How Young People Communicate. A Cuban Perspective

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2014

17 Pages



1. Introduction
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Literature Review
1.3 Main Research Questions

2. Research Methodology
2.1 Method
2.2 Data Collection and Interpretation

3. Results
3.1 Literature Review
3.2 Face to Face Interviews

4. Discussion

5. Conclusions



This research investigates and provides a deeper insight into what is meant by effective communication, then relates this to how young people in Cuba communicate today and how changes in technology have already affected the communication style of youngsters in this country. The results suggest that face to face communications are diminishing at the expense of digital communications such as SMS and Social Media.This could have adverse affects in future on how well young and older people live and work together in local communities. It is suggested to take proactive steps now to educate young people in the correct use of emerging technology to ensure that they do not lose their ability to communicate effectively with people at all ages in future. Social Psychology has a responsibility to improve the lives of people at all ages. It could become the driving force to educate young people how to make good use of the new technology whilst at the same time trying not to lose existing abilities to communicate effectively with people face to face and with respect. The outcome of this research should also be of interest to other countries. The adverse impact of new technology on how young people communicate is now evident world-wide.

Keywords: Face to face communications, technology, social media, attitude, social responsibilities

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduction

The Faculty of Social Sciences at the Universidad de Oriente has been a centre of excellence for social sciences research for many years. The faculty and its work is well-known and respected throughout Cuba. The University wishes to raise its profile and recognition in the area of social sciences and has therefore decided to conduct more research in the form of a research programme to achieve wider local and international acclaims for its future work. It appears that there is a growing need for social sciences to support local communities in Santiago de Cuba on a much wider and more in depth scale.

The University has recognized this opportunity and now wishes to engage proactively in helping communities to benefit from the work of the faculty of social sciences. Theory is important but on its own is not as effective as theory and practice put together. It is the purpose of this research to establish how young people communicate in Cuba today and then discuss and apply ways of practically applying this new knowledge for the benefit of young people within the city limit of Santiago de Cuba. The outcome of this research will be of benefit and interest to academics and the community of practice in any country. This study will report on the outcomes of a literature review for social sciences to confirm whether the stated opportunity exists and how to develop the means to fill this opportunity. The researchers acknowledge that what works well in one country, does not necessarily work equally well in another country. In addition to the literature review, exploratory interviews were conducted to find out how young people think and feel about the topic of concern to the research. These interviews covered a good judgment sample that was truly representative of the target audience for this research. Good communications, for example, in local communities, are essential for the daily lives of people.

Young people play an important role in the development of these communities. With the arrival of new technological advances in areas such as mobile telephony and the Internet, it appears that the way young people communicate today is heavily influenced by this technology. In contrast, people in local communities, particularly older people, are dependent on effective face to face communications as. This is what they are accustomed to. The use of mobile phones and the Internet is more prevalent in younger people. The better people in communities talk to each other, the more effective they can develop as people and together take on the many new challenges daily life brings. This process is important for a number of reasons. It allows members of the community to interact with each other and to work together better so they can complete complex and arduous tasks more efficiently. Experiences can be shared amongst people and so knowledge is passed on from the more experienced to those who are still learning. It fulfils people’s spiritual needs such as being listened to, respected and inspired to try to do things they thought they could not do. In turn, this leads to an increase in people’s willingness and motivation to participate more in community work and projects for the benefit of everyone involved. The benefits of effective communications are not limited to just local community work. They can equally be applied in other contexts such as leisure, work or family.

It appears that personalities of people are positively influenced by how people communicate in that:

Communications are one road that lead to the formation of people’s personalities in social psychological terms

They provide consistent emotional intelligence to individuals as well as groups of people Good communications are a trademark of active and positive participation that make a contribution to the quality outputs of fellow people

Effective communications are educational

The researchers applied a constructivist interpretivist approach within a phenomenological research paradigm so they could make a valid and reliable contribution to knowledge that is of value to both academics and practitioners. Fig.1 is a diagrammatical illustration that shows the interrelations between all involved parties in this research. The researchers adopted the following definitions in the context of this research of what makes effective communications:

A communication between human beings is effective when meanings have been transmitted and received as intended (Maletzke,1976). The researchers’ own definitions of what makes a communication effective are as follows: Effective communication is a process when messages are exchanged between a sender and a receiver (coder and decoder). This includes the sharing of information, attitudes, ideas and emotions through mutual feedback. Effective communications take place when two parties are able to exchange views and ideas in such a way that each party understands the intended meaning and acts in accordance with it. This can include but is not limited to persuasive, direct or pleasant language. The feedback that takes place between the two parties makes a contribution towards ensuring that, for example, tasks are carried out correctly and that real life conflicts are resolved satisfactorily.

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Fig. 1 The Theoretical Research Framework

Secton 1.2 presents the outcomes of a literature review which is followed in Section 1.3 by the main research questions for this research. Section 2 covers the research methodology. Sections 3, 4 and 5, respectively, present the results and summarise the discussion and conclusions.

