Intercultural Encounter and Communication Barriers


The experience involved interaction with an African American person. The purpose of the interaction was to enquire direction to a certain place. The person that I was interacting with was a complete stranger and there was hesitation on my part to ask the direction from him. He seemed unkempt and rough and he had an aura that indicated criminal involvement on his part. But within that vicinity, there was no one else I could ask for directions and it was getting dark.

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Furthermore, the area looked unsafe and there had been reports of insecurity in the area. This somehow compelled me to suppress my fear and get the information as I needed it urgently. As I approached the person, he looked at me suspiciously and this heightened the tension within me.

As it is well known there has been tension between the white Americans and their black counterparts over the years though the tension is not as pronounced as it used to be in the past. The tension is particularly intense in the ghettos whose residents are predominantly African Americans. There is a perception by the African Americans that their white counterparts are somehow responsible for the squalid conditions under which they live. Even though there have been efforts on the part of the government as well as the majority of the people to create a multicultural society with no discrimination, the fight for equality is far from over. There are so many stereotypes that must be challenged so that all people despite their racial origins are able to interact freely in our country.


The interaction was on the following dialogue

  1. (Person A): (Hesitantly). Hi.
  2. (Person B): Hi. What do you want? (Looks at the other person suspiciously.)
  3. (Person A): I wanted to ask for directions to the nearest health center.
  4. (Person B): What? Why do you think I can give you directions?
  5. (Person A): But I thought you could assist me. You know, I was informed by a friend of mine that there is a health center around this place.
  6. (Person B): (Starts to walk away). As I told you I don’t have that time. I have to hurry up to someplace. Look for someone else. Preferably another white person could assist.
  7. (Person A): I can’t see someone else around who can direct me. Could you please help? I am feeling so sick. Just forget about the racial issue and just help me. By the way, is this area safe at night?
  8. (Person B): What do you mean by safe? Do you think this is like New York where you live? Where policemen guard you throughout the day and night? This is ghetto.
  9. (Person A): (Looks visibly shaken). Please help me.
  10. (Person B): (laughs out aloud). Why are you looking so afraid? Do you think that I am a thug?
  11. (Person A): (Still afraid). I really don’t know what to do. I am feeling unwell and I have to see a doctor urgently. It seems you are not willing to help me.
  12. (Person B): Cooldown. I will help you since you have pestered me so much. But you must stop looking at me as though I am a thug.
  13. (Person A): Thank you so much.


Communication can be defined as a means of transmitting information from one person to another. Looking at the above dialogue, it can be seen that effective communication can be impeded by some factors. These factors act as barriers that impede the effective transmission of information. Some of the factors which can hamper communication include racial stereotypes and language barriers especially where the two people who are interacting are not conversant with each other’s language. However, looking at the above conversation it can be concluded that the language was not a barrier since the two people are able to communicate in English.

However, there are several barriers that are at play in this conversation and they include cross-cultural barriers and perceptional barriers. Cross-cultural barriers can be evidenced by the fact that the two people are from different racial backgrounds.

Due to the historical injustices that happened to one race, interactions between the two races become very difficult. This is even more pronounced between the well-to-do whites and the African Americans who live in the slums which are also referred to as ghettos. From the above conversation, the fact that person A is even afraid of initiating conversation with person B is a consequence of stereotypes ingrained in his mind. This could be as a result of the information that he heard probably from his childhood about the African Americans.

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Perceptional barriers refer to the fact that the two people live in very different areas which inform the way that they interpret issues. Perceptional barriers are brought about by age, socio-economic background, and differences in culture. For example, person A was afraid that it was getting dark and he was in an unsafe neighborhood.

From the above conversation, it can be seen that person B put a lot of questions to the other person which were clearly not relevant to the matter which was being discussed. The complaints by person B about how the African Americans have had to endure historical injustices that were committed on them was a distraction that further lessened the efficiency of the communication process. On the other hand, person A had also erected mental barriers to communication. It can be implied from the conversation that his attitude had the effect of lowering the efficiency of communication with the other person. This is because he looked fearful and was not at ease with person B. This had an effect of conjuring a bad perception in the mind of person B.

In addition, person B at some point attempted to walk away from the other person. This had the effect of erecting a physical barrier to communication. If the physical barrier is wide enough it can lead to distortion of information or even an inability to communicate effectively.

There are other factors that impact the transmission of information from one person to another. One of those factors is the cultural identity factor. This arises due to the fact that people who are brought up in different backgrounds are socialized differently and this results in different ways of doing things or even interpreting events. For this reason, people from different cultural backgrounds may realize that their different cultures may impede effective communication as the two cultures may clash. This could actually result in a situation where some comments made by one of the parties, involved in the interaction, to be deemed inappropriate by the other party.

However, it cannot be considered that the communication was entirely a failure. This is because person A adopted a conciliatory tone throughout the conversation. The effect of this is that though the other party might have had issues, it somehow helped to calm him down. Apparently, the person was even willing to take Person A to his preferred destination. This serves to underscore the notion that argument is not one of the best ways to deal with tensions and conflicts which could act as barriers to communication. Additionally, person A tried as much as possible to hold his temper. This in effect, helped to reduce the tension which had started to build up.

Apparently, this communication started on the wrong footing since the person who was initiating it displayed fear and suspicions towards person B. This must-have aggravated the other person since he probably felt demeaned. This heightened the tensions between these two people. In such a scenario, the two people were most likely to play out the cultural stereotypes which were probably ingrained in their minds since childhood.

It has been claimed that the stereotypes are very likely to form mental barriers that could obstruct the transmission of information. Had person B looked confident and composed as he approached the other person for directions, the conversation would have been more efficient. This would have resulted in a much faster response.

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For this reason, it can be argued that it is important for all people, despite their different cultural backgrounds, to develop necessary competencies that can help them to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. Person A probably lacks the communication skills which could have enabled him to communicate effectively without sending the wrong nuances to the other person.

It can also be seen that it is very important, in cross-cultural communication, to realize that some comments are deemed to be inappropriate and can stand in the way of effective communication. This can be illustrated from the statement in line 4. Had the other person been as angry as him, this could have made the conversation get out of hand. Therefore, both parties should be sensitive to the feelings of other people and avoid statements that can ignite tension.

In a situation where the other person persists in an offensive line of communication, the other party should try to divert him to another line of argument to ensure that tempers do not flare-up. Moreover, the people who are engaged in the conversation should ensure that they set aside their emotional baggage to ensure that the communication process moves on smoothly and that a lot of time is not spent on irrelevant details.

Another important aspect that people should uphold in order to enhance the effective transmission of information is tolerance for people from other racial groups. This entails not getting offended when some statements are made. Furthermore, in order to enhance communication between people of diverse cultural backgrounds, it is important for the parties involved to realize that it is wrong to describe all the people from a particular community on the basis of their color or cultural backgrounds. It is also important for the parties to ensure that they earnestly desire to understand others despite their different cultural backgrounds.

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"Intercultural Encounter and Communication Barriers." StudyCorgi, 1 Apr. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Intercultural Encounter and Communication Barriers." April 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Intercultural Encounter and Communication Barriers." April 1, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Intercultural Encounter and Communication Barriers'. 1 April.

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