The Dialogue

The Dialogue:  You should attempt to interact and learn information about the individual’s personal characteristics, cultural heritage, religious practices, group affiliations, and general values.  I have given you some examples of questions in the ‘Important read…’ in the previous link, but please prepare at least 12-15 open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with yes or no) in order to understand more about your interviewee’s culture, upbringing, and experience.  Make sure you are able to answer these Qs before asking your dialogue partner.  A word of caution:  Please remain insightful and aware as you are interacting, observing your words and perceptions, recognizing any immediate stereotypes or misperceptions that you may have and cognitively working towards correcting them.  It is expected that you will be respectful, insightful, thoughtful, and reflective in your interactions with your interviewee and in your written paper.  In other words, try to set aside your biases / distractions / to do list and be interested and present with your person.


SPECIAL NOTE:  DO NOT VIDEOTAPE these interactions! Be aware that notetaking can be very distracting as well.  The purpose here is to TRY and have as comfortable as possible of an interpersonal exchange while discussing potentially difficult topics.  This is an experiential exercise where you are practicing your interpersonal skills and knowledge learned from class.   The questions below are to help with the flow of conversation and interaction.  The written and graded portion of the assignment (see instructions below) is more about the EXPERIENCE of the interactions and not about the specific information learned from your partner. Try to relax and enjoy the conversation!


I recommend scheduling the interaction as soon as possible and finding a QUIET place – coffee shops are often busy and students have reported a hard time with dialogues there.


Possible start to conversation (you can use as is or alter to fit your needs).

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me about my Psychology class assignment.  I would like for this to be more of a conversation rather than an interview, even though I will be asking you questions.  Please feel free to skip any questions you prefer not to answer.  I am practicing using many of the human relation skills we are learning in class, and some of them are not natural for me yet.  For example, I will attempt to use a tool called paraphrasing to make sure I understand what you have said.  I will try to rephrase your words and actions and ask if I understood correctly.”


Potential Questions:

These may be helpful to your interaction, but specific Qs are not required.  General Qs about the person and the person’s experiences with culture, privilege and traditions ARE expected.  Make sure you answer any of these questions for yourself BEFORE asking your dialogue partner so you can help clarify what you are asking.  You can even share your own answers in the exchange.

  1. Tell me a bit about yourself, like how would you describe yourself in an autobiography?  Where you were born? Where you grew up?  What your childhood was like?   Who did you live with growing up?  Who did you interact with the most?
  2. How often do you interact with your family now?
  3. What do you do for work?  For leisure?  Is this similar or different than your parents or extended family?
  4. What does a typical day look like for you?
  5. What holidays do you celebrate?  What does a holiday look like for you?  Family? Friends? Food? Travel?
  6. What religious practice (if any) do you participate in?  Praying? Worship? Spirituality? Meetings or gatherings with others who have similar beliefs?
  7. What would you say are your top 5 values?  What do you deem most important in  your life?  How did you develop these values?
  8. We are studying culture(Links to an external site.)(link has good definition). What do you consider as your dominant culture? (i.e Samoan, Japanese, American, Spanish, Irish…)   What subcultures do you belong (these may include groups with similar hobbies / beliefs / interests)?  (i.e. Northwesterner, Musician, Goth, Engineer… )
  9. Do you have any customs you think are at least somewhat unique to any of the groups you belong to?  What are they?
  10. Describe how the following may look in your family of origin or to the culture / subcultures you identify with:  Love? Dating? Marriage?
  11. Difficult Qs if you are willing to share:  A time when you experienced prejudice?  Were discriminated against?  Experienced privilege?
  12. What else can you think of that has had an impact on who you are as a person and how you see your life?


If you or your partner need more definitions:

Culture vs. Society:  Culture is what makes up a society’s expression, both through material things and beliefs. Examples of culture as a whole should be familiar to you. They can include things like language, ideological values, and gender roles, social conventions, religion, or artistic expression through things like paintings, books, or films. Society refers to people who interact in a defined territory and share a culture. Within every society there may be many different cultures as well as many different subcultures. Let’s examine some of the theories and definitions surrounding subcultures.


Subcultures:  While small societies tend to be culturally uniform, large industrial societies are culturally diverse and involve numerous subcultures. Subcultures are values and norms distinct from those of the majority and are held by a group within a wider society. In the United States, subcultures might include hippies, Goths, fans of hip hop or heavy metal and even bikers – the examples are endless. One area of particular interest has to do with deviant subcultures.”   ( (Links to an external site.))