1.2 Literature Review

Rogers and Steinfatt (1999) argue that communication is a process. Those, who communicate, create and share information in such a way that all parties understand each other mutually. People communicate from the moment they are born. Communication is essential to build the social relationship skills of people and to develop their personality and socialisation. Every single exchange of information between those engaged is a form of communication. Each communication happens at a certain point in time. This process builds on previous exchanges of information and builds on future exchanges, thus creating a communication process over time (Fig. 2). Rogers and Steinfatt suggest that all communications are made up of intrapersonal and interpersonal communications. The first one deals with the exchange of information inside a person. This is the process of selecting and interpreting symbols to represent thoughts, perceptions or physical reality. The second one involves face to face communications of information between people. Interpersonal communication is about exchanging mutually understood symbols. It involves communicating both with oneself (intrapersonal) as well as others (interpersonal). The meanings of a message are within the person who created the message. Meanings are ‘interpreted through a process in which the message content is interfaced with an individual’s feelings, prior experiences, and cultural values’ (p. 128). Communication helps people to create meaning rather than just transmit meaning. Rogers and Steinfatt suggest that language is the fundamental tool of human communication. Language is used to think and to speak. Human perceptions are reflected in the way hunann beings communicate. The assignment of meaning in messages is related to the relationship between symbols and their referents. The use of language is paramount of how effective people communicate. The quality of the verbal communication appears to be stronger than, for example, the effectiveness of non-verbal communications as language allows for better understandings of exact meanings within given cultures. In contrast, non-verbal communication is important when people have limited abilities to communicate, for example, in another language. Non-verbal communication is defined as all types of communication that happen without any words being spoken. This form of communication is not simply about some simple hand gestures. There is much more to non-verbal communication such as body movements, space between people, touching, time, odours and even how people speak such as the intonation and loudness of their voice. Some examples are nodding, waving one’s hand, wearing formal dress and arriving at appointments early. One of the fundamental differences between verbal and non-verbal communication is that non-verbal communication cannot be as easily controlled as verbal communication.

For example, it is not easy to lie non-verbally. Body language and gesturing tell the truth what people really mean to say.

Hall (1966) refers to non-verbal communication as a hidden dimension or a silent language. Some critics consider that non-verbal communication is simply a code that can be broken and make people transparent. Reality is different. Rogers and Steinfatt suggest that non-verbal communication ‘is a field of multiple nuances which we have only begun to explore’ (p. 162). Non-verbal communications are important for a number of reasons. This type of communication is present everywhere and there is no way that people can avoid it, even when they decide not to communicate. It comes first before people communicate verbally. Their clothing and posture, for example, convey messages to others that may lead to decisions whether to start verbal communications or not. Non-verbal communications win over verbal communications as far as building trust is concerned. The reason for this is that people cannot easily exercise control over their non-verbal communications and it appears that this is perceived as more valid. Non-verbal communication can lead to miscommunications. This happens when people do not share the same meaning, for example, for non-verbal symbols. The language of non-verbal symbols differs from culture to culture in the same way that verbal language differs. It is for this reason that non-verbal communication is particularly important in cross-cultural communications. Learning the non-verbal communication code of people from different cultures is imperative in these situations.

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Fig. 2 Communication Environment Model (adapted from Rogers et al., 1998, p. 15)

Thomson (1996) reports, that the ability to communicate with each other is one of the greatest abilities of human beings. This is a continuous process and learning and practising how to communicate is essential for people’s daily lives. This includes the ability to convey ideas, thoughts, commercial and social messages clearly. As a result, people are more likely to be successful in any endeavour they undertake. Thomson’s primary concern and interest is in the area of what makes a communication effective. Thomson suggests a number of possibilities why people do not listen such as being distracted by other things or people or maintaining a poor eye contact with the speaker. To improve communications, people need to listen actively when the person they are talking to, is important to them.

People need to listen attentively when the possibility of misunderstanding the other person is highly possible. Thomson presents a number of steps people can take to improve their active listening skills such as avoiding judging and letting others finish what they are saying before replying.

Table 1 is a summary of considerations why people do not listen, when people do need to listen and some steps of active listening. Thomson suggests ‘that the art of conversation is to be interested, not interesting’ (page 14).

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Table 1 Active Listening (Source: Thomson, 1996)

Thomson suggests that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Eye movements are the clearest indicator of someone’s thought processes. Eye contact forms a very important part of communication and conversation. Looking people straight into the eyes can help people to assess the effects their words have on other people. People generally feel uncomfortable with another person who does not make eye contact. Thomson suggests that people who do not make eye contact, give the impression that they are not sure what they are talking about or they are perhaps not telling the truth. When that person is the listener, others may feel that this person is not genuinely interested in what others have to say. Thomson suggests that smiling and enthusiasm are an important part of communications. People are more likely to respond well to those who approach them with genuine smiles on their faces and enthusiasm in their voices. Understanding body language will help people to improve their communication skills. Behaviour is overt and can, therefore, be observed. It is the interpretation of the body language that is of paramount importance. For example, when someone leans forward towards another person, this generally means that this person is interested in what the other person has to say. Palms up usually suggest that the other person is being honest. Single gestures should not normally be taken in isolation.Table2 is a summary of some typical body gestures from everyday life.

