Greetings – in my last post, I introduced the 3 barriers and discussed the first, stereotyping, in detail. In this post, I describe the other two barriers to effective multicultural communication:
A Lack of Understanding. The second major barrier to effective multicultural interaction is the lack of understanding that is frequently present between people from different backgrounds. Because people may have differences in values, beliefs, methods of reasoning, communication styles, work styles, and personality types, communication difficulties will often occur. In order to communicate effectively, each party must have a clear and accurate understanding of the thoughts, feelings, ideas, values, styles, desires and goals of the other person. But because of the differences between communication partners, this understanding is not always gained. This is compounded by the fact that many of us are not very effective at getting to understand the ways in which others may differ. Empathy, which is the ability to understand the world from another person’s point of view, is an important multicultural communication skill. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, technologically-focused world, we don’t often take the time needed to truly understand where our colleagues are coming from.
Judgmental Attitudes. The final major barrier to effective cross-cultural communication includes the judgmental attitudes many of us have when it comes to interacting with people who are different. Most of us would like to believe we are open-minded and accepting. But in reality, a great many of us find discomfort with those who are different in terms of values, beliefs and behaviors. We may then evaluate those values, beliefs and behaviors in a negative light. This is the essence of ethnocentrism, where we evaluate good and bad, right and wrong relative to how closely the values, behaviors and ideas of others mirror our own. Put simply, to effectively interact with people who are different from us, we must suspend judgment about their ways, and try to understand them from their perspective. But for most of us, this is much easier said than done.
NEXT POST – August 29, 2008:
Removing the Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication: Part 1