Barriers to Intercultural Communication

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In today’s competitive global economy, frequent cross-border movements of employees occur, resulting in a growing diversity at the workplace. As this trend takes place between cultures, breakdown in communication is inevitable. This is known as the barriers to intercultural communication. These barriers hinder effective communication and hold back globalization of the world. Seven barriers to intercultural communications have been identified and will be further discussed. The following barriers consist of Anxiety; Assuming Similarity Instead of Difference; Ethnocentricity; Stereotypes and Prejudices; Nonverbal Misinterpretations; Language, and Modern Technology. The first barrier is the experience of high anxiety. This is especially common when one first steps into a new organisation or work environment in which he or she is totally unfamiliar with. People often feel more anxious when they are not aware of what they are expected to do and will subconsciously focus on their feelings more than the surroundings. Thus, when people are in such situation, they may not pay attention to what others are saying or telling them. For instance, one may have experienced anxiety on the very first day in a new job. He may be too conscious of being new and out of place that causes him to focus so much of his attention on that feeling, that he makes common mistakes and appear awkward to others (Sagepub 2003). The second barrier is assuming similarity instead of difference. There are many differences between cultures thus one should not assume that everyone working in the same environment practise similar cultures. Cultural difference is a sensitive issue and making assumptions can be dangerous. It can be apparent between individuals or within an organisation. Cultural difference between individuals exists because people are being brought up differently. The types of values and principles instilled to them when they were young shape the culture they adopt today. Cultural difference between organisations exists when one firm practises differently from another. For example, employees of a Singapore firm normally knock off from work punctually while employees of a Japanese firm would often stay back and work longer hours than they are required. This is due to the different levels of attitude they possessed in their jobs. The Japanese tend to show more commitment to their jobs as compared to the locals. However, when one has no information about a new culture, it might make sense to assume that there are no differences and to behave like how he behaves in his home country. Nonetheless, each culture is different and unique to a certain extent (Sagepub 2003). Therefore, it is always better to ask than to assume. The third barrier is ethnocentrism. It can also be defined as judging another culture by one’s own culture’s standards.

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