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Table 2 Body Language Gestures (Source: Thomson, 1996)

Chiper (2013) suggests that intercultural communication has become more widely recognized as a life skill which allows people to function better in their daily activities. Intercultural training, for example, has gained prominence in recent years as many local communities or groups of people within countries are made up of people from more than one cultural background. Many educational institutions such as schools, colleges and universities are now applying Information and Communications Technology (ICT) resources, for example, for use in international training to improve the intercultural knowledge and communication skills of young people. Popescu et al. (2014) consider that it is essential in today’s working and social environments such as teams, communities and groups of people, to develop intercultural communications and close collaboration between individual beliefs, values and very different behaviours (Chevrier, 2003; Bakir et al, 2004; Cox and Blake, 1991; Goodall and Roberts, 2003). Popescu et al. report that intercultural communications and the ability to manage diversity, for example, for managers or leaders of groups of people, will probably be the key skills required for those who lead groups of people or local communities. According to a mainstream intercultural management, it would be fruitful to bring together people of all national origins: ‘Cultural diversity is a promising phenomenon of wealth whose exploration could bring incalculable benefit’ (Lewis, 1996).

1.3 Main Research Questions

The following research questions were constructed:

1. What is meant by effective communications?
2. What is the value intercultural communications can add to improve the lives of local communities?
3. Has the arrival of new technology such as mobile telephony and Internet affected how young people in Cuba communicate, within their own age group and with older people?
4. Has the communication style of young people been influenced by the use of this new technology?

2. Research Methodology

2.1 Method

To fulfil the considered research purposes of this study and to make a valid and reliable contribution to knowledge that is of value to both academics and practitioners, the researchers considered that a constructivist interpretivist approach within a phenomenological research paradigm was appropriate, applicable and defendable for this research study. The research paradigm the researchers adopted for this current research-phenomenology, with a constructivist interpretivist approach-has great importance for the research methodology employed.The phenomenological paradigm, together with a constructivist interpretivist approach is, in the context of the research methodology, more appropriate to identify what the application of social psychology in the communities actually means and does in a practical way and to check their validity and detail the strength of evidence that this is based on. This research is about the value of social psychology in local communities or social psychology applied to problems that are generated within areas of community.The researchers’ focus was on the impact humans make to the activities that are created by social psychology, within this socially constructed world. The researchers epistemological assumption was that reality is subjective and multiple as seen by participants in this study. The contributions from the face to face interviews underpin this position. The researchers hold the ontological view, in the context of this research, that the world is socially constructed, including social psychology and the people who operate within it, and that this world can only be understood by examining the perceptions of the human actors within it. Fig. 3 is a summary of the research design process.

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Fig. 3 Research Design and Process

The authors, who have over 50 years of theoretical and practical work experience between them, were acting as participatory observers to facilitate this research. 41 students of the Universidad de Oriente (UO), Faculty of Social Sciences (Department of Psychology) in Santiago de Cuba participated in this research. They were aged between 19 and 26 years. 21 were male and 20 were female students. Their average age was 23 years. Ten were second year students (24%), eleven were third year students (27%), nine were fourth year students (22%) and eleven were final year students (27%). The interviews were conducted at the UO in Santiago de Cuba during the period March to April 2014. All interviews were recorded verbatim to ensure that all responses were captured correctly, including meaning as intended. Interviews were semi-structured. The participants were asked for their insights to answer the main research questions from Section 1.3, using their own theoretical and practical experiences from the past and the present.

Table 3 is a summary of the questions that were asked during the face to face meetings. The first objective of the face to face interviews was to review the outcome of the literature review and confirm whether the research data from the literature review was relevant and admissible as evidence for this research.

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Table 3: Research Questionnaire

2.2 Data Collection and Interpretation

The authors applied two methods to collect relevant research data to answer the main research questions from Section 1.3: a review of the literature (Section 1.2) and face to face interviews (Section 3.2), within the context of a phenomenological research paradigm and an associated constructivist interpretivist research approach. The authors were thus able to get closer to the subject matter under investigation. They have added their own interpretations of what makes an effective foreign language teacher and associated teaching approaches and methods, in their role as participant observers. This research approach allowed for the collection of different perceptions of the phenomena under investigation. All research data was collected over a period of three months. The findings from each of the research methods such as literature review and face to face interviews was based on the strength of the evidence from the interpretation and analysis of this data from each of the research methods, thus making incremental contributions towards answering the main research questions. The two research methods of literature review and face to face interviews allowed the researchers to analyse the newly collected data from these to validate the researchers’ interpretations of the outcomes. This data tested the conclusions that the researchers drew from the literature review by testing the theory from the literature review against this new data, drawn from contemporary practice (Fig.4 shows the whole research design process in a diagrammatical format).

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Fig. 4 Research Design Process Diagram (adapted from Blackburn, 2001)


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How Young People Communicate. A Cuban Perspective
Palacký University Olomouc  (Economics)
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Prof Dr Eddie Fisher (Author)Yorkys Santana Gonzalez (Author), 2014, How Young People Communicate. A Cuban Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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