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Intercultural Communication Stumbling Blocks, Essay Example

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Communication is an essential part of life.  We are often surrounded by individuals who share our cultures and languages, so we do not have to consider the possibility of having to utilize other forms of communication.  However, cultures are interacting more often through work, school, and social events creating a need to understand the differences in communication.  Not just the words that are said, but other factors that play a vital role in how communication occurs.  Diversity is greatly hindered due to differences that are not easily understandable or avoidable due to intercultural barriers.

Intercultural communication barriers do not necessarily take place on foreign soil, it happens here in the United States on a daily basis.  Being of Asian descent, I realize how easy stereotypes and accents can cause individuals to be standoffish or decide it is too difficult to communicate.  The author lists five reason that make it hard for people from different cultures to communicate well: “language, nonverbal signs and symbols, preconceptions and stereotypes, the tendency to evaluate and high anxiety”. (Barna 2006) These five reasons play a big role in the stumbling block of communication between different cultures.  Understanding what each barrier consists is also important with interaction.

Communication does not have to create rifts between cultures. I have had to interact with many other races and communication was not always the easiest, but we managed to work through the differences.  “If we would communicate across cultural barriers, we must learn what to say and how to say it in terms of expectations and predispositions of those we want to listen.” (Oliver 1962) Being willing to repeat and use gestures was one way I found success with communicating with another culture with limited English knowledge.  Neither party walked away confused or offended, but with a bit more respect for the other culture.

Knowing that each culture has different practices and beliefs is another important factor of intercultural communication.  An example is three foreign students believe that smiling to a stranger is weird and rude, so they never did in their own cultures. However, an Americans girl thinks that foreign people are unfriendly because they don’t smile or talk to strangers, so it’s hard to make friends with them.  Nonverbal communication includes, “nonword messages, such as gestures, facial expressions, interpersonal distance, touch, eye contact, smell, and silence.” (Chaney & Martin 2007)  Understanding these differences is just as important as understanding the language barriers.  One can be offended or get the wrong impressions simply through an unintentional nonverbal misunderstanding.

Intercultural communication often is a requirement of business as well.  Learning this early on will aid individuals later in life as well.  Management study guide advises several easy steps to aid in intercultural communication.  These are: Eliminating differences in perception; use of simple language; reduction of noise; active listening; emotional state; avoid information overload; and constructive feedback. (Overcoming Communication Barriers 2008) This is not something that was addressed in school a decade ago.  Diversity was not as essential as it is today.  Tolerance is different than necessary interaction and communication.  I have personally learned this early in life and I feel that this is important for everyone to understand the vast differences.

Diversity is greatly hindered due to differences that are not easily understandable or avoidable due to intercultural barriers. Barna mentions a foreigner should spend a long time of participating socially in a new culture before he can adapt to the life in this culture, and tensions and conflicts exist between different cultures.  Gaining knowledge first hand of other cultures will greatly aid in the ability to live and communicate comfortably among them.  Being exposed to multiple cultures, I feel I have the opportunity to have exposure and successfully fit into “two different worlds”.  It has opened my eyes to the importance of intercultural respect, understanding, and all aspects of communication.

References:

Barna, LaRay M. (2006) Intercultural Communication Stumbling Blocks.

Oliver, Robert T. (1962) Culture and Communications: The Problem of Penetrating National and   Cultural Boundaries.

Overcoming Communication Barriers. (2008) Management Study Guide. Retrieved from                            http://www.managementstudyguide.com/overcoming-communication-barriers.htm

Chaney, Lillian H. & Jeanette S. Martin. (2007) Intercultural Business Communication. Prentice Hall Inc.

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