Today, we live in a culturally diverse society due to globalization. As our world grows, expands and become increasingly more interconnected, the need for effective interpersonal communication among differing cultures has become apparent. When people from different cultures interact with one another there is intercultural communication because different cultures create different interpretation and expectations about what is seen as competent behaviors that will enable the construction of shared meanings. There are numerous definitions of culture but I will use the definition of the interpretive approach and Clifford Geertz’s, which defines culture as a meaning system which members use to interpret the world around them. Culture basically affects and influences our way of communicating with one another because culture and communication are interdependent. The way we act and the things we say determine the culture we belong to and on the other hand culture determines how we act and communicate. As Geertz puts it; every specific act, every utterance, every thought must be understood within a much larger, much broader context. Cultural awareness is therefore apparent. An understanding of effective intercultural communication is relevant since many cultural groups around the world have different patterns of behavior, belief, values and norms which can create communication barriers (Inger Askehave). More than ever before we need to acquire the necessary knowledge to understand, communicate, and cooperate with people who are different in order to benefit from a diverse society. In this essay I will discuss the barriers to intercultural communication for interaction with the ‘Other’ and how to overcome these barriers. There are issues surrounding the problem of intercultural communication and I have chosen to include culture, ethnocentrism, categorization, stereotyping, prejudice and the representation of the ” Other” in my analysis.
Interpersonal communication barriers occurs because we have our own fixed ideas, pre-understandings and judgment about others which are often hard to get rid of once it is acquired (Martin and Nakayama). To some degree, ethnocentrism exists among every culture and individuals which means that there is a tendency to assume that our own norms, rules and values are more right than others and we perceive that our own customs are valid everywhere else in the world (Ting Toomey). This means that ethnocentrism do not allow us to meet people on their own terms and prevents us from trying to understand people that are different from us. However, if we want to communicate effectively we have to be aware that the way we communicate and the message we want go get across is made up of symbols which mean different things to different people (Inger Askehave). Our message is therefore interpreted differently that what we intend to. If we do not understand the behavior of people from other cultures, it can be due to the fact that we are unfamiliar with their web of significance which constitutes their horizon of interpretation. We do not know the framework which adds meaning and sense to their signs as our horizon is knowledge tied with attitudes, values, perspectives or world views (Clifford Geertz). In many ways, intercultural communication is difficult because we have greater access to our own culture and we therefore draw upon the resources that are available from our own culture. For that reason we lack knowledge about other cultures that are different from our own and our limited norms and rules to guide our communication process, often makes us use stereotypes of other people’s groups to support our predictions of their actions. A stereotype is a broad generalization about an entire group based on little knowledge of some aspects of some members of the group. These are not valid facts, but are predefined ideas about the ‘Other’ namely culture or groups (Inger Askehave, Malene Gram & Birgitte...
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