Barriers to Intercultural Communication Essay


The exchange of ideas, beliefs, and values between those who represent different cultures is called intercultural communication. Such an exchange might be challenging due to a variety of barriers. Some of the barriers to intercultural communication include language misunderstandings, different communication styles, cultural norms and expectations, as well as stereotypes and prejudices. This intercultural communication essay focuses on intercultural conflicts and the ways to overcome them. I It also provides a definition of an intercultural conflict, describes an example, and offers a solution to an intercultural communication barrier.

Intercultural Conflict – Definition & Example

Intercultural conflict refers to disagreement, tension, or hostility that arises between individuals or groups from different cultural backgrounds. Such a conflict can occur due to a variety of factors, including differences in language, communication styles, values, beliefs, and norms.

These conflicts can take place at the interpersonal, group, or societal level and can range from minor misunderstandings to serious disputes. They are often unpredictable. Let’s imagine a dialogue between Charles and Michael. In it, a simple phrase “see you later” becomes a barrier to intercultural communication.

The Reason for the Intercultural Conflict

Even though Michael and Charles are speaking the same language, the main cause of the miscommunication is the choice of words. For example, in Charles’ context the word “later” meant sometime in the day while for Michael it was unspecified time. According to Kaushal, the challenges that relate to the use of the language are wide ranging (33). For instance, words are used to denote different meaning in different cultures. This is normally due to the influence of local dialect or direct translation. Therefore, in the intercultural communication, choice and use of definite words help to overcome miscommunication.

How to Overcome the Barriers to Intercultural Communication?

In order to continue the conversation, Michael should tell Charles, “Sorry for the misunderstanding” and then explain to him what he meant. In the process of the conversation, Michael should use direct language by choosing his words more carefully to ensure effective communication. According to Peltokorpi and Clausen communication is effective when the parties understand each other (511).

The recipient should know the exact meaning which is meant by the speaker. Michael noted that in the context of cross-cultural communication, words used should be simple and direct (par. 2). The speaker should avoid misaligned vocabularies that end up causing confusion. In addition, the plain language enhances communication between parties. Therefore, to avoid the miscommunication, Michael could have said “see you on Monday”.

Ethnocentrism as a Cause of Intercultural Conflict

Ethnocentrism is the perception of the centrality of own culture. According to Shi and Hu, ethnocentrism is the presumption that one’s culture is central to reality (7). Ethnocentrism takes place unconsciously and results in the construction of barriers that hinder communication and free interaction. Reducing ethnocentrism leads to better understanding the behavior of the other cultures and hence the ability to transcend the barriers that may hinder communication. For example, I had used to think that nodding head as a gesture for “yes” was a universal behavior.

In the course of studying the intercultural aspects of nonverbal behavior, I discovered that use of body expressions and meanings attached to them differ across cultures. In the global perspective, the way of life varies based on the cultural orientations. People think, act and infuse their feelings based on specific environment (Yunxia 192). This implies that each culture has unique context and hence the emergence of ambiguity in non-verbal communication. Thus, I discovered that what I considered right in my culture may have a different meaning in another culture. I found out that my tendency to view other cultures from the perspective of my cultural orientation led to subjective judgment.

The knowledge that different cultures attach different meanings to different behaviors is vital in overcoming misunderstandings. In the contemporary society, globalization has necessitated the need for interdependence between cultures (Shi and Hu 8). As a result, there is the need to avoid judging other cultures based on own cultural values. Intercultural communication proficiency entails moving from the own cultural perspective and embracing other cultures based on their values (Shi and Fan 117). This ensures cultural tolerance, and it is the first step in overcoming barriers that relate to non-verbal behaviors.

I have realized that non-verbal behavior complements the verbal message. However, the non-verbal behavior has a particular connotation based on the culture. Therefore, as I interact and communicate with people of different cultures, I use a lot of restraint first to learn about their non-verbal behaviors, ways of thinking, and values. This places me in a position to realize similarities or differences that should be considered in the process of the interaction.

Works Cited

Kaushal, Saurabh. “Different Aspects of intercultural nonverbal communication: A study.” Asian Journal of Advanced Basic Sciences 2.2 (2014): 31-39. Print.

Michael, Lewis. n.d. Six causes of miscommunication: How to use plain language effectively. n.d.

Peltokorpi, Vesa, and Lisbeth Clausen. “Linguistic and cultural barriers to intercultural communication in foreign subsidiaries.” Asian Business & Management 10.4 (2011): 509-528. Print.

Shi, Yongming, and Si Fan. “An analysis of non-verbal behavior in intercultural communication.” The Language, Society and Culture 31.1 (2010): 113-120. Print.

Shi, Zhenmei, and Wenhua Hu. Non-verbal Behavior in Intercultural Communication, Dalian: Dalian University Press, 2011. Print.

Yunxia, Zhu. “From cultural adaptation to cross-cultural discursive competence.” Discourse & Communication 2.2 (2008): 185-204. Print.

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