Knowledge asymmetries

Knowledge asymmetries are constitutive for communication generally and for intercultural (business) communication in particular (Gunthner and Luckmann 2002). It must be assumed that a foreign business contact will lack knowledge of institutions in one’s own country and the way they function, and of its geographical, educational and other features. Of course, the contact can always ask for these gaps to be filled, but it is much more elegant if this is done by timely “mini lectures” on the country, so that the contact does not have to show his or her lack of knowledge. More problematic is the asymmetry of text type knowledge about which conventions apply for specific text types or communicative genres (negotiating, interviews, etc.) in other cultures. The lack of such knowledge can lead to the formation of new hybrid forms of intercultural (business) communication, as each of the participants introduces certain arrangements, expectations and fragmentary knowledge of the genre conventions and uses adaptation strategies and compromises (Gunthner 2007: 140-142). To interpret this “concession” in intercultural (business) communication correctly requires great awareness on both sides.

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