2.3: Barriers to Intercultural Communication (2023)

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    Learning Objectives

    • Analyze barriers to effective interculturalcommunication.
    • Define and give examples of ethnocentrism.
    • Define and give examples of stereotyping.

    "How You See Me"series on YouTube features "real" people discussing their cultural identifies.(https://youtu.be/Fls_W4PMJgA?list=PLfjTXaT9NowjmBcbR7gJVFECprsobMZiX)

    Most of us can appreciate the important of intercultural communication, yet several stumbling blocks may get in the way of a positive intercultural communication experience. Some of the most common ones are anxiety,


    It is not unusual to experience some level of discomfort in communicating with individuals from other cultures or co-cultures. It may be that wefeel as though we will do or say the wrong thing. This can make the interaction awkward or can lead us to avoid opportunities for intercultural communication. Although not as detrimental as ethnocentrism or stereotypes, anxiety can prevent us from making intercultural connections that will enrich our lives.

    Assumption of Similarities

    Although you know differently, many people mistakenly assume that simply being human makes everyone alike. However, as we've discussed,values, beliefs, and attitudes can vary vastly from culture to culture. Those who assume a person from another cultural background is just like them will often misread or misinterpret and perhaps even be offended by any intercultural encounter. In intercultural communication, assume differences in communication style will exist that you may be unaware of. It is important to avoid interpreting another individual's behavior through your own cultural lens.


    Where did you start reading on this page? The top left corner. Why not the bottom right corner, or the top right one? In English, we read left to right, from the top of the page to the bottom. But not everyone reads the same. If you read and write Arabic or Hebrew, you will proceed from right to left. Neither is right or wrong, simply different. Americans tend to say that people from England drive on the “wrong” side of the road, rather than on the “other” side. You may find it hard to drive on the other side of the road while visiting England, but for people in the United Kingdom, it is normal and natural. A high level of appreciation for one’s own culture can be healthy; a shared sense of community pride, for example, connects people in a society. But ethnocentrism can lead to disdain or dislike for other cultures and could cause misunderstanding and conflict.Ethnocentrismassumesour culture or co-culture is superior to or more important than others and evaluates all other cultures against it.To dismantle ethnocentrism, we must recognize that our views of the world, what we consider right and wrong, normal or weird, are largely influenced by our cultural standpoint and that our cultural standpoint is not everyone's cultural standpoint. This ethnocentric bias has received some challenge recently in United States’ schools as teachers make efforts to create a multicultural classroom by incorporating books, short stories, and traditions from non-dominant groups.

    (Video) Intercultural Communication

    Ethnocentrism shows up in large and small ways. A "small" way might be in disdain for other cultures' or co-cultures' food preferences. Some individuals express disgust at other cultures’eating meat from a dog or guinea pig, for example, while they don’t question their own habit of eating cows or pigs. A "large" and one of the most horrific examples of ethnocentrism in history can be seen is in the Nazi’s elevation of the Aryan race in World War IIand the corresponding killing of Jews, Gypsies, gays and lesbians, and other non-Aryan groups.


    Stereotypes are oversimplifiedideas about groups of people. Stereotypes can be based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation — almost any characteristic. They may be positive, such as all Asian students are good at math,but are most often negative, such as all overweight people are lazy. Stereotyping is a generalization that doesn't take individual differences into account.

    Stereotypes are frequently expressed on TV, in movies, chat rooms and blogs, and in conversations with friends and family. Further research has found that stereotypes are often used outside of our awareness, making it very difficult to correct them.And when we are distracted or under time pressure, these tendencies become even more powerful (Stangor & Duan, 1991). Still, it’s crucial to try to recognize ourown stereotypic thinking. Treating individuals according to rigid stereotypic beliefs is detrimental to all aspects of the communication process and can lead to prejudice and discrimination.


    Prejudiceis a negative attitude and feeling toward an individual based solely on one’s membership in a particular social group, such as gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, religion, sexual orientation, profession, and many more (Allport, 1954; Brown, 2010). An example of prejudice is having a negative attitude toward people who are not born in the United States and disliking them because of their status as "foreigners."

