If you’re British and enjoy throwing parties, the US is a great place to be. The first time I threw a party here I was struck by a couple of things:
- How engaged and excited my guests seemed from the very get go
- How loud and noisy the conversation seemed
It’s not that I haven’t been to some pretty lively parties in the UK, but I’ve grown to expect a slower warm up and for things to get a bit wilder as more alcohol is consumed and everyone starts feeling more relaxed.
I think this difference might be closely related to conversational styles. The sociolinguist Deborah Tannen coined the terms ‘high considerateness’ and ‘high-involvement’ to describe the way we see slower speech and longer pauses in conversation in some cultures (Finland, Japan, Korea, Swiss-Germany, etc) and faster switches in turns, and more frequent overlaps others (Russia, Greece, many South American and African countries, etc). So we build rapport differently – in some cultures by making sure we’re considerate and don’t impose, and in others by constantly throwing in our two penny-worth to show how involved and engaged we are.
I wonder if it might be easier to switch from high-considerateness to high-involvement (or vice versa). And how can we explore this in our English classes?
Many thanks to Holly Suel for prompting these questions.