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Communication Problems Among Others

People don't get along. Sometimes, their "communication styles" simply don't correspond well enough. Different personalities attempt to communicate in such varying ways that conflicts seem inevitable. Sometimes, these are cultural differences and I'm not sure how to help an adult realize he or she seems "aggressive" or "passive" because of a cultural difference.

This isn't an "autism" thing, either. I'm from California and was raised in a culture that doesn't seem as "aggressive" to me as the urban cultures I'm experiencing on the East Coast. My wife and I notice that some stereotypes seem to be grounded in reality. We were in a New York shopping mall and the people really do talk loudly, in short choppy sentences. They insult each other, even among friends and family. It is a different form of communication.

There are times when I completely miss communication problems. As a teacher, this can be frustrating, because university students inevitably have a few conflicts — in the classroom and beyond. I try to "read" the students to the best of my abilities, trying to recognize when there might be an issue that I need to address with a student (or students) before it affects classwork. The same situations arise in workplaces and any other social groups, from church congregations to city-league sports teams. Communication failures are part of life.

At universities, we have students not only from across the nation, but from around the world. The communication norms are so complex that it would be nearly impossible to master the subtleties. The best I can do is ask students to be polite and hope they learn to interpret each other. Learning to interact across various communication norms certainly improves your ability to analyze audiences and situations.

This semester, I've seen how complex cultural and even generational differences are for students. Watching the students helps me appreciate that everyone has to navigate interpersonal communication carefully and with an open mind.


  1. Thank you for writing this. It reminds me of my opinion that it is (certainly) not always the autistic person that communicates 'wrong'. People with autism often have learned how to communicate in a gentle and clear manner, whereas other modern people tend to communicate quick and hasty with the assumption that anyone understands.


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