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The role of research in cross-cultural communication in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Tilley, E. and Love, T. (2005) The role of research in cross-cultural communication in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In: Sligo, F. and Bathurst, R., (eds.) Communication in the New Zealand Workplace: Theory and Practice. Software Technology of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand, pp. 43-55.

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As New Zealand society becomes more diverse and the ethnic make-up of our population changes, people in the workplace now, more than at any other time in our history, need to be aware of differences in values, expectations and practices when communicating across cultures.

Most guidelines for effective cross-cultural communication stress the importance of communicators increasing their knowledge about other cultures. For example, Gudykunst (1995), a widely published American communication scholar, believes that following a practice he terms ‘mindfulness’ can significantly improve cross-cultural communication. The ‘three tasks’ of mindfulness include motivation (developing an attitude of willingness to learn about other cultures) and skill (improving techniques such as dialogue and listening).

The third task, however, and one that underpins both the others, is increasing knowledge by learning about other cultures through research. This may include formal research programmes to study other cultures, or informal research such as reading books, asking questions and contacting people within other cultures who can act as guides or advisors.

This chapter likewise endorses increased knowledge as crucial to cross-cultural understanding and therefore to effective communication. However, in New Zealand, as in other postcolonial societies, the concept of ‘research’ itself needs to be explored in more depth, as research is not always positive to all participants. Important cultural issues may surround even preliminary research steps, such as asking questions and making contact.

This chapter draws on the Kaupapa Māori research guidelines proposed by Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) and developed by other Māori scholars, to suggest ways in which non-Māori in New Zealand can increase knowledge of the values, practices and communication expectations of our society’s second-largest ethnic group, Māori, and thereby become more sensitive and successful cross-cultural communicators.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Software Technology of New Zealand
Copyright: © Software Technology N.Z. Ltd. 2005
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