Manners Maketh Man

Hey there! Today we’re going to look at how culture plays a role in the way we verbally communicate. According to DeVito, the possibilities of being able to communicate effectively without being aware of how culture influences human communication is little to none (30).

communication-is-the-essential-medium-of-a-creative-culture-the-communal-sea-in-which-we-all-swim-a-quote-1Let’s take a look at this picture to the left for a minute. What do you understand by it? I understand it to mean that culture and communication go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other. Each culture has its own rules of communicating, sometimes these rules are spoken or unspoken. People within a given culture know what is acceptable and what’s not. This brings me to cultural differences. Every aspect of global communication is impacted by our cultural differences.

Cultures are identified according to this neat diagram below. If you look at this diagram and think about your culture, you’ll be able to say what type of culture your country has. I did this little exercise as well and after looking at each bubble I was able to locate my culture. The Caribbean is a collectivist culture (village oriented lifestyle).

A Diagram of Cultural Differences

A few common traits of collectivist cultures include:

  • Social rules focus on promoting selflessness and putting the community needs ahead of individual needs
  • Working as a group and supporting others is essential
  • People are encouraged to do what’s best for society
  • Families and communities have a central role

I definitely see these traits coming out in my culture as a Caribbean girl. However, I won’t be focusing on our Caribbean culture as a whole, today I’ll just focus on one island for now. Can you guess which one? If you guessed Barbados then you’re absolutely right! So my job today is to show you how Barbados as a collectivist society view politeness.

Principle of Politeness

Cultures differ in how much they define politeness and in how much they emphasize politeness in comparison to openness and honesty. Politeness involves taking account of the feelings of others. Being linguistically polite involves speaking to people appropriately based on the existing relationship so that inappropriate linguistic choices may be considered rude. Along with an understanding of the language, being polite involves knowledge of the social and cultural values in the community. Sociolinguistic norms reflect cultural values and there are sociolinguistic rules for polite acceptance and refusal which differ cross- culturally. Brown & Levinson propose that politeness is probably universal across all cultures, however, cultures differ in their rules for expressing politeness or impoliteness.

There are two types of politeness:

  • Positive politeness – is solidarity oriented and emphasizes shared attitudes and values.
  • Negative politeness – involves expressing oneself appropriately in terms of social distance and showing respect for status differences.


z_p25-Politeness-01-300x188So with all that being said, Barbados is a society that holds respect in high regard. From a very early age I learned to respect my elders. “Manners maketh man” is an old proverb that basically means politeness is an important aspect in human life. Here in the Caribbean I often here tourists say how polite our people we are.

In my culture, when I walk into a room or pass people on the road I was taught to always acknowledge them by saying hello or good evening… even if they don’t say it back. This act of politeness became so ingrained in me that I don’t even get offended when people don’t respond when I acknowledge them. The quote to the left is true, one must give respect to get it, however, people in the Caribbean may have a different view. For example, some people feel like you must respect them and it doesn’t matter if they give you that same courtesy in return. All in all, manners is one of the keys to having a peaceful society.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed! Join me next time on my post about non-verbal communication.

Text – Human Communication: The Basic Course by Joseph DeVito, 12th Edition.

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1 thought on “Manners Maketh Man

  1. Manners Maketh Man indeed. My grandmother says that a lot. However the difference between you and me, is that I get offended when people don’t say it back. I take my time to greet you and you ain’t answer? lol. I understand if they are busy or have in headphones. I’m also aware of it, if I’m overseas because the culture there is different

    Liked by 1 person

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