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Communication Challenges in Intercultural Interactions Essay

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2020


In the present age, young people have difficulties socializing with people from other cultures who they meet at school and the workplace because of communication obstacles. If people can acknowledge and appreciate other communities, they can be able to associate well with people from diverse cultures. People need to overcome communication barriers in intercultural interactions so that they can improve their relationships. In addition, about fifty percent of the American population will be people of color due to immigration by the year 2050. Therefore, there is a great need to learn the lifestyles of different communities so that the challenges of communication barriers are solved.


People have different views concerning intercultural communication. Some individuals believe that more interaction between communities of diverse nations would lead to a better understanding between the different cultures. Despite this, there are numerous challenges that exist in intercultural communication (Dupraw & Axner, n.d.). Dupraw and Axner (n.d.) believe that interaction with other people does not necessarily depict communication. Ingram (n.d.) observes that communication barriers across communities have prevailed because people are not informed that they exist in the first place. This essay aims to show that communication in intercultural interactions is hindered by the communication style, body language, stereotypes, the tendency to evaluate, high anxiety, and differences in ways of completing tasks.

Communication Barriers in Intercultural Interactions

Communication style

Language is a major communication barrier. Barna (n.d.) asserts that people experience challenges with terminologies, grammar, phrases, slang, and the accent in a foreign language. The worst-case scenario is when a person holds on or borrows the meaning of a word in a different community without considering its linguistic context. It may cause a misunderstanding in the whole statement, thereby inciting a different reaction compared to the expected reaction.

Body language

Body language is also very influential in any communication process. Knowing the language of a foreign nation is not enough to communicate effectively (Dupraw & Axner, n.d.). Failing to understand the common nonverbal signs, such as gestures and the tone of voice is a major communication obstacle. It is also more challenging to understand nonverbal symbols that are further from consciousness, such as the management of time, spacial relationships, and acceptable gestures of formality. To solve this, visitors in a foreign country need to know about the nonverbal signs associated with the culture they are interacting. They also need to know what each sign is attributed to because they may be interpreted differently. Thus, the wrong interpretation can lead to miscommunication.


Understanding stereotypes can also make intercultural communication easier. Stereotypes are oversimplified concepts that give the society a basis from which to understand the surroundings (Barna, n.d.). Stereotypes are obstacles in communication because they hinder objective viewing of a cause. Unfortunately, they are challenges that cannot be solved through telling facts. For example, people with an African descent are associated with fried foods and loud music. Such stereotypes help people from other communities understand how to deal with people of the African descent.

The tendency to evaluate

Another obstacle to communication is the tendency to misjudge the arguments and deeds of others, instead of trying to understand their opinions and feelings. Judging one’s actions as good prohibits the unbiased attention required to understand the perception and behavior patterns of other people (Dupraw & Axner, n.d.). Other behaviors that do not conform to the personal behavior cultured will then be perceived as wrong. Communication is, thus, disrupted severely when feelings and emotions are implicated in a situation where much of listening and empathizing is required.

High anxiety

Anxiety caused by the new environment and the new culture can build up communication barriers in intercultural communication. The aspect of high anxiety is common with Outlanders because of the uncertainty of the new environment (Barna, n.d.). Moreover, cultural differences between nations cause more anxiety because individuals do not know how they should respond to other cultures or how people in the host country will respond to their lifestyle. People are also anxious when communicating with foreigners because they cannot sustain the normal flow of speech. The citizen of the host country is also tensed by the foreigner’s scrutiny and, probably, negative responses. The foreigner’s confidence is destroyed when he starts withdrawing from others and showing hostility. These behaviors have a negative impact on effective communication.

Ways of completing tasks

The different ways of completing tasks can ignite arguments in intercultural communications. Different cultures use varying methods in completing tasks because of the differences in resources, opinions on the benefits associated with the task, and the significance of teamwork when accomplishing a specific task (Dupraw & Axner, n.d.). For example, Asians may first work on strengthening the team and then completing the task later, while the Americans may opt to accomplish the task first and then build relationships later. Such differences can lead to poor communication if they are not understood and appreciated.

Personal experience

I have experienced a communication breakdown with a Chinese student who did not understand English. When he spoke, it was very difficult to understand what he meant because his pronunciation of most words was incorrect. This led to a misinterpretation of the whole conversation. He was irritated because he did not get the response he needed. He was forced to write down what he meant to say to solve his challenge in the language.


Various obstacles can cut off communication in a multicultural setting. These obstacles can be nonverbal or verbal signs. Communication obstacles include communication style, body language, high anxiety, stereotype, tendency to evaluate, ways of completing tasks, and nonverbal signs such as gestures, posture, and management of time. Therefore, people need to understand the culture and communication process of each culture in order to overcome the communication breakdown in a cultural setting.


Barna, L. (n.d). Intercultural communication stumbling blocks. Portland, OR: Portland University. Web.

Dupraw, M., & Axner, M. (n.d.). Working on common cross-cultural challenge. New York, NY: AMPU. Web.

Ingram, P. (n.d.). An overview of diversity awareness. State College, PA: Penn State University. Web.

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