Body-language and nonverbal communication

Knowing is knowing not to know

Knowing is knowing not to know

When I went to India for the first time 1976 I wanted to explore the country, to get accustomed to the people and the culture. As people in India speak English it was quite easy for me to communicate. By doing this my interest grew to learn more about what happens in society, in politics and in rural life.

By talking I of course also tried to let the other know what my knowledge of …………..India was like. Soon I had to face a slight smile on the face of the others when talking about my knowledge, or to bring it to the point, my fantasy on Indian life and politics. By that I was confronted with a very important lesson to be learned. Here for example:

  1. I wanted to talk about the political system, about the poor people and the big obvious discrepancy between the rich and the poor. When talking about this I remember one Indian teacher who with a smile told me: Well, what about your political system, he asked, and the representation of the different sexes. And with the biggest smile he said: “Well, in our parliament, there are about 35-40 % women who are chosen by the people. How about in your country?” I was silent in that moment because the percentage of female politicians in our parliament was much smaller in those days.
  2. When talking about the discrepancy between rich and poor another Indian officer agreed to my basic political idea, but did not agree to the consequences out of this political position. He said: “Well, you’re right. But you must know, we have another problem here. We have the problem not to have enough water for our mango trees”. I became silent right away in that moment, because I had realized that I did not anything about what life is.

Experiencing this kind of communication I soon felt a deep shame. I had experienced myself coming to India as someone, who pretends to have enough or sufficiant knowledge about the country and society and life there.

But I had to experience that I knew things right but did not know anything about what really was going on there. Did not know anything about life there.

To be there, to live there, to meet the people and to give up my supposed knowledge was one of the first lessons I learnt. One of the first lessons learnt in order to join intercultural communication. To be part of it.


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