Active Listening and the Cultivation of Empathy (seeking to understand)

  1. Being present– Intentionality (I choose to be here); breathing (centered in the present moment).
    Listening Tip: Empty your mind of thoughts, ideas, plans, and concerns so that you are open to the other person.
  2. Receiving– Opening heart and mind to hear/receive the “whole” message.
    Listening Tip: Concentrate on the person with whom you are interacting. Say to yourself, “I want to focus on this person and what he or she is feeling and thinking.”
  3. Clarifying– Asking strategic questions to open up greater understanding.
    Listening Tip: If you find yourself framing responses to the other person, try to push those aside; they interfere with your concentration on what the other person is saying. If your mind wanders, don’t criticize yourself; that’s distracting. Instead, gently refocus on the person you are with and what that person is communicating to you. It’s natural for other thoughts to intrude, so just push them away and stay focused on the other person.
  4. Summarizing/Paraphrasing– Restating to seek clarification of understanding.
    Listening Tip: Let the other person know you are attending mindfully by giving nonverbal responses (nods, facial expressions); ask questions to encourage elaboration; keep eye contact (as appropriate).
  5. Observing Nonverbals
    Listening Tip: Listen for feelings; be aware of the “hidden” content in the message; listen to the sounds of the words (tone, rate, volume). Watch for hot/cold nonverbals.
  6. Resonating– moving beyond me to you; moving beyond you/me to we.
    Listening Tip: In this part of communicating/listening experience, you find yourself in a heightened state of respect, understanding, even excitement as you seek to fully understand another person through the act of listening.
  7. Checking– Did I fully understand what you shared with me? If not, ask for clarification.
  8. Personal Reflecting– What did I do well and what could I have done differently to be a more effective listener? Evaluate how mindfully you listened. Did you understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings? Did you feel more focused on that person than you usually do when listening to others?


*Try to relax and enjoy the conversation



WRITTEN ESSAY INSTRUCTIONS:  Write the paper using the sections below (A, B, & C).  Format: typed, double spaced, 12 point font, minimum 3-4 pages that includes headings for each of the sections. 


  1. Overview: Write an introduction to this essay by explaining the basics of the process.  Sort of like the who/what/when/why/where.  Who did you interview?  What – about your backgrounds (here, you can say a short sentence of what you thought were your differences going in)?  When did the interview take place – add in the Where here as well?  Why (because my professor is making me do this)? How about why did you pick this person?  How easy / difficult was it to ask the questions and have a conversation about culture?  Especially how was it since you are working to use and improve skills such as active listening? Empathy building?  What were the stumbling blocks in this communication experience?  Was it comfortable / awkward / somewhere in between?  How do you think your interviewee felt?


Summary:  Add in a short summary of the specifics of the interview from what you can remember, not from any notes – remember you didn’t take notes  Just a few facts that stand out.  You can talk about what you learned about the person.  This short section is usually helpful in getting the basic information down on paper so you can move into the analysis section, then the reflection section, which tend to be much more challenging.


B: Analysis (Links to an external site.) about Culture and Listening:  Incorporate at least three references from your articles / assignments / readings from in class or outside of class.

What did you learn from this experience?  How was it to use active listening skills?  What did you do when you realized you were drifting mentally in the conversation?  How did you come back to the conversation?  How was it to show empathy?  Did you have a hard time?  Why/not?  How did you handle the awkward moments (what strategies did you use)?  How did your interviewee handle them?

How does someone’s culture, political, and social background influence their communication style and interactions?  How are individuals impacted by the concept of privilege? How did your cultural background and experience influence your communication, experience, perception, and understanding of your interviewee?  Besides learning about another person’s culture and background, what did you learn about the challenges of being an effective listener? You should cite specific areas where you think you did a good job applying listening skills, where you did not do such a good job, and what you would do differently next time.


This website describing analysis vs summary (Links to an external site.) may be useful in helping you understand the differences between part A and part B.


  1. Reflection: After reviewing the information covered so far (I highly recommend writing parts A & B, then going back later and writing part C), what have you learned from the experience and assignment about yourself?  What do you think will be the components that you take away from this experience (how you felt / what you specifically learned from your interviewee / how hard or easy it was to have the conversation / how hard or easy it was to listen and understand a foreign accent)?  What things will stay with you as an important aspect of communication across cultures / subcultures?  What most surprised you as you communicated with your partner? Did this experience give you a better understanding of the person’s culture and challenges in college?  Why/ not?  How might this interview experience influence your own learning in the future?