Looks like a sweet, innocent baby, right? But if you panned out to get the full picture, you would see a different story.
As the camera pulls away, the baby is sitting on top of a case of tequila that is resting in the basket of a shopping cart to be the right height. The mom is in front of the cart, facing the baby and holding him around his waste so he doesn’t fall. She’s bent her head forward to be out of the picture, which places her head right at the baby’s belly button, a sure invitation for the baby to play with her hair.
The photographer is waving and smiling to get his attention. No go…looking away. Nope, eyes closed. Yay! He’s perfect. No, wait, mom’s head’s in the way. Take 24. Clerk ready to quit. Mom ready to cry. Trip to meet grandma first time in Brazil about to be canceled due to lack of passport photo.
And, voila, the perfect angel picture.
Point is sometimes the immediate image doesn’t paint the full picture, and this is no less true in intercultural communications.
Have you ever thought someone rude or unfriendly, only to find out later English wasn’t his or her first language? Or how about walking into a business meeting in another country, but not knowing the customs or expectations in a particular context? And, in moving to the arena of difference based on ability, how can hidden disabilities like chronic pain or illness influence interactions?
But isn’t that the job of the interculturalist to be extra observant and grasp the bigger picture? How has remembering that helped you in your work? Are there times when you didn’t grasp the full picture, and it hurt you?