Essay on intercultural communication
The leading cause of intercultural conflict results from people failing to understand each other. Barriers to effective communication are common and can arise in any condition or circumstance. Recently I witnessed an intercultural communication that was about to take an awful turn had a third party not intervened.
Directly opposite my home, two new neighbors had moved in. One of the neighbors was Hispanic, the Martinez’s, and they had quite a big family. The other neighbors were the Wang’s (Asian Americans), and they seemed to be working from home since they were always indoors. The neighbors did not exchange many words and barely came into contact with one another. For a month or so, the neighborhood was peaceful, without any quarrels between households. But this atmosphere was short-lived until Mr. Martinez began complaining that one of their dogs had been missing for days. The first house he went to was of the adjacent neighbor (Wang’s). Mr. Martinez asked, “Where is my dog?” Mrs. Wang replied, “Excuse me! What do you mean?”
The two began raising voices at each other, which attracted other people’s attention. As more of the Martinez’s began to assemble at the Wang’s house, Mrs. Wang started yelling, “So now you want to beat us.” The neighborhood’s security personnel intervened and slightly claimed down the commotion. Trying to trace the root of the issue, he found it to be a result of stereotyping. Though Martinez’s dog was missing, they assumed that only the Wang’s knew of its whereabouts. The Wang’s did not take this lightly. Luckily, the security personnel had access to CCTV cameras surveying the neighborhood’s streets. From the surveillance video recording, the dog was seen to have jumped into a meat delivery truck and was unable to alight. Mr. Martinez felt ashamed and apologized for being quick to accuse the Wang’s. Mrs. Wang as well apologized for letting her emotions have the best of her and throwing insults.
A misunderstanding in intercultural communication can emanate from various interacting sources such as inappropriate comprehension, inadequate perception, uncooperativeness of the speakers, or inability to know the expected reaction of a partner. A misunderstanding in communication is a result of the receiver’s choice of interpreting speech. When emotions interfere with comprehension, interpretations made will be faulty (Sayer, 2013). Considering the above case, immediately, Mr. Martinez asked Mrs. Wang where his dog was, but her emotions clogged her interpretation. She deduced that she was being accused because she was Asian, and her people were known to eat dog meat. Although it is true Mr. Martinez’s approach was inappropriate, if Mrs. Wang understood he was stereotypical, then perhaps no conflict would have arisen.
In most cross-cultural misunderstandings, people tend to interpret others’ beliefs, values, and behaviors from their cultural perspectives. This tendency can be avoided by gathering sufficient knowledge about the other party’s culture (Shonk, 2020). Researching behaviors and customs of different cultures and understanding why people follow them will significantly aid in evading misunderstandings. For instance, Hispanics have the traditions of living as big families. Had the Wang’s known this, seeing the Martinez come out in numbers would not have appeared as though they were being attacked. The effectiveness of intercultural communication depends on the knowledge parties have about each other cultural practices. A comprehensive understanding of one another’s customs ensures people respect boundaries and are mindful of their language. pop
Sayer, I. M. (2013). Misunderstanding and language comprehension. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 70, 738-748. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.01.118
Shonk, K. (2020, March 26). How to resolve cultural conflict: Overcoming cultural barriers at the negotiation table. pon.harvard.edu. https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/conflict-resolution/a-cross-cultural-negotiation-example-how-to-overcome-cultural-barriers/