I find these two key words “Engagement and Dialogue” in chapter two of the Culture Centered Approach to Health (Dutta, 2008) particularly striking, because the words reminded me about a conversation I had with five of my colleagues in my Cross-cultural communication class over listening to the “other” person. In our conversation about the co construction of cultures, we agreed that through listening to the “other” we could get a better understanding of their values that inform their actions and inactions. From our conversation, it became glaring that listening to the “other” is profound because it enhances communication considerably.
To arrive at this position, we looked at several contexts. For this brief illustration,I use the example of offering food to a visitor, and how our cultural norms shape our reaction in such an encounter. In some cultures, it is a norm to offer food to a visitor. In such cultures, it is offensive for a visitor not to eat your food before talking to the host. While in some other cultures, it is wrong to eat in public, or in a stranger’s house. This scenario has played out multiple times in my interaction with some friends. Often times,I have been easily labeled as “pushy” because of over stepping the limits of politeness in offering food. The question is,at what point do we make evaluative judgment of what is considered good or bad? Or rather than judging an individual as timid in their actions, could it be reasonable to hear their reasons for turning down our offer. Listening to the other in our everyday dialogue for effective communication is akin to the two key words “Engagement & Dialogue” which the Culture Centred Approach to Health communication advocates in chapter two as alternative to dominant top down approach to health interventions.