enhances the probability of satisfying unified communication goals
- o In addition, increased awareness and understanding minimises stereotyping, prejudices, anxiety and other intercultural communication challenges hence reducing chances of misunderstanding and misrepresentation
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION CONGRUENCE
- (The pin node of intercultural communication where communication is simultaneously and reciprocally effective and appropriate)
- 106 Fungai Chigwendere
- *C1, *C2 and *C3 represents the multiple cultures in interaction Authors construction
Figure 5.1 A conceptual framework for understanding intercultural communication effectiveness (ICE) - (congruence)
Sino-African intercultural effectiveness 107 look for values and beliefs about communication that cross boundaries (Chen & Starosta, 2003).
According to Narh (2013), different societies are founded on different paradigmatic assumptions influencing their worldviews. Values and assumptions that shape the way individuals view and relate to the world also affect how they express themselves and understand each other (Huang, 2010). In this light, a multi-view approach is deemed appropriate. In Hall’s words, “communication is culture” (Hall, 1959, p. 159).
Within the multi-view framework and using a cross-cultural approach, intercultural communication is viewed in terms of “enablers” of ICE. “Enablers are those considerations that enable the understanding of communication in different cultures for the purposes of understanding intercultural communication effectiveness” (Chigwendere, 2016). The resulting understanding is the basis for intercultural awareness - “a state of knowing the distinct characteristics of one’s own culture and that of one’s counterparts” (Chen, 2015, p. 466). Refer to Enablers of ICE (2) in Figure 5.1 following. These enablers are: values and guiding philosophies, self-perceptions, nature of communication, degree of interaction, objective of communication, and process and style of communication.
As Figure 5.1 indicates, a multi-view approach to conceptualising and understanding ICE is broad. Column 1 is a depiction of people from different cultures (labelled Cl, C2 and C3) in interaction. Each cultural group actively seeks to understand self and other as shown by the interlinking reverse arrows connecting all cultural groups together. In this analysis, the groups refer to Western, African and Chinese cultures.
Column 2 represents the enablers for understanding communication, both within and across cultures. The enabler-based understanding of communication is simultaneous and reciprocal in giving clues to what ICE might look like. It is envisaged that this kind of proactive and participative approach results in intercultural awareness (Column 3). A state of intercultural awareness provides the foundation from which suitable strategies and approaches to the intercultural communication encounter can be developed and implemented. Possible ways of improving the effectiveness of the intercultural communication encounter are listed in Column 4. A positive spin-off of intercultural awareness is greater intercultural sensitivity in interaction, thereby enhancing ICE.
Potential outcomes of the multi-view approach are listed in Column 5 in terms of increased understanding, greater sensitivity, achievement of integrated goals, adaptation of styles and greater effectiveness and appropriateness in communication. This creates a “win/win” for all involved. This perspective is in tune with other theoretical approaches aimed at achieving win/win scenarios in communication such as the Grunig and Grunig (1992) two-way symmetrical model for public relations (PR) excellence. PR practitioners are called to adjust or adapt their behaviours with emphasis being placed on reciprocity and mutual understanding.
In the intercultural encounter, increased awareness and understanding ultimately serve to minimise stereotyping and anxiety among other challenges that hamper ICE. Increased awareness also enables the optimising of existing communication synergies.
Finally, Column 6 represents the hypothetical ultimate state of inter-cultural communication - intercultural communication congruence (ICC) -where communication is both effective and appropriate. Such a state is achievable when the cultures of all interacting parties are considered because, “there is no culture that is greater or lesser than the other” (Asante in Asante & Miike, 2013, p. 4). One cannot speak of effectiveness without considering appropriateness in intercultural encounters.
In the multidimensional concept of ICC, approaching communication between people from different cultures from a point of equality and respect breeds a state of congruence where harmony and agreement prevail. Agreement exists in the sense that all parties acknowledge the need for mutual achievement of their ultimate communicative goals. Harmony, on the other hand, is a consequence of the tolerance, accommodation, acceptance or adjustments that may be made over the process of the inter-cultural communication encounter (Chen, 2015). In other words, this analysis argues that intercultural effectiveness in a multicultural context should not be understood on the basis of monocultural views.
Although the multi-view approach may be criticised for perhaps oversimplifying or overgeneralising distinct cultural characteristics in its application, it is practical and provides a starting point for understanding Sino-African interactions. It is a synthesis of insights derived from existing approaches to form a holistic framework with both practical and scholarly implications. The multi-view is based on combining the perspectives of those involved in interaction, and not on predetermined standards from other cultures, as is the case with existing approaches. Its specificity ensures more accurate culturally relevant understanding. Essentially the multi-view approach is alive and interactive in nature, deriving meaning and insights from active “self and other” reporting by those in the intercultural encounter. In the next section, the multi-view is applied in a synthesis of literature aimed at identifying the synergies and differences in communication culture.