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15Sept2012 S3: Being Asian America and voice

ishin's picture

Reading the Kim and Markus article is a lot for me to process.  It affirms and gives insight into a lot of frustrations and opinions I have about myself.  Perhaps the best way to go about this is to speak in small anecdotes and details about myself:

-I often don't think in words.  More in images, colors, movements, movie scenes.  I often have a hard time writing papers because it involves putting words to thoughts.  The writing process is typically a page or less a day.

-I would never deny my Socratic education.  I speak in class.  A lot.  Sometimes, it's because I don't know how to translate thought to words.

-I really dislike how often I use the noun "I".  I worry about being selfishly individualistic.  Growing up, my father and mother would make soft remarks about how I shouldn't try to stand out so much.  "It's better to be just as high as the other trees in the forest." It took me the past couple of years to really understand why this concerned them so much.

-The main purpose I have in class dialogues is to try and get a sense of what everyone is trying to say and articulate it in a way that everyone can gain from it.

-Can't listen to conversations or music for the life of me when I'm trying to write or read.



Michaela's picture

This post really intrigued

This post really intrigued me--I think that the use of "I" statements is a complicated but necessary function of speech and expressing ourselves, inside the classroom and out. 

In conflict management, as I was taught at Customs training just a few weeks ago (and in several other forums), people are encouraged to use "I" statements to focus in on their own feelings, and not place unnecessary burden or blame on others. "I feel left out when you go to lunch without me", "I wish we could talk more about dividing our workload evenly", "I feel upset/angry/unheard/happy/sad/whatever when (fill in the blank)". I've always thought of these as useful in staying centered on what your own concerns are, but they're also kind of passive aggressive, and, as you mention, individualistic. In some respects, we have to be passive aggressive in conflict resolution, since being too passive (not speaking up at all) or too aggressive (using only "you" statements, blamingly) is problematic, and probably won't really get you anywhere. So we turn to "I" statements.

But does this privilege those more in tune with their own emotions, or those more comfortable with public speaking, or, I might suggest, in other words, the more individualistic among us? I think so (and no, the number of "I" statements in this short response does not escape me). Is there an alternative, though? What would a better way of getting past personal insults and injuries be, without focusing the problem so much around ourselves that we almost eliminate other points of view? When do we move from an "I" to a "we", so that everyone can gain from the experience, as ishin first suggested?

sdane's picture

Taking the best of both worlds

I find it really interesting, but also somewhat disappointing, that Kim and Markus presented Western and East Asian notions and understandings of communication as being inherently dichotomous.  In my opinion, both ways of thinking and interacting with other people can be harmonized in a way that allows for “high-context” and “low-context” cultures to exist simultaneously.  The fact that you worry about being “selfishly individualistic” (which I don’t think you are) yet at the same time appreciate and actively participate in class discussion exemplifies this.  It is possible to focus on the content of what you are saying while still being cognizant of your audience, your relationship to them, and your surroundings.  Instead of asking “whether or not to emphasize talking in the classroom,” Kim and Markus would have been much better served by instead asking how to better create a syncretism of different modes of dialogue.  I think that it’s possible, and perhaps necessary, for students to remain “just as high as the other trees in the forest,” while still voicing personal opinions and ideas.  Downplaying competition and focusing on discussion as a way to not just express ideas but contribute to the learning of people around you, might help enhance education experiences for everyone.