The Challenge of Communication and Collaboration

Cynthia Mojab
Posted December 19, 2007 from United States

Communication and collaboration are much harder to do than they are to talk about. Communication is impacted by our cultural heritage as well as by our personal experiences up until that point in time. One person involved in a communication may not trust another because of a personal or historical experience of oppression. Race and gender often need to be placed out on the table for discussion before efforts to collaborate can yield a beneficial outcome. And, yet, talking openly about race and gender may be taboo--and very uncomfortable. Also, the diversity inherent in approaches to knowledge and knowing can impact communication and collaboration--especially across cultural, socioeconomic, and gender lines. All the talking in the world may do little to move a connection forward if one party's "way of knowing" is silence. Full collaboration is not possible when one person's "way of knowing" is to receive knowledge from others--or another person's overprivilege has included being taught to speak but not to hear. The work of collaboration must non-paternalistically accommodate the needs of women who have not yet found their voices. This is far, far easier said than done. Those of us who have been trained to define culturally acceptable human activity as "doing", may find it difficult to sit back and "be" with another as we strive to build bridges.

See "Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice and Mind" by Mary Field Belenky, Blythe McVicker Clinchy, Nancy Rule Goldberger, and Jill Mattuck Tarule for more on "ways of knowing". (A summary is at:

See "Culture and Social Behavior" by Harry Triandis for a very readable introduction to how cultural issues impact our social relationships. Harry Triandis has devoted his lifetime to studying culture. He's an incredible and prolific author on the topic.

Cynthia Good Mojab Director, LifeCircle Counseling and Consulting, LLC

Comments 0

Log in or register to post comments