Intercultural communication conflicts

"But they don’t know my view"

Seminar Paper, 2010

15 Pages, Grade: 1



1 Introduction
1.1 Definition

2 Communication and its need for societies
2.1 Intercultural communication
2.2 Nonverbal communication
2.2.1 Facial expressions
2.2.2 Gestures
2.2.3 Culture and non-verbal communication
2.3 Misunderstandings and rejections

3 Conflicts as means for transformation
3.1 Intercultural Conflict

4 Conclusion


1 Introduction

Our world today is characterized by a growing number of contacts resulting in communication between people with different languages and cultural background. The contact with persons from other cultures is often frustrating and full of misunderstanding. Good intentions and a friendly approach don’t seem to be sufficient. Respect for other cultures is one of the key needs in communication. No one should look down on those with different customs, languages or cultures, but try to look through their eyes and to understand, what and how they are seeing the world. Communication between cultures takes place because of contacts within the areas of tourism, education, science, entertainment, but also business, politics or immigration. In all these cross-cultural contacts, communication needs to be constructive without any misunderstandings, just because the group to which a person belongs is different. Currently new types of relationships are presenting communication challenges that few people are ready to meet[1].

In this paper I intend to deal with the concept of communication, especially non-verbal communication and its features in communicating a message when it happens between different cultures.

1.1 Definition

Communication is the verbal or written exchange of ideas or information between two or more people. In general there is usually one speaker, a message being transmitted and a person receiving this message[2]. Three different types of communications are known: verbal, non-verbal or visual.

The verbal communication is a form of conversation between two or more entities to convey a message. Non-verbal communication is a process of sending and receiving wordless messages through gestures, facial expressions and body language, eye-contact or even clothing, hairstyles, architecture or symbols. Visual communication is the transmission of ideas and information in forms that can be read upon[3].

Communication may happen between people of one and the same culture or language, and of different cultures. Most problems occur between people of different cultural backgrounds.

2 Communication and its need for societies

Since ages communication has always been an important form of understanding other cultures. Already in ancient times people found out that some form of persuasive talks were better to solve conflicts than war and that some people were more skilled than others in these forms of talk. Some even began to study the differences between good and bad arguments and the art of persuasion become an important thread throughout the history of Western Culture[4]. Coordinated Management of Meaning is a valuable source for understanding and developing better communication forms called for by the challenges of our society. To improve our social words is like a mystery to explore. People should learn to treat their stories as well as others as unfinished and incomplete. The own story should be treated as ‘local’, dependent on the own history and perspectives. Different stories should be treated as valid within the framework of the other person’s history and perspectives and purposes. People should always be curious about other person’s stories[5].

2.1 Intercultural communication

Intercultural communication occurs, whenever a person from one culture sends a message to be processed by a person from a different culture[6].

The subject of intercultural communication is beset by a mayor problem, because the linguistic term culture often brings up a lot of problems. First it means a large group of people and what they have in common, e.g. their history, language, or geographical location. Naming the Japanese, the Chinese, Americans, the British and so on, they have a common meaning about what members of these groups have in common and what differences occur among its members.

Talking about such large groups it’s necessary to avoid the problem of overgeneralization by using the word culture, where it doesn’t apply, especially in the discourse of intercultural communication[7]. Discourse means communication between individuals. Culture, however, is a subordinated category. It is the rules for living and functioning in a society[8]. Cultures do not talk to each others as individuals do. American culture cannot talk to French culture except through the discourse of individuals with either American or French background[9]. This field of study looks at how people from different cultural backgrounds communicate, in similar and different ways among themselves and across cultures.

Culture itself is a set of beliefs, ideas, customs, general behavior, festivals, cuisine, attitudes and even clothes style that differ from country to country. People living in the same country have similarities in their culture, but one can also see differences, especially in geographical areas within a country. Cultures change over a period of time, but people travelling from one cultural area to the next don’t change their cultures. Therefore cross-cultural communication requires caution.

Culture is not a fixed identity, but a discursive space that is always on the move[10]. Thus relations between cultures are a complex interaction of entities which are in a permanent process of negotiating their own identity[11]. Culture is also a human creation, “a system of symbols by which man confers significance upon his own experience”[12]. This provides one’s identity and reading of the world. So cultures are perceived as expressions of differences. Culture engenders a sense of belonging, of identity and inclusion and therefore implies borders and exclusion. These borders are not as clear cut as national borders, but they are at the center of cultural relations. It is the meeting at these borders that defines the relationship between cultures[13]. These limited spaces are discursive, offering space for discussions, negotiations, debates, and compromises.


[1]) See. Barna, Laray, M.: Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication, in: Samovar, L. A./Porter, R. E.:Intercultural Communication: A Reader, Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, CA, 1994, pp. 337-346, p. 337.

[2]) See.

[3]) See.

[4]) Pearce, B. W.: The coordinated Management of Meaning, in: Gudykunst, W. B. (ed.): Theorizing about intercultural communication, a.a.o., pp. 35-55, p. 35.

[5]) See. Pearce, a.a.o., p. 50.

[6]) Cit. McDaniel, E./Samovar, L./Porter, R.: Understanding Cultural Communication: The Working Principles, in: McDaniel, E./Samovar, L./Porter, R.(Eds.): Intercultural Communication: A Reader, Wadsworth, Boston, 2009, pp. 6-17, p. 7.

[7]) See. Scollon, Ronald/Scollon Suzanne: Intercultural communication: a discourse approach, Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, 2001, p. 138.

[8]) See. McDaniel, E., a.a.o., p. 10.

[9]) See. Scollon, a.a.o., p. 38.

[10]) See. Clifford, James: ‘On Orientalism’ in: The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature and Art, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1988, pp. 255-276, p. 273.

[11]) See. Watson, Ian: Negotiating cultures: Eugenio Barba and the intercultural debate, Manchester University Press, New York, 2002, p. 3.

[12]) Cit. Watson, a.a.o., p. 3.

[13]) See. Watson, a.a.o., p. 3.

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Intercultural communication conflicts
"But they don’t know my view"
Université Toulouse II - Le Mirail
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Christina Herzog (Author), 2010, Intercultural communication conflicts, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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