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New book explores how people build good relationships across cultural boundaries

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  • Increased global co-operation makes it vital to understand the processes of managing intercultural relations.
  • First book on intercultural politeness takes a theoretical and practical approach to exploring how people build and maintain good relationships across boundaries
  • Real-life examples illustrate how people evaluate and make judgements of others, and what strategies are deployed for managing relations, especially after an offence or disagreement.
  • In communicating we draw on our own personal expectations and behavioural patterns which, if they differ significantly from those of others, can lead to misunderstandings or disappointments.

In a new book launched this week, Professor Helen Spencer-Oatey of the University of Warwick Department of Applied Linguistics and her co-author Professor Dániel Z. Kádár of the Hungarian Research Institute for Linguistics (NYTI) explore how people relate across cultural boundaries, a topic which is increasingly important in our interconnected world.

Should you apologise for a mistake that wasn’t your fault? Is it correct to clear your plate when a dinner guest, or should you leave a small amount to show you were served enough? Can research colleagues disagree without falling out?

Drawing on a wealth of real-life examples, from accidental offence at business introductions to altercations between strangers on a train Intercultural Politeness: Managing Relations across Cultures combines politeness theory, intercultural communication, and cross-cultural psychology to set out a new framework for analysing and understanding intercultural encounters.

Commenting on the importance of good intercultural communication, Professor Spencer-Oatey said: “The current pandemic has demonstrated our interconnections with people around the world, and the vaccine developments have illustrated the huge benefits that come from international collaboration.

“At the same time, we have seen nations, regions and individuals drawing boundaries between ‘them and us’, which ultimately will be detrimental to us all.

“There is a great need, therefore, to understand the processes of managing relations across all types of cultural boundaries.

“In this book, we have focused on explaining and illustrating two main things: how we evaluate and make judgements of others, and strategies for managing relations, especially after an offence or disagreement. We argue that in both these aspects we tend to draw on our own personal expectations and behavioural patterns which, if they differ significantly from those of others, can lead to relational issues.”

The book introduces the issues from both a theoretical and practical perspective. The authors hope it will it be of interest not only to academics but to anyone working in or with international or multicultural teams.

Professor Kádár said: “In writing the book, we’ve drawn on our own experiences of living and working in many different contexts, as well as our multi-disciplinary backgrounds. We very much hope that our book will help others taste for themselves the richness of working with people from all backgrounds.”

NOTES

Intercultural Politeness: Managing Relations across Cultures by Helen Spencer-Oatey, University of Warwick, and Dániel Z. Kádár, Dalian University of Foreign Languages and Hungarian Research Institute for Linguistics (NYTI) is published by Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781316810071 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316810071

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Professor Helen Spencer-Oatey is Emeritus Professor of Applied Linguistics/Intercultural Communication at the University of Warwick, UK. Her research interests include language and intercultural relations, politeness theory and rapport management; intercultural competence and the internationalisation of higher education. She is inspired by unexpected intercultural interactions that challenge her assumptions and expectations; the richness and stimulation of different perspectives and interpretations; the pleasure of working in multicultural teams; and her Christian faith and the desire to promote the vision of healed divisions. She grew up in Cornwall, lived and taught in Shanghai for seven years; and says she is continuously challenged to put ‘theory into practice’ when working collaboratively across borders of various kinds.

Professor Dániel Kádár is Chair Professor at the Centre for Pragmatics Research, Dalian University of Foreign Languages, China and Research Professor at the Hungarian Research Institute for Linguistics, Eötvös Loránd Research Network. His research interests include politeness theory; intercultural and cross-cultural pragmatics; interactional ritual; and East Asian languages, with special focus on Chinese. He is inspired by understanding how cultural difference can be utilised as an asset rather than an obstacle in intercultural encounters; using politeness theory to resolve real-life problems; and interdisciplinary collaboration. He grew up in Hungary, started to learn Chinese at the age of 14 and lived in China first as a foreign exchange student in the age of 19. He previously worked as a Professor in the UK and currently ‘commutes’ between China and Hungary.

CONTACT


Sheila Kiggins

Media Relations Manager

University of Warwick

S.Kiggins@warwick.ac.uk

07876 218166