Worplace Conflicts: Diversity Standpoint

608 words | 3 page(s)

Communicating with individuals from diverse backgrounds can be a challenging endeavor. Factors such as language, culture, race, and ethnicity all play a role in communication. Despite these challenges, sociologists believe that all people are capable of communicating with one another.

The most obvious barrier in the communication process is language (Penn, 2013). Due to the complexity of different languages, it can be difficult to convey complex emotions and concepts, even when skilled translators are involved.

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Penn (2013) states that pre-established cultural stereotypes can also impede communication within the workplace. Assuming that an individual possesses every cultural characteristic of a particular group can lead to misunderstandings that limit positive communication. It is important to enter intercultural interactions with an open mind, leaving preconceived notions of cultural norms behind.

Behavioral differences can also create communication barriers in the workplace. Cultural characteristics such as appropriate eye contact, personal space, and directness when speaking must all be taken into consideration. Penn (2013) also states that understanding how different cultures view displays of emotion is critical to successful communication. For instance, the appropriateness of displaying anger or frustration during a business discussion varies depending on the culture.

While many challenges can arise when communicating with someone from another culture, certain strategies can be utilized to break down the communication barrier. According to Ludwig and Arias (2008), staying calm is one way to avoid communication pitfalls with individuals of differing cultural backgrounds. While it is common to be fearful of making mistakes, avoiding unnecessary anxiety can help one maintain a clear head in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Communication blunders can happen, and while they may be embarrassing, it is best to approach them with a calm attitude.

Ludwig and Arias (2008) also point out that when barriers to effective intercultural communication arise, it should not automatically be assumed that the other person must change because they are at fault. Communication between cultures is a two way street, with both parties adapting and making the necessary accommodations as the interaction unfolds. By keeping an open mind and maintaining a go with the flow attitude, communication adjustments can be made as needed. This also maintains a feeling of respect for both parties, as one individual is not being required to make drastic communication changes to meet the needs of the other individual.

Keeping an eye on the delivery of communication is also important when improving intercultural communication skills (Ludwig & Arias, 2008). For instance, although one person in the discussion speaks another language, it does not mean he or she is deaf. Therefore, there is no need to raise the level of one’s voice when speaking to someone from another culture. Also, remember that speed is important. While it is important to slow the rate of speech to accommodate the non-native listener, speaking at too slow of a rate can insult the listener’s intelligence. By slowing down the rate of speech slightly, while using short, direct sentence structure, the speaker can help the listener feel more comfortable. This level of comfort will hopefully encourage more in depth discussion between both parties in the interaction.

Finally, visible anger and frustration due to communication barriers have no place in intercultural interactions. While feeling uncomfortable is to be expected at times, it is the responsibility of both parties to be respectful and understanding during the communication process. By understanding anxiety, being prepared to make mistakes, and entering interactions with an open mind, communication between cultures can be a success.

  • Ludwig, A. & Arias, L. 2008. Overcoming cross-cultural communication barriers [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://unmc.edu
  • Penn, S. (2013). Cultural communication barriers in the workplace. The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/cultural-communication-barriers-workplace-13888.html

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