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Martin and Nakayama: Intercultural Communication in Contexts Critical Essay

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Updated: Jan 26th, 2020

Description and analysis of a nonverbal communication

Martin and Nakayama define nonverbal communication as a type of communication that goes beyond speech (267). In their book, the authors reveal to the readers that there are two types of nonverbal communication. The first type consists of facial expressions (such as smiles and frowns among others), gestures and silent conversations (prejudice, stereotyping and overt discrimination) among others.

The second type evolves around the concept of cultural spaces, which refers to the sociocultural perspectives formed by our identities as a result of location (Martin and Nakayama 267). Of particular interest is cultural space as described and discussed by the authors.

Cultural space refers to nonverbal communication cues we adopt as a result of our environment’s cultural background. It is an acknowledged fact that sociocultural influences play a significant role in the formation of an individual’s identity. Where we come from, who we socialize with and our life experiences influence how we react to new environments and people with different backgrounds.

Martin and Nakayama assert that our homes, neighborhoods and religious affiliations are examples of cultural spaces (267). By using various examples, the authors reveal that these settings influence how we interact and view people from different cultural settings. In essence, the authors give logