Barriers to Intercultural Communication

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We live in a culturally diverse world. People will encounter individuals from different races, religions, and nationalities in their day to day encounters. There is often anxiety surrounding unfamiliar cultures [pic]

. What manners are acceptable? What will offend a person from a very different background? It can be paralyzing to deal with other people if we do not know what to expect. The following suggestions discussed in the manual, Becoming a Master Student, by Dave Ellis are applicable to people in a variety of settings. When dealing with diverse people look for similarities. Our goals, dreams, and aspirations may be more alike than our skin color. Parenting approaches may differ, but the common bond of a mother and a child crosses many barriers. Most people have basic needs in common, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that suggest all people have physiological, safety, acceptance, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs. Considering these things it is easy to see our essential common ground. And this is where we can begin our comprehension of others. ffective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking--ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the "same" language. When the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases. Stella Ting-Toomey describes three ways in which culture interferes with effective cross-cultural understanding. First is what she calls "cognitive constraints." These are the frames of reference or world views that provide a backdrop that all new information is compared to or inserted into. Second are "behavior constraints." Each culture has its own rules about proper behavior which affect verbal and nonverbal communication. Whether one looks the other person in the eye-or not; whether one says what one means overtly or talks around the issue; how close the people stand to each other when they are talking--all of these and many more are rules of politeness which differ from culture to culture. Ting-Toomey's third factor is "emotional constraints." Different cultures regulate the display of emotion differently. Some cultures get very emotional when they are debating an issue.  They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the "rational" or factual aspects of the situation. All of these differences tend to lead to communication problems. If the people involved are not aware of the potential for such problems, they are even more likely to fall victim to them, although it takes more than awareness to overcome these problems and communicate effectively across cultures. Culture is the core concept in diversity. Culture is defined as learned patterns of perceptions, values and behaviors shared by a group of people that is also dynamic and heterogeneous. Culture also involves our emotions and feelings. Cultural groups share perceptions—ways of looking at the world. Culture is the lens through which we view the world. All the information we receive passes through this perceptual lens. We select, evaluate and organize information from the external environment through perception. Culture influences communication. All cultural groups influence the ways in which their members experience and perceive the world. Members of a culture create a world view, which in turn influences communication.

In the intercultural communication context, there are barriers, including the following:

Ethnocentrism – the belief that one’s own cultural group, usually equated with nationality, is superior to all other cultural groups. Ethnocentrism becomes a barrier when one believes that another culture’s values are not equally good or worthy, which...
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