Lost in Translation
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Support The Counter-Narrative
Words are so loaded and have varied meanings and connotations based on background and personality. “Most incivility is unintentional. People don’t know when they are being rude (Smith, 2011).” In some cases people misinterpret hostile communications. This is an intercultural occurrence even more so than across cultures. In cross culture communications allowances are made for miscommunications. Those in communication take time to verify and build common meaning. In high context cultures many things are left up to interpretation. The communicator in these cases expects for the receiver of the message to know the unspoken meaning in words left unsaid. There is quite a bit of ‘reading between the lines’ expected. Often people misread and project their meaning and feelings onto the information being communicated.
With the increasing use of high context forms of communication such as computers and cellular phones, building common meaning and understanding is ever more important. Social media uses emoticons and the allowance of multimedia messaging to compensate for the loss of voice tone and facial expression that we do not get from text messaging and email exchanges. So now a smiley face is used behind a seemingly harsh comment to show there was no harm intended. Words are bolded to emphasize. All capitalized letters are interpreted as a raised voice. ‘Lol’ is probably the most commonly used abbreviation for jovial expressions. In high tech, high context societies it is important to remember to be high touch. High touch is being able to infer the mood and feeling that is being conveyed by both the sender and the receiver of any given message. It also means making more phone calls so the communicator can understand and know how language is used by the person with whom they will be communicating. High touch requires having more face to face meetings to get acquainted with how facial expressions and tones are used by the each party that will be in communication via technology. When there is a familiarity between two parties outside of technology, sometime we can almost hear their voices coming through the text message or we can visualize their facial expression. If we do not have high touch contact to draw from we can only make inferences that may or may not be correct. Not everyone who is high tech is equally high touch. In fact one of the more common complaints of technicians is that they are aloof, distant and unfriendly. “It is true that shaming and the threat of shaming – is a potent social force. However for this to work people have to be aware of the social norms at play. In a situation of divergent social norms (say age-specific expectations about how loud to play an iPod on a train), this logic does not hold. The threat of exposure only works if the deviants are able to imagine themselves as a degraded norm breaker in the eyes of anonymous others looking.” But because there is no ill intention on the part of the deliverer of a misperceived message shame will not work. Shared meaning, applied understanding and high touch interactions helps to make sure that individuals do not get lost in translation.