    Because it is often difficult to recognize our own prejudices, several tests have been created to help us recognize our own "implicit" or hidden biases. The most well-known implicit measure of prejudice—theImplicit Association Test (IAT)—is frequently used to assess stereotypes and prejudice (Nosek, Greenwald, & Banaji, 2007). In the IAT, participants are asked to classify stimuli that they view on a computer screen into one of two categories by pressing one of two computer keys, one with their left hand and one with their right hand. Furthermore, the categories are arranged such that the responses to be answered with the left and right buttons either “fit with” (match) thestereotype or do not “fit with” (mismatch) thestereotype.

    (Video) Intercultural Communication

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    When our prejudices and stereotypes are unchallenged, they can lead toaction in the forms of discrimination and even violence.Racialdiscriminationisdiscriminationagainst an individual based solely on membership in aspecificracial group.There have been a number of shocking highly publicized instances in which African-Americans were killed by vigilantes or law enforcement, one of the more disturbing being the case of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over 8 minutes;almost 3 of those minutes were after Floyd was unconscious. (Dovidio et al., 2010). And inlate 2020, "the United Nationsissued a reportthat detailed "an alarming level" of racially motivated violence and other hate incidents against Asian Americans." According to a Pew Research Report,"32% of Asian adults say they have feared someone might threaten or physically attack them...with the majority ofAsian adults (81%) saying violence against them is increasing.(Pew Research Center, Ap. 11, 2021) Mexican Americans and other Latinx groups are alsotargets, both of citizens and police. (Dovidio et al., 2010)

    Discussions aboutstereotypes, prejudice, racism, and discrimination are unsettling to some. However, we must recognize these attributesin ourselves and others before we can take steps to challenge and change their existence.

    Key Terms

    • Anxiety
    • Ethnocentrism
    • Stereotyping
    • Prejudice
    • Racial discrimination


      For Discussion

      1. Have you ever felt as though you were stereotyped? Explain when this happened and how it made you feel. Have you ever been guilty of stereotyping others, perhaps unintentionally?
      2. Discuss examples of stereotypes you have read about or seen in media.
      3. If you would like to develop more understanding of prejudice, see some of the short videos at undertandingprejudice.org at this link:https://secure.understandingprejudice.org/multimedia/
      4. What are some forms of discrimination other than racial discrimination? Have you ever experienced or witnessed what you thought was discrimination? Explain.

      Activities: Experiencing Intercultural Barriers Through Media

      1. Activity 1:When watching the following video, notice all of the stereotypes people who are native to Alaska face, and think about how you’d approach a conversation with someone from the area. Try to consider the situation from another perspective.
      2. What People Get Wrong About Alaska Natives:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDU4PkSqWsQ
      3. Multimedia:Comedian and news anchorTrevor Noah discusses trying a taco for the first time. More importantly, look at the misunderstanding that happens in the use of language in the clip. Think about whether you may have had misunderstandings like these with friends from other cultures. Trevor Noah: That’s Racist - Tacos:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDk5ajNDgZc&list=TLPQMTEwMTIwMjBTkibtm_xuXQ&index=2
      4. Multimedia:Biracial actresses from Sister, Sister discuss their marriages. One of the twins is married to an African American man, and the other is married to a white man. Think about your own experience with interracial couples, or even your own experience being part of an interracial couple. How do you react when you hear such things?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngwvHYqYGS0
      5. Ethnocentrism and Mobility- Read the article “The Inevitability of Ethnocentrism Revisited: Ethnocentrism Diminishes As Mobility Increases,” located at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672305/. What does the article say about in-group and out-groups? How does mobility reduce out-group hostility? Does traveling help reduce ethnocentrism?
      (Video) Cross cultural communication | Pellegrino Riccardi | TEDxBergen


      Ruiz, Neil, Khadidijah Edwards, and Mark Lopez. Pew Research Center, 21 April 2021.https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tan...hem-is-rising/

      Chung, L. (2019). Crossing boundaries: Cross-cultural communication. In K. D. Keith (Ed.), Cross-cultural psychology: Contemporary themes and perspectives (pp. 400-420). Wiley.

