I know that it isn’t always easy to leave our personal beliefs and considerations out of the specific cultural context we are engaging with/in.

I like to think that a dialogical approach to understanding cultures is preferable to one based on essentialist views. Even within the western paradigm one can develop a mindful approach, which Ellen Langer says it would include at least the following:

Ability to create new categories;

Openness to new information;

Awareness of more than one perspective;

Attention to process (doing) rather than outcome (results); and

Trust of intuition.


I believe that these qualities can support one’s cross-cultural engagement with others.

Recently I wrote something on this topic that I would like to share. I apologize if some of the following paragraphs sound too academic, but I believe they illustrate well the concept of Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a process by which people draw novel distinctions and categories when dealing with IC situations. This can lead to an enhanced awareness of multiple perspectives in problem solving (Langer, 2000). Gudykunst (1993) suggests that “it is only when we are mindful of the process of our communication that we can determine how our interpretations and messages differ from others’ interpretations of those messages” (p. 43).

Citing Langer, Onwumechili et al. (2003) remind us that, among people operating in IC situations,

Those who create new categories resist being stuck with rigid categories, mindsets and ways of seeing the world . . . Mindful communication is juxtaposed to mindless communication in which case one does not lend attention to or allow others’ perspectives and worldviews to permeate his or her way of being (p.51).

I believe that these ideas resonate with Yoshikawa’s (1987) state of dynamic in-betweennes and posit the emergence of a form of identity that may lead to personal transformation and the emergence of a third-culture as envisioned by Casmir (1999).

The bringing into awareness of IC differences through the practice of mindful communication is central to the experience of people operating at the interface between processes of identity negotiation and IC adaptation. This finds support in Ting-Toomey’s recognition of the relational nature of mindful communication in people with multiple reacculturation experiences (cited in Onwumechili et al., 2003, p.52).

Casmir, F. L. (1999). Foundations for the study of intercultural communication based on a third-culture building model. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 23(1), 91-116.

Langer, E. J., & Moldoveanu, M. (2000). The Construct of Mindfulness. Journal of Social Issues. 56 (1), 1-9.

Onwumechili, C., Nwosu, P. O., Jackson, R. L., & James-Hughes, J. (2003). In the deep valley with mountains to climb: exploring identity and multiple reacculturation. International Journal of Intercultural Relations: IJIR. 27 (1), 41. Abstract available at: http://tinyurl.com/28dk4tr

Yoshikawa, M.J., (1987). The double swing model of intercultural communicationbetween the East and the West. In Kincaid, D.L. (Ed), Communication theory: Eastern and Western perspective. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.


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