Cross cultural communication is difficult. One assumes there is a language involved, descriptive words have explicit meanings which may not be understood by both parties, and stories may not have any particular relevance in the cultures historical or traditional context. Combine this with a bit of passion, intensity, or drama and the difficulties grow exponentially!
When I meet someone who is from another country the red carpet automatically rolls out. My senses move to high alert because I want to capture the minute signals coming from his or her body language. Language includes their emotional expressions, language tones, and body positions. It is as if every part of the human body and soul is speaking at the same time! If I am open enough to hear what is being said the results are incredible. You know communication has occurred and it feel good to accomplish a difficult task. You begin understand someone. The relationship growth is soul nurturing. You also begin to see the individual in a different way, which in turns gives hope to both when they think of future dialogue.
When you get it wrong everything breaks down. When the leaders continued to quiz the blind man in the story of old, his response was blunt. “I've told you over and over and you haven't listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?” (John 9.27)
There are several reasons the conversation didn’t happen. It was as if the ways of listening cross culturally were never employed. Openness was absent. Patience had taken a vacation. Willingness and learning were never introduced to each other. There was no dialogue, communication, or even real conversation.
In many ways, this sounds like parents trying to understand their kids, politicians trying to get their point across, or managers when trying to deal with a situation defying their comprehension.
The solution lies is how God listens to us; open, patient, and with unlimited amounts of love, compassion, and hope. These are the gifts I want to give today in every conversation.
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