Overcoming Ethnocentrism Through Communication Cultural Studies Essay

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Ethnocentrism is when one tends to judge other ethnic or cultural groups according to the dominant, or superior, culture in which they belong. This judgment places special concern on behavior, customs, language, and religion.

To overcome ethnocentrism through communication, one must first have an open mind in order to develop cultural awareness and sensitivity to others. To even the most highly motivated individuals wanting to reduce or eliminate their ethnocentrism, this is not an easy task. Efforts must be made to increase knowledge about cultural differences and similarities in order to have a better understanding of the need for a diverse population and to help overcome any prejudices. "You may need to change lifelong beliefs about yourself and your culture. Moreover, recent research suggests that people often have beliefs and biases that they're not even consciously aware of - and that may even conflict with the beliefs they think they have." (Thill and Bovée, 2008, pg 75)

Some ways in which to learn about other cultures would be to read foreign books, learn a foreign language, browse foreign internet sites, watch foreign movies or television, attend services from another religion, travel or study abroad, learn to appreciate cultural music, or join cultural clubs to cultivate friendships.

A degree of ethnocentrism is natural when being introduced to a different culture. Fortunately these cross-cultural barriers can be overcome through exposure. In my life experiences, prejudices have simply been nothing other than 'fear of the unknown'.

Explain the eight main types of cultural differences. Provide an example of each (5 points).

When communicating in a diverse world, one must recognize and accommodate cultural differences to avoid the chance of any misunderstandings. There are eight main types of cultural differences: contextual, legal and ethical, social, nonverbal signals, age, gender, religion, and ability.

Any attempt at communicating, cultural context plays a role in. "Cultural context is the pattern of physical cues, environmental stimuli, and implicit understanding that conveys meaning between two members of the same culture." (Thill and Bovée, 2008, pg 76) There are two types of cultural context, high-context and low-context. As an example, in a high-context culture, ones position and status is valued more highly than their competence, whereas in a low-context culture, ones competence, position and status are valued equally. Cultural context also affects legal and ethical differences. In a high-context culture, verbal agreements are viewed as more important than written agreements, and in a low-context culture, a written agreement is binding, with little to no value placed on a verbal agreement.

The nature of social behavior differs between cultures, and at times, quite markedly. A good example of this difference is in a high-context culture, time is often seen as more flexible, meaning late schedules or appointments are overlooked in order to maintain relationships, whereas in a low-context culture, schedules, appointments, and deadlines have rigid requirements. Being late might be seen as disrespectful, lazy, or incompetent, and normally unacceptable. Nonverbal differences could be grouped along with social differences as they are both a type of behavior, but can also differ quite markedly between cultures. Examples of these differences can include greetings - such as a handshake, possible intrusion of personal space, facial expressions, eye contact or posture.

The remaining four differences, I believe could be grouped together, as each one, age, gender, and ability are things that one cannot change in themselves. Even though I feel religion should be a choice, in some cultures that it not allowed. All four of these differences have the potential to bring about controversy while communicating. Some cultures give the most respect, power, and freedom to their elders, while other cultures believe that the younger generation can bring fresh ideas and creativity to the table. Some cultures allow more women to hold executive positions, while others still believe men should hold the positions of authority. While some cultures find people with impaired abilities a significant disadvantage and may not give them equal opportunities, other cultures recognize these individuals as an opportunity to help them with tasks that they find difficult or almost impossible to perform, and can possibly lead to finding new inventions in which to aid these individuals. Some cultures believe they should be allowed to express their religious beliefs in any environment, while others do not believe in openly expressing themselves so as to avoid friction between individuals.

In today's economy, anyone who can make a contribution that has a positive impact on society should be allowed, but we all must learn to see past our cultural differences.

List and discuss the important components of successful intercultural communications (5 points).

Intercultural communication is difficult and in order to communicate successfully, there are barriers we must work through. Important components of communicating successfully are to research and study other cultures and languages, learn to respect preferences for communication styles, learn to write and speak clearly and listen carefully, and help others adapt to your culture.

