Stumblingblocks in intercultural communication

Interculturalcommunication is the sharing of ideas among people from differentcultures and backgrounds in the world, more so in languages. We livein a world that has slowly become one where we are bound to meetpeople from different countries if not continents and from differentcultures and beliefs than ours. For these and other reasons it is nosecret that communication has to take place irrespective of thesedifferences. For instance, when on an exchange program in college,one may visit a country that is new with new people, culture, beliefsand language (Gibson et al., 2014). Intercultural communicationtherefore is more than just language and as such there are stumblingblocks as discussed by LaRay Barna in the title interculturalstumbling blocks. This essay takes a look at three important areas inregard to stumbling blocks in intercultural communication (LaRay,2007). The first area is a look at what are the stumbling blocks, thesecond area is about the effect and the final area addresses possiblesolutions from a global perspective.

Backgroundto intercultural communication

Werealize that we are from different parts of the world with differentlevels of development, understanding, language and culture. However,irrespective of all these there must be communication andinteraction. Because of this, intercultural communication is a globalissue that must be addressed by all. It is an issue that ifunderstood will enable people from different parts of the world toappreciate, understand and coexist with others in the best waypossible.

Inher book, LaRay recognizes that indeed there are stumbling blocks inintercultural communication and interaction. LaRay identifies theseblocks that go beyond language barrier and addresses additional fiveissues that she calls stumbling blocks. A free world does not needstumbling blocks at all.

Causes(stumbling blocks) in intercultural communication

Accordingto LaRay, the first stumbling block is the assumption ofsimilarities. Most people assume that since all are human beings, weare the same. This is not the case we have different values, beliefsand attitudes that are all informed by different culture that we comefrom. This assumption affects our relationship, communication andeven perception.

Secondly,language differences are a stumbling block in interculturalcommunication and as such many fail to communicate because we are notconversant with a new language, we do not understand their slang,idioms, vocabulary and dialects. Therefore, if we understand thisissue we are in a better position to overcome the challenge (Lantz,2013). The third stumbling block is nonverbal interpretation as ourdifferences in culture may inform our different sensory realities. Wesee, hear, feel and even smell differently and at the same timeinterpret gestures, body movement and nonverbal codes differently.Due to this, it is a global concern that we understand the challengeswherever we are dealing with different people. The next stumblingblock is preconception and stereotyping where we over generalize ourview about a people because of perhaps a secondhand beliefs thatgives us the base for our arguments. Therefore, it is important forus to understand that we cannot go-exist in a global village when westereotype others so as to have psychological satisfaction and have asense of security when we are close to such people.

Thenext barrier is the tendency to make a quick evaluation of a cultureand its people. Many are fast in arriving at judgment about a certainpeople based on action of one person from such a culture. We judgesuch actions from our own cultural lenses forgetting that we aredifferent and fail to try to understand that that was an individualaction and not a culture. Lastly, high anxiety is a barrier inintercultural communication since an anxious person becomes stressedand may create unnecessary tension when in a new and differentculture. Anxiety crops in when we have dialogues or conversationswith parties from different cultures (LaRay, 2007). Anxiety can cropin due to the inability to maintain calmness with a foreigner with aconversation as one feels that they are not using the right verbaland nonverbal gestures.

Effectsof intercultural communication differences

Interculturaldifferences have the potential to create barriers and hinder peacefulcoexistence and cultural tolerance and appreciation. Essentially, itwill be difficult for one to communicate when we are not aware ofthese stumbling blocks. The effect here will be felt by our inabilityto interact well with foreigners, create assumptions and experienceunnecessary anxiety. The world is a global village where we haveexperienced a high level of cultural meltdown and the effect of suchresults have led to more appreciation of cultural differences (Kim,2015). When we do not understand the challenges in interculturalcommunication, we may feel threatened at one point and this createsvulnerability, especially if on a journey or exchange program in aforeign country or culture. Again, our normal cultural gestures maybe perceived as inappropriate in a foreign culture. A poorunderstanding of the cultural differences affects the self-esteem ofone and eventually one may withdraw, overcompensate or become hostileto the new environment. Stereotyping and preconception may misguideus on what a certain culture values and one may end up even notunderstanding the most common aspect of a culture.

Solutionsto intercultural challenges

Inthe final analysis, are the possible solutions to such complexitiesin intercultural communication? There are solutions that are relevantto the challenges on a global scale. One of the solutions is anindividualist effort to improve intercultural communicationcompetence. Our competence to improve this problem on a global levelwill be through our ability to listen and understand with one openmind. It is important to note that this ability will inform us of howto act in the event that we encounter a person that is new to us orin our environment. We should be able to avoid the aspect of quickevaluation and making judgment at all. Secondly, there is need toavoid assumption, we cannot assume that simply because of being humanbeings we are the same or we are similar and have a similar culture(Myron &amp Jolene, 2012). Even when we are from Australia or US orUK, we are different. We are different even in our companies whetherin Arizona, or Melbourne or London and as such we have differentcompany cultures and the people we meet. Therefore, one shouldendeavor to actively make chances to talk to people that aredifferent from her or him by inviting them or going for events thatallow them to meet and talk. Again, there is need to embracedifferent cultures in all aspects of life. We have different cultureseven in our schools, colleges and at workplace. This calls on all toembrace diversity and appreciate that we are one but have differencesthat should be a point of encouragement and unity and not division.The best way to mitigate this is to try to be calm, understand andabove all appreciate differences that may exist by having a paradigmshift in our interactions and cross-cultural relationships.


Itis important to note that intercultural challenges have the potentialto create serious communication breakdown on a global scale andtherefore, we should strive to understand that we are different butthe differences in our cultures can be harnessed to create diversityand appreciation for a good co-existence in the world.


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