      (Video) Intercultural communication and understanding is important

      Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond Culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books/Doubleday.

      Intercultural Conflict Management. Butte College, 10 Sept. 2020, https://socialsci.libretexts.org/@go/page/58206.

      (Video) The surprising paradox of intercultural communication | Helena Merschdorf | TEDxNelson


      What are at least 2 barriers to effective intercultural communication and explain it briefly? ›

      People from different values, cultures and backgrounds have to deal with issues of intercultural communication. There are certain barriers that come across intercultural communication. Barriers such as prejudice, anxiety, ethnocentrism, language, and assumption of similarity are most significant ones to consider.

      What are the two 2 barriers to effective international communication? ›

      There are three main barriers on the way to international communication: linguistic, cultural and psychological. All are extremely difficult for non-native speakers.

      What are the three 3 barriers to effective cultural communication? ›

      Specifically, there are three problems that commonly occur. I refer to these problems as the Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication and they include stereotyping, a lack of understanding and judgmental attitudes.

      What is the biggest barrier to intercultural communication? ›

      One of the biggest barriers to cross-cultural communication is the tendency for people to filter their thoughts and experiences through the lens of their own culture. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication, as different cultures often have different ways of perceiving the world.

      What is the most common barrier in cultural communication? ›

      1. Language. Not speaking the same language (well) can cause a myriad of misunderstandings and is considered the most crucial barrier in cross-cultural communication.

      What are the four 4 barriers for intercultural communication? ›

      Barriers to Intercultural Communication
      • Anxiety. It is not unusual to experience some level of discomfort in communicating with individuals from other cultures or co-cultures. ...
      • Assumption of Similarities. ...
      • Ethnocentrism. ...
      • Stereotypes. ...
      • Prejudice.
      Jun 30, 2022

      What are the three main issues of intercultural communication? ›

      The three main problems in intercultural communication are language, cultural barriers and ethnocentrism.

      What is meant by intercultural barrier? ›

      A cultural barrier is an issue arising from a misunderstanding of meaning, caused by cultural differences between sender and receiver. It can cause outright conflict, but more often, it creates stress in the workplace.

      What are two communication barriers examples? ›

      Communication Barriers Defined

      Physical communication barriers such as social distancing, remote work, deskless nature of work, closed office doors, and others. Emotional communication barriers resulting from emotions such as mistrust and fear.

      What are two 2 solutions to overcome the language barrier? ›

      • 10 Strategies for Overcoming Language Barriers. By Kate Berardo.
      • Speak slowly and clearly. Focus on clearly enunciating and slowing down your speech. ...
      • Ask for clarification. ...
      • Frequently check for understanding. ...
      • Avoid idioms. ...
      • Be careful of jargon. ...
      • Define the basics of business. ...
      • Be specific.

      What are two barriers? ›

      It is commonly used by oil companies. The rule simply states that for any work that must be done on a section of piping, which involves breaking containment, there must be at least two barriers separating the fluids from the broken area. The purpose behind specifying two barriers is to ensure redundancy.

      What are the 4 most common communication barriers? ›

      Let's explore four categories of barriers to effective communication in the workplace (language barriers, inclusion barriers, cultural barriers, and environmental barriers).

      What are 5 some common barriers to effective communication? ›

      There are five key barriers that can occur within a company: language, cultural diversity, gender differences, status differences and physical separation. These barriers to communication are specific items that can distort or prevent communication within an organization.

      How do you improve intercultural communication? ›

      5 tips to improve your intercultural communication
      1. Be welcoming. “Always be open to other cultures, no matter how different they are.”
      2. Be intentional about experiencing a different culture. ...
      3. Understand cultural challenges and history. ...
      4. Never assume. ...
      5. Always be respectful and kind.
      Nov 9, 2022

      Why improve intercultural communication? ›

      Having the ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries is critical for the success of any intercultural or multinational endeavor. Additionally, it helps improve relationships by facilitating two-way conversations, which in turn foster mutual understanding between people of diverse backgrounds.

