Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

An introduction to intercultural competence in the workplace
An introduction to intercultural competence in the workplace

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4 Properties of communication

‘Culture is communication and communication is culture’

(Hall, 1959)

The study of intercultural communication is not about theorising about how culture affects an individual’s or a group’s mindset – rather, it involves the critical evaluation of how people’s behaviour is affected by dominant norms and values in their environment. The way you behave communicates meaning to others, whether you intend it to or not, and the following activities are meant to draw your attention to the processes and the many different styles of human communication.

Activity 5

Timing: 20 minutes

In this activity, you can see nine different attempts by scholars to define communication. None of these definitions are complete: they all address a different aspect of human communication. Below you can also find nine different properties of communication, and nine different quotes by scholars. You can find all of them in Jane Jackson’s Introducing language and intercultural communication (2014, p. 74–75). Read through all of the definitions and drag and drop the appropriate name for communication properties next to the definitions.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Process

  2. Dynamic

  3. Interactive/transactive

  4. Symbolic

  5. Intentional and unintentional

  6. Situated and contextual

  7. Pervasive

  8. Power-infused

  9. Cultural

  • a.Communication is ‘the process by which individuals try to exchange ideas, feelings, symbols, meanings to create commonality’ (Schmidt et al., 2007).

  • b.‘If two humans come together it is virtually inevitable that they will communicate something to each other . . . even if they do not speak, messages will pass between them. By their looks, expressions and body movement each will tell the other something, even if it is only, “I don’t wish to know you: keep your distance”; “I assure you the feeling is mutual. I’ll keep clear if you do”’ (Argyle and Trower, 1979).

  • c.‘Communication is the process by which we understand others and in turn endeavour to be understood by them. It is constantly changing and shifting in response to the total situation’ (Anderson, 1959).

  • d.‘Communication is dependent on the context in which it occurs’ (Neuliep, 2012).

  • e.The words we speak or the gestures we make have no inherent meaning. Rather, they gain their significance from an agreed-upon meaning. When we use symbols to communicate, we assume that the other person shares our symbol system . . . these symbolic meanings are conveyed both verbally and nonverbally’ (Martin and Nakayama, 2010).

  • f.Communication is ‘a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed’ (Carey, 1989).

  • g.‘Every cultural practice is a communicative event’ (Kress, 1988).

  • h.‘Unintentional messages are not purposeful but may be transmitted by action as well as by words’ (Tubbs, 2009).

  • i.‘Communication is the mechanism by which power is exerted’ (Schacter, 1951).

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = f
  • 2 = c
  • 3 = a
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = h
  • 6 = d
  • 7 = b
  • 8 = i
  • 9 = g