How Comfy are we to Communicate?

Besides the finding that Filipinos are generally comfortable in communicating, a study confirms that in Filipino culture, communication is collectivistic, family-oriented, highly contextual, and hierarchical.

The Communication Research Department of the UP College of Mass Communication presented the sixth research in their extension of research projects last October 11, 2006 at the CMC Auditorium, Plaridel Hall.

Entitled “sa’nkamaskomportable?: A study on how comfortably Filipinos communicate”, the research deals with the level of comfortableness of Filipinos in communicating with respect to different factors: the types of people involved in the discussion, the topics discussed and the modes of communication used. A random sample of 1,103 people from Mega Manila served as the respondents of the survey and some purposefully selected people based on age and socio-economic status served as focus group discussion informants.

Filipinos are generally comfortable in communicating with different types of people in different situations through different modes of communication. However, the results of the study confirmed the assertion on Filipino culture and communication being collectivistic, family-oriented, highly contextual, and hierarchical.

It has been established in the study that the respondents are generally more comfortable with people of the same status as they are; in age, educational attainment and socio-economic status. With foreigners, respondents felt discomfort when dealing with them maybe due to the differences in physical and cultural traits. Language used, for one, affects the comfortableness of the respondents since results show that they are most comfortable when speaking in Filipino.

In the urban setting, it has been found out that people experience greater comfortableness communicating with their co-workers or classmates than with their neighbors because of their daily interaction in the workplace.

With respect to gender, findings show that the respondents in general are more comfortable conversing with men and women than with gays and lesbians. The men are also more comfortable than women in communicating in the public arena while women are more comfortable than men in communicating in the private domain.

Another trait apparent to the respondents that constitutes to collectivism is the discomfort in raising complaints, whether they are justifiable or not. The act of complaining creates a disturbance in the normal course of interaction thus disrupting the harmony within the group.

“Intimate relations foster comfortable communications”. The respondents are found to be most comfortable communicating with the members of their nuclear family but this comfortableness decreases as one moves away from the nuclear family. However, the level of comfortableness within the family still varies depending on the topics being discussed.

It is interesting to note that the parent-respondents’ list of the most and least comfortable topics to discuss matches that of the children-respondents’. Topics on sex/sexuality, drugs and politics are the top three topics that are least comfortable for the respondents to discuss. On the other hand, food, music and religion top their lists of most comfortable topics to discuss. This similarity shows that the topics the respondents consider as difficult to discuss with their parents are also the ones they find difficult to discuss with their own children. This creates a cycle that somehow disrupts the flow of communication within the family which, according to the study, must be resolved.

High Context
The respondents are most comfortable in face-to-face conversations perhaps due to the importance of non-verbal cues in the highly contextual nature of Philippine society. According to one of them, face-to-face conversations are more desirable because they are able to see the facial expression and see the sincerity of the person they are talking to unlike in mediated communication like telephone calls and text messaging. Findings also show that younger respondents are more proficient in using mediated communication compared to older respondents.

Philippine society has been known for its hierarchical nature, and this trait is reflected as well in this study. The respondents are more comfortable interacting with people of the same status as they are. Moreover, they experience discomfort communicating with people who have different status from them and this discomfort is greater when communicating with people who have higher status. Filipinos’ high regard for authority entailed with intimidation apparently results in some discomfort in communicating. However, according to the study, it can be inferred that the authority which Filipinos achieve as they get older results in greater comfortableness in their interactions with other people.

By MMRParreño

Published: 19 Jan 2007

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Research Folio, The Electronic Newsletter of UP-OVCRD