Communication with other people is a complex and multi-layered task to engage in. For some people, interaction comes as second nature, for others, it presents a significant challenge. Understanding others and clearly articulating one’s needs and ideas is often done through trial and error, with each individual having their peculiarities. The language and values of people are shaped by their birthplace, ethnicity, and culture. The differences make each person unique, form their character, and influence their life. Culture, without a doubt, have a significant impact on communication between people, and reaching an understanding with a person of a completely different background may prove challenging. In his book, on the basics of intercultural communication, Jandt outlines the common roadblocks people face when engaging in interactions with people of other cultures. This paper will be dedicated to attempting to find a viable solution to the communication barriers for me. My identity is a white male of 31 years.
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The first major hurdle to successful communication is fear. When talking with a person of a different nationality or ethnicity, the involved parties will need to use a language both will be able to speak (Jandt 74). For the person who is less familiar with the language, this may create a sense of worry or inferiority. In many cases, this leads to the individual not being able to focus on the subject of the conversation. If another person would need to speak my language, I would try to reassure them that they are communicating clearly and I am not bothered by their speech. Trying not to sound patronizing, I would probably attempt to reflect that by my body language and facial expressions. In the case of me having to speak another language, I would try to not be too concerned with the pronunciation and the accent and judge the situation according to my partner’s reactions.
Assuming Similarity Instead of Difference
In some cases, the customs and traditions of different places are similar, in others, however, they are different. Assumptions not based on facts may often lead to misunderstandings and disrespect to the people of another community (Jandt 75). If an individual assumes that no cultural differences exist in regards to a particular aspect or tradition, they may be proven wrong by reality. The opposite may also be true, with perceived or imagined differences being nonexistent. In this case, the best course of action for me and others is to not form any assumptions. Asking about the things that bother me and learning about the peculiarities of another culture is the best course of action in this regard. I will attempt to fill my gaps in knowledge by expressing interest in a foreign tradition.
Ethnocentrism is a belief that the standards of one culture have inherently more value and can be used to judge the beliefs and traditions of others. Such a mindset is harmful to understanding others and diminishes the value of people who are different from oneself (Jandt 76). In the face of ethnocentrism, a need to exercise an impartial examination exists, which would allow one to accept and value other cultures. I would attempt to stop myself from looking at any particular subject from the lens of my beliefs and promote understanding.
Stereotyping and Prejudice
Prejudices against other cultures are one of the biggest dangers to effectively forming connections with people. Wrong and harmful assumptions that degrade the personal value of others do not allow people to feel on the same level and hinder the efforts of promoting understanding and multiculturalism. Examining my demeanor towards a certain tradition, I would want to examine the Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday. This day signifies the time for Mexicans to pray for and remember their past relatives, an important part of their historic tradition. Attending such an event I would try to be respectful, inquire about the required procedures, and take part in the celebration. Understanding the value of such events for other people, I would do my best to not appear bored or dissatisfied.
Jandt, Fred. An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: Identities in a Global Community. SAGE Publications, 2020.