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Intercultural Issues in Communication

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Intercultural Issues in Communication

            Over the years, intercultural communication has become a trend as more and more companies are realizing the fact that in order to become globally competitive, they need to adhere to cultural diversity in the workplace. Handling intercultural issues is important because diversity is now very evident in any field of endeavour—in the workplace, in the academe, even in the military (Allwood, 2008).

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            As individuals attempt to communicate, it is likely that there could be issues that may arise.

There are barriers and obstacles that organizations or individuals may encounter which could lead to stress, conflict, or misunderstandings. Thus, it is vital that the individual or organization must have an understanding of intercultural communication (Lewis, 2006).

            Organizations must recognize the fact that while having employees with diverse cultural backgrounds can bring in fresh ideas and approaches to problem solving, it will likewise mean understanding different views and opinions. Although there are various techniques that can be utilized in order to produce a productive multicultural team, the most important tool is good communication skills (Lewis, 2006).

            Intercultural communication is actually nothing new. Throughout the history of mankind, cultural interaction has been ongoing through wars, religions, and exchange of goods. While interaction among cultures has been taking place long ago, it is only now that the importance of intercultural communication is being realized as companies aspire for globalization (Impressio eJournal, 2008).

            Long ago, intercultural communication was confined to people of certain status or profession. However, even the lowliest group or individual can now be exposed to intercultural communication (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

The Meaning of Intercultural Communication

            Intercultural communication occurs when people of varying cultures relay messages to one another. Cultural differences would have to be considered in order for any kind of conflict or misunderstanding in communication would be avoided (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

            Over the years, the connection between culture and language has been a product of constant research but still scholars have not agreed on the extent of relationship between culture and language. It is believed that language determines culture. According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, language not only relays messages but also molds our thinking, beliefs, and attitudes (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Barriers to Intercultural Communication

            Language

            Intercultural communication can be verbal or nonverbal. This is considered as one of the greatest obstacles to intercultural understanding. Even the most fluent individual can be prone to mistakes in relaying messages. People must be aware of the impression they will leave when speaking. Shifting to an unfamiliar or uncommon language can result to either a positive or negative behavior to the other individual (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

            In many cultures, there are special features of their language which are regarded as appropriate for certain occasions. While practiced in some cultures, the question and answer approach may not be applicable in other cultures (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

            Aside from verbal communication, differences in nonverbal language likewise pose a threat to intercultural communication. Nonverbal language refers to all deliberate and non-deliberate stimuli between the communicating parties. Nonverbal language constitutes 70% of communication. In order to succeed in intercultural communication, the organization needs to understand both verbal and non-verbal language (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Categories of Non-verbal Communication

            Non-verbal communication can be classified into four categories namely kinesics, pronemics, paralanguage, and chromenics (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Kinesics. This refers to bodily gestures or movements when transmitting communication. It may involve facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, and touch. Each culture has their own practice when it comes to bodily gesture. For instance, touching may be allowed in one culture but is a taboo in another (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Pronemics. This refers to the use of space in the process of communication. The use of space in the meaning denotes anything from architecture and furniture to the distance between the interacting parties (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Paralanguage. This constitutes the sounds produced by communication which are not words. Examples of paralanguage are laughter, pacing of voice, and tone of language (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Chronemics. This is the study of using time when communicating. Likewise, it includes our perception of present, past, and future (Impressio eJournal, 2008)

Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism refers to the practice of judging the culture of other people based on one’s cultural standards. An ethnocentric individual always considers their own culture as more superior than another culture (Lang, 2008).

            Aside from verbal and non-verbal communication, one of the most important barriers to intercultural communication that needs to be addressed is ethnocentrism. In a multicultural workplace, for example, Americans or any white people may have a different view of Mexican or African employees in the workplace (Lang, 2008).

Levels of Ethnocentrism.

            According to Lukens, there are three levels of ethnocentrism: low, moderate, and high. In low ethnocentrism, an individual shows insensitivity to their reaction in dealing with another culture and regards them as different by reducing or increasing their voice when communicating with the individual (Lang, 2008).

            In moderate ethnocentrism, an individual refuses to establish contact with the out-group and instead relates with the in-group whenever necessary (Lang, 2008).

            Finally, in high ethnocentrism, there is cultural nearsightedness wherein the ethnocentric individual totally shows neglect to the member of the minority culture and shows insensitivity to their culture through racial jokes, violence, and hate (Lang, 2008).

