Pages in this series:
What Just Happened?
From the moment we take in information about the world, it becomes infused with our evaluations, guesses, judgments, comparisons. While objectivity--description of fact completely divorced from interpretation--is impossible, the goal in observation is to become more aware of when and how your own interpretations influence what you see, what you remember, what you report, and what you think it means.
In cross-cultural interactions, your customary evaluations and interpretations are more likely to be off-base, because you have less shared meaning and experience to draw on. For this reason, the following steps are useful to follow whenever a cross-cultural incident puzzles you.
STOP:Notice that you are encountering cultural differences, below-the-waterline-assumptions.
DESCRIBE:What did you see and hear? Be as literal as possible--(She left, closing the door loudly. Rather than "she got mad and banged the door as she stomped out.)
YOUR INTERPRETATION:Spell out what your cultural intepretations and emotional reactions to the situation are.
THEIR POSSIBLE INTEPRETATIONS:Imagine what possible interpretations the others involved in the situation might have. If you can, ask someone more familiar with that cultural group what these interpretations might be. Or check it out with the people directly. While one never knows for sure what is going on in another person's mind, with experience and study you can make more informed guesses.
EVALUATION:Only now are you ready to analyze (if you are doing research) or evaluate and act (if this situation happens in the "real world").
Cross-Cultural Observation Exercise
Goals of this Exercise