Contact in Context: The Highs and Lows of Intercultural Communication

Reflections on the Stand Against Racism (April 2018)

As poetry month comes to an end, I find it rather poetic that like many other calendar memorials, I choose to color outside of the lines presented. In forming allies within and without the community where I serve, I am challenged to be precise in my use of language…knowing the difference between contact and context. Tangentially related, treated as synonymous (on occasion) but so, vastly, different.

High contact reflects close proximity, the thought makes me claustrophobic. There is no need for words (context–verbal cuing) when somehow the chemistry of closeness helps you discern exactly what is meant by your nearest neighbor, friend or relative. I reflect on row homes and projects where the fragrance of sin and satisfaction permeate corridors and building frames…for years. I know what you did, last night, last month, last year. I know your habits because, well, I can hear it, smell it and even taste it in the air.

High context reflects the need to absolutely use the standards and conventions of language to convey an idea. The manipulative way that you say “I am so confused” or “I don’t understand” govern the discourse…always. If it is not stated explicitly, it might as well not be said.


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