Modern Technology

            The influx of modern technologies such as electronic mail, text messaging, video conferencing, among others have made the move towards globalization more convenient and affordable. However, this is not an indication that the barriers to intercultural communication will finally be removed (Teo, n.d).

            One disadvantage of modern technologies is that it does provide a gauge for determining the expression of the recipient. The response to a certain message may not be what the intended recipient expects. Aside from that, the convenience of electronic communication eliminates formality and etiquette in business which may result to distortions in communication. Therefore, the key is to communicate clearly and plainly as possible in order to remove any sort of misunderstanding (Teo, n.d).

Removing Barriers to Intercultural Communication

            In order to ensure success in intercultural communication, the most important step to do is to learn how to accept and embrace the idea of working in a multicultural group. It may not be easy at first especially if a certain individual is already used to working in a homogenous culture. In these situations, patience is a virtue so there should always be the belief that eventually everything will work out smoothly.

            Chad Lewis recommends the following pointers when dealing with a multicultural group (Lewis, 2006):

Bear in mind that while most people are English speakers, this will not always be the case because some may be speaking in another language.
Learn to adapt and have an open mind to new methods of communicating in another language.
Remember that communication involves a sender and a receiver so an individual must be aware of their shortcomings in the communication process.
Avoid stereotyping. Always bear in mind that in every rule there is an exception.
Use various kinds of communication methods.
For Neil Payne, the following tips can help individuals succeed in a multicultural environment (Payne, 2006):

The basis of intercultural communication is respect. When an individual shows respect to the culture of another individual, this will foster an open and meaningful relationship.
In a multicultural setting, sometimes it is necessary to establish guidelines. For example, how to handle communication or conflicts.
Do not be afraid to ask questions. When something is vague or an individual wants to determine why the other individual behaved in a certain manner, asking questions will remove any wrong assumptions.
Finally, sometimes an individual will better understand the message if it will be written than when it is spoken.

Conclusion

Intercultural communication occurs when people of varying cultures relay messages to one another. Cultural differences would have to be considered in order for any kind of conflict or misunderstanding in communication would be avoided.

Intercultural communication can be verbal or nonverbal. This is considered as one of the greatest obstacles to intercultural understanding. Even the most fluent individual can be prone to mistakes in relaying messages. People must be aware of the impression they will leave when speaking. Shifting to an unfamiliar or uncommon language can result to either a positive or negative behavior to the other individual.

Aside from verbal communication, differences in nonverbal language likewise pose a threat to intercultural communication. Nonverbal language refers to all deliberate and non-deliberate stimuli between the communicating parties. Nonverbal language constitutes 70% of communication. In order to succeed in intercultural communication, the organization needs to understand both verbal and non-verbal language.

Ethnocentrism refers to the practice of judging the culture of other people based on one’s cultural standards. An ethnocentric individual always considers their own culture as more superior than another culture.

According to Lukens, there are three levels of ethnocentrism: low, moderate, and high. In low ethnocentrism, an individual shows insensitivity to their reaction in dealing with another culture and regards them as different by reducing or increasing their voice when communicating with the individual.

            In moderate ethnocentrism, an individual refuses to establish contact with the out-group and instead relates with the in-group whenever necessary.

            Finally, in high ethnocentrism, there is cultural nearsightedness wherein the ethnocentric individual totally shows neglect to the member of the minority culture.

References

Allwood, J (2008 October). Policy Statement. Journal of Intercultural Communication. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://www.immi.se/intercultural/

Lang, S (2008 April 21). Ethnocentrism in Intercultural Communication. Associated Content. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/719701/ethnocentrism_in_intercultural_communication.html?page=2&cat=47

Lewis, C (2006). Addressing Communication Issues When Handling Multicultural Teams. The Intercultural Consulting Group. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://www.luthais.com

Payne, N (2006 July 27). Intercultural Communication Tips. Buzzle.com. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/7-27-2006-103686.asp

Teo, A (n.d). Barriers to Intercultural Communication. Ezine Articles. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://ezinearticles.com/?Barriers-to-Intercultural-Communication&id=384188

Towards Intercultural Understanding. Impressio eJournal. Retrieved October 25 2008 from http://africa.eduprojects.net

Cite this Intercultural Issues in Communication

Intercultural Issues in Communication. (2016, Oct 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/intercultural-issues-in-communication/

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