      What is an example of a cultural barrier? ›

      Every country has numerous religions practised by its people. so the differences in their values and beliefs are also an example of cultural barriers. Body language and gestures: Body language and gestures are another elements of the cultural barrier.

      What are the 7 barriers to communication? ›

      Barriers to Effective Communication
      • Semantic barriers.
      • Psychological barriers.
      • Organisational barriers.
      • Cultural barriers.
      • Physical barriers.
      • Physiological barriers.

      What are the three most common barriers to communication? ›

      Although the barriers to effective communication may be different for different situations, the following are some of the main barriers: Linguistic Barriers. Psychological Barriers. Emotional Barriers.

      What are the 6 challenges of intercultural communication? ›

      Six Fundamental Patterns of Cultural Differences
      • Different Communication Styles. ...
      • Different Attitudes Toward Conflict. ...
      • Different Approaches to Completing Tasks. ...
      • Different Decision-Making Styles. ...
      • Different Attitudes Toward Disclosure. ...
      • Different Approaches to Knowing.

      What are the 5 factors of intercultural communication? ›

      The five fundamentals of effective cross-cultural communication
      • Awareness. It all starts with this: being aware that different countries have different ways and times of doing things. ...
      • Preparation. ...
      • Language. ...
      • Humour. ...
      • Openness.

      What are the 5 major barriers? ›

      Definition of Barriers

      There are five key barriers that can occur within a company: language, cultural diversity, gender differences, status differences and physical separation.

      What are 5 common communication barriers? ›

      Common Barriers to Effective Communication
      • Dissatisfaction or Disinterest With One's Job. ...
      • Inability to Listen to Others. ...
      • Lack of Transparency & Trust. ...
      • Communication Styles (when they differ) ...
      • Conflicts in the Workplace. ...
      • Cultural Differences & Language.
      Jul 18, 2018

      What are the 8 cultural issues affecting the communication? ›

      According to experts in the field, some of those factors include:
      • Cultural identity.
      • Racial identity.
      • Ethnic identity.
      • Gender roles.
      • Individual personalities.
      • Social class.
      • Age.
      • Roles identity.
      Sep 17, 2019

      What is an example of intercultural communication? ›

      In intercultural communication, people of one culture try to know the information conveyed to them by other cultures. For example, in a hotel establishment, the hoteliers assess their customers' requirements, tastes, and provide services accordingly. The customers also inform the hoteliers of their needs.

      What are the biggest causes of intercultural conflict? ›

      However, four of the most common causes are described below, along with examples of each.
      • Ethnocentrism. ...
      • Different definitions of right and wrong. ...
      • Communication differences. ...
      • Exclusive workplace cultures.
      Jul 20, 2022

      What are the 7 steps to improve intercultural communication skills? ›

      7 Ways to Improve your Intercultural Communication Skills
      • Be aware of your own culture. ...
      • Be curious. ...
      • Experience different cultures regularly. ...
      • Listen and observe. ...
      • Learn to 'read' body language and understand non-verbal cues. ...
      • Be aware of cultural differences and individual cultures. ...
      • Simplicity is key.
      Mar 7, 2018

      What is the six intercultural communication? ›

      There are at least six dialectics that characterize intercultural communication: cultural–individual, personal–contextual, differences–similarities, static–dynamic, history/past–present/future, and privilege–disadvantage.

      What are the 4 dimensions of intercultural communication? ›

      The original theory proposed four dimensions along which cultural values could be analyzed: individualism-collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance (strength of social hierarchy) and masculinity-femininity (task-orientation versus person-orientation).


      1. Intercultural Communication
      (Mini Sethi)
      2. Intercultural Communication Adventure with Little Pilot
      3. What is Cross Cultural Communication?
      4. Intercultural Communication | Need/Importance | Skill/Tips | Explained In Urdu/Hindi
      (RABAIL Academic English)
      5. Why Study Intercultural Communication?
      (Professor Rockey)
      6. Non-Verbal Communication (Lecture 2.3)
      (Misbah Majeed)


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