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  • Intercultural communication principles

    Intercultural communication principles


    • Inter-cultural communication principles guide the process of exchanging meaningful and unambiguous information across cultural boundaries, in a way that preserves mutual respect and minimises antagonism. For these purposes, culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations, and norms of behaviour. It refers to coherent groups of people whether resident wholly or partly within state territories, or existing without residence in any particular territory. Hence, these principles may have equal relevance when a tourist seeks help, where two well-established independent corporations attempt to merge their operations, and where politicians attempt to negotiate world peace. Two factors have raised the importance of this topic:

      People from different cultures encode and decode messages differently, increasing the chances of misunderstanding, so the safety-first consequence of recognizing cultural differences should be to assume that others' thoughts and actions are different. Such assumptions stem from potentially devastating ignorance and can lead to much frustration for members of both cultures. Entering a culture with this type of ethnocentrism, the assumption one's own culture is correct, is another byproduct of ignorance and cultural misunderstanding.

      Some cultural characteristics will be easy to identify: whether people are conscious of status or make displays of material wealth. However, many rights are assumed, values are implied, and needs are unspoken, (for safety, security, love, a sense of belonging to a group, self-esteem, and the ability to attain one's goals).

      For example, issues of personal security, dignity, and control will be very different as between an able-bodied and a disabled person. Similarly, there may be problems of respect when a person from a rigidly class-based culture meets a meritocrat or if there is racism, sexism or religious intolerance in play. In such situations, identity is fundamental when disputing the proper role or "place" of the other, about who is in control of their lives, and how they present themselves to the outside world. The reality is more deeply rooted in power relationships, who is on top of the social, economic, and/or political hierarchy. Family members or longterm rivals may be obsessed with their mutual competition.



      • Improvements in communication and transportation technology have made it possible for previously stable cultures to meet in unstructured situations, e.g. the internet opens lines of communication without mediation, while budget airlines transplant ordinary citizens into unfamiliar milieux. Experience proves that merely crossing cultural boundaries can be considered threatening, while positive attempts to interact may provoke defensive responses. Misunderstanding may be compounded by either an exaggerated sensitivity to possible slights, or an exaggerated and over-protective fear of giving offence;
      • Some groups believe that the phenomenon of globalisation has reduced cultural diversity and so reduced the opportunity for misunderstandings, but characterising people as a homogeneous market is simplistic. One product or brand only appeals to the material aspirations of one self-selecting group of buyers, and its sales performance will not affect the vast multiplicity of factors that may separate the cultures.
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