Motivation and knowledge can inform us as we gain new

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Motivation and knowledge can inform us as we gain new experiences, but how we feel in the moment ofintercultural encounters is also important. Tolerance for uncertainty refers to an individual’s attitudeabout and level of comfort in uncertain situations (Martin & Nakayama, 2010). Some people performbetter in uncertain situations than others, and intercultural encounters often bring up uncertainty.Whether communicating with someone of a different gender, race, or nationality, we are oftenwondering what we should or shouldn’t do or say. Situations of uncertainty most often become cleareras they progress, but the anxiety that an individual with a low tolerance for uncertainty feels may leadthem to leave the situation or otherwise communicate in a less competent manner. Individuals with ahigh tolerance for uncertainty may exhibit more patience, waiting on new information to becomeavailable or seeking out information, which may then increase the understanding of the situation andlead to a more successful outcome (Pusch, 2009). Individuals who are intrinsically motivated towardintercultural communication may have a higher tolerance for uncertainty, in that their curiosity leadsthem to engage with others who are different because they find the self- and other-knowledge gainedrewarding.Cultivating Intercultural Communication CompetenceHow can ICC be built and achieved? This is a key question we will address in this section. Two main waysto build ICC are through experiential learning and reflective practices (Bednarz, 2010). We must firstrealize that competence isn’t any one thing. Part of being competent means that you can assess newsituations and adapt your existing knowledge to the new contexts. What it means to be competent willvary depending on your physical location, your role (personal, professional, etc.), and your life stage,among other things. Sometimes we will know or be able to figure out what is expected of us in a givensituation, but sometimes we may need to act in unexpected ways to meet the needs of a situation.Competence enables us to better cope with the unexpected, adapt to the nonroutine, and connect touncommon frameworks. I have always told my students that ICC is less about a list of rules and moreabout a box of tools.Three ways to cultivate ICC are to foster attitudes that motivate us, discover knowledge that informs us,and develop skills that enable us (Bennett, 2009). To foster attitudes that motivate us, we must develop asense of wonder about culture. This sense of wonder can lead to feeling overwhelmed, humbled, orawed (Opdal, 2001). This sense of wonder may correlate to a high tolerance for uncertainty, which canhelp us turn potentially frustrating experiences we have into teachable moments. I’ve had many such
moments in my intercultural encounters at home and abroad. One such moment came the first time Itried to cook a frozen pizza in the oven in the shared kitchen of my apartment in Sweden. The

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