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Barriers to Intercultural Communication Essay

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Updated: May 8th, 2020


Effective communication is a skill that few people posses and even fewer people can get their point across when there is a cross cultural barrier. Cross cultural or intercultural communication is a part of the interaction of different people from different backgrounds and heritages.

There have been a number of studies in the field of intercultural communication with a number of experts studying ways different people from different backgrounds interact with each other and how they conduct their day to day activities. The subject also researches the barriers that an individual faces regarding communication between individuals from various cultures and heritages. In particular, this paper would look at the number of barriers that one faces with inter cultural communication.


Anxiety is usually defined as a state of human condition where a person has a feeling of unease and nervousness. It is even sometimes associated with the feeling of an unrealistic fear. Anxiety usually occurs when a person usually comes across his or her first cross cultural interaction (Communicaid 2).

The feeling of not knowing what to expect from their counterparts and lack of any knowledge about the ways to interact with them usually causes a great deal of anxiety in individuals (Communicaid). Out of their anxiety individuals usually make small mistakes which can result in a great deal of problems for the two parties conducting the business. For example, in the UAE it is customary for greetings to be physical in nature such as hugs and long handshakes that are very common (Communicaid 2).

The best way to tackle such anxiety is to obtain as much knowledge about the culture of the opposite party as possible (Coopman and Lull). It would be an even better option to explore methods which they use to conduct the business. By obtaining information before hand anxiety can significantly be reduced and a proper interaction can be made (Communicaid 2).


Ethnocentrism is a perception that an individual has for someone else’s culture and heritage as being inferior to his or her own culture and heritage (Coopman and Lull). The perception basically encompasses a wide range of assumptions regarding the culture as being morally correct and rational in all ways possible.

When such individuals interact with a person of another culture or heritage they refuse to acknowledge the opinion of that person or they evaluate a certain situation from their own point of view. In some rare cases Ethnocentrism is related to racism (Coopman and Lull).

Ethnocentrism is mostly carried out unintentionally where one is not aware of the fact that what they are doing may cause cultural and communication barriers (Coopman and Lull 52). Ethnocentrism cannot for obvious reasons be predicted before hand and preventive measures cannot be taken against such an event.

However, dealing with ethnocentrism is quite simple and different methods can produce positive results in a short time. Respecting the differences of cultures can significantly reduce the feeling of ethnocentrism amongst the people. The second step is raising awareness amongst people of different customs of other cultures (Coopman and Lull 52).

Assumption of similarity

Sometimes people assume that two cultures are not different, but are similar in their nature. For example, if an Arab prefers to drink coffee instead of tea then others assume that coffee is a popular drink in UAE. This is not always true as people from different cultures have different preferences. The preference of a person or a group of people does not reflect the entire culture (Communicaid 2).

When dealing with different cultures one must not make any predetermined assumptions about their opposite numbers culture. To play it safe one should assume that there are no cultural differences between the two cultures. The best way is to present oneself in a manner that they would do in their daily lives and carry out activities in an orderly fashion (Communicaid 2).

Such an approach can sometimes work out for an individual; however, in some cases such an assumption could lead to further miscommunication and confusion. For example, in the Arab culture it is considered an insult to refuse any offering made by an Arab. Normally, a person might refuse the offering, as there is no such implication of offending someone by turning down the offering. Again research into the opposite number’s culture can significantly mitigate such problems (Communicaid 2).


Prejudice is another notable and important barrier to cross cultural communication. Prejudice refers to irrational judgments passed on certain groups or individuals (Flinders 3). It refers to a primary negative perception created by individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, cast or language.

Definitely, when people from different cultures and norms join individuals from other cultures, they face challenges of prejudice (Jandt). Lack of communication and interaction is there as pre-judgments are passed in such cross-cultural setting. Actually, irrational perception created by a majority for a minority is the basis of prejudice. And this comes out as the breakdown of the communication pattern.

According to Jandt (2010), prejudice refers to irrational hatred – a gap that is created on the basis of hatred following a certain group, religion, cast or race. In this way, prejudice is inevitable blockage of cross-cultural communication as it is a source to augment victimization of certain groups. When victimization is there definitely lack of communication is there too (Jandt 83-85).

In UAE, employees working on contractual basis face the challenge of prejudice. Employees hired from developing countries like Pakistan, India or Bangladesh are perceived as low working professionals in UAE for which they have a coordination gap with their subordinates (Communicaid 2). This is how prejudice brings a communication gap in workplace and in the workplace environment (Communicaid 2).

Language Barrier

Language is an exchange gate of communication. It refers to a source which exchanges values, ideas, and thoughts between two exchange groups. If exchange groups are cross cultural, definitely language can be a major barrier of exchange (Velo). Communication gap is there due to differences in language between exchange groups (Velo 66).

Multinational corporations have implemented solutions for this. Such firms have standardized English as an international language which has reduced the problem of cross-cultural interaction. Now everyone joining a multinational firm learns English (the most accepted language) and reducing the gap of communication in the international work environment (Velo 66).

Furthermore, language barriers can be removed by hiring specialists. Specialists in areas of cross-cultural communication, anthropology can be effective to remove language barriers (Velo). In addition, special training programs can be organized to improve speech tendency and language frequency of the speaker. This is how language barriers can be minimized and controlled for effective intercultural communication (Velo 66).

Cultural Relativism

Cultural relativism is another most notable barrier of intercultural communication. The denial of others’ values and cultures for the augmentation of self values and cultures refers to cultural relativism (Flinders 7). Cultural relativism is a notion that reflects the superiority of a certain group. The denial of others’ values makes cultural relativism a prominent barrier of cross-cultural communication. It is the same like imposing your conceptions on others’ morals and conceptions (Flinders 7).

The concept of cultural relativism is mostly found in UAE small and medium enterprises, where employees are kept on to the adaptation of the static culture (Flinders). The firms restrict their employees to engage with the static culture, which indirectly affects their intercultural communication (Zechente 333).

The employees joining firms feel disengaged with the system and for that they keep the space in their peer communication. This is how a weak system of communication comes up and prevails in UAE small medium enterprises (Zechente).


Communication is the exchange of messages, which takes place across two certain groups. It is a skill that some people have and especially those who live in a cross-cultural setting. Intercultural communication is the interaction of people.

People from different values, cultures and backgrounds have to deal with issues of intercultural communication. There are certain barriers that come across intercultural communication. Barriers such as prejudice, anxiety, ethnocentrism, language, and assumption of similarity are most significant ones to consider.

On a conclusive node, these barriers are significant and have to be removed to make cross-cultural communication effective. For this purpose, a solution for cross-cultural communicators is that individuals must attain a basic understanding of each others’ cultures and thoughts. This will reduce the impact of the interfering barriers that come across while engaging in a cross cultural interaction.

Works Cited

Communicaid. Doing Business in the UAE. London: Communicaid Group Ltd, 2009. Print.

Coopman, Stephanie J. and J. Lull. Public Speaking: The Evolving Art, Enhanced, 2nd ed.: The Evolving Art. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

Flinders. . 2004. Web.

Jandt, Fred. An Introduction to Intercultural Communication: Identities in a Global Community. London: SAGE, 2010. Print.

Velo, Veronica. Cross-Cultural Management. New York: Business Expert Press, 2011. Print.

Zechente, Elizabeth. “In the Name of Culture: Cultural Relativism and the Abuse of the Individual.” Journal of Anthropoligical Research 53 (1997): 319-347. Print.

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