Learning just the basics of any culture, even common phrases, can help get you through everyday situations. There are many ways of researching and studying other cultures and their languages - from reading books, to watching movies, traveling to another country, or even taking classes to learn a second language. Knowing the communication style of a culture is particularly important in effectively communicating, whether it be verbally, or nonverbal. Learning other communication style also shows that you respect their culture. Writing and speaking clearly and listening carefully are also a part of effective communication. If you're in a meeting, making a presentation, or listening to a presentation, in order to give or get appropriate and realistic feedback, you must be an effective writer, speaker, and listener. One word can have different meanings to different cultures. When helping others adapt to your culture, both can learn which forms of communicating are easier for each culture - written or oral.

Since successful communication plays such a vital role in today's society, it is imperative that any stumbling blocks be overcome so there can be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

List the seven components of writing and speaking clearly. Provide an example of each (5 points).

In learning to write and speak clearly, it is recommended one follow these seven components: 1) Use simple and precise language; 2) Be brief; 3) Use transitional elements; 4) Address international correspondence properly; 5) Cite numbers and dates carefully; 6) Avoid slang, idiomatic phrases, and business jargon; and 7) Avoid humor and other references to popular culture.

Listed here are samples for each component: 1) the word run, used as a verb or noun, would have over 40 distinct meanings, where the word taxi, which may differ slightly in spelling would tend to be recognized as the same meaning; 2) organize your thoughts and materials to eliminate any redundancy so your information can be conveyed in the shortest and simplest way possible, and if need be, break information into smaller sections to help readers capture your message; 3) using transitional words and phrases such as 'even though', 'furthermore', 'because of all this' helps readers understand what they are reading; 4) be sure you correctly use all address elements for a country, e.g. (city + hyphen + postcode), and another country may use (city + state (abbrev.) + postcode); 5) a date written as 1/2/03, in one country may mean the first of February, 2003, but in another country mean the second of January, 2003; 6) such idiomatic phrases as 'it's on the tip of my tongue' should be avoided as your audience may not have any idea what you mean; and 7) what is funny to one person can be entirely different from what the next person thinks. Let's say making a joke about a popular entertainer like 'why was Lady Gaga carried on stage in an eggshell and dressed like a newborn.' This would most likely be completely alien to your audience. So unless you are familiar with your audience, it is best to avoid humor altogether.

When communicating in intercultural conversations, whether speaking or writing, remember to become familiar with their communication style and adapt accordingly, and to follow the seven components of writing and speaking clearly.

On page 94 of your text, do exercise 3.1 (Intercultural Sensitivity: Recognizing Variations). Be sure to provide a rationale for your answer and use citations or references to the text or other materials to support your answer. You may find it helpful to visit your textbook Web site and go to the "Featured Web Sites" section for Chapter 3, then visit the Executive Planet Web site for some additional information about communicating in a business setting with specific countries. (10 points)

A Canadian toy company representative, Ms. McGraw, is in a first negotiations business meeting with Mr. Morioka, a manufacturer of miniature truck wheels in Osaka, Japan. Ms. McGraw has just finished explaining her company's expectations for the design process, the materials procurement, and aggressively emphasizing their willingness to close the deal by laying their contract out on the table. Mr. Morioka is increasingly vague in his response to accept the contract by saying softly, "perhaps that will be difficult", shows little interest in the negotiations, and Ms McGraw doesn't understand why.

One possibility of a cultural difference that could be affecting their communication is the fact that "women still don't play a prominent role in business, and woman executives who visit those countries may find that they're not taken seriously as businesspeople." (Thill and Bovée, 2008, pg 78) Age difference could also have an effect because in the Japanese business culture, elders are valued for their wisdom and experience they bring to the company. Another possibility could be in nonverbal communication such as how they are greeted or if there is a lot of direct and frequent eye contact. The "Japanese traditionally prefer a slight bow of the head" and "eye contact can be considered aggressive." (Thill and Bovée, 2008, pg 80)

"All aspects of Japanese life, especially business relations, are governed by strict rules of etiquette. A foreign business person who is either ignorant of, or insensitive to, Japanese customs and etiquette needlessly jeopardizes his company's prospects in this country." (Japanese Customs, Etiquette, and Culture, http://www.buyusa.gov/japan/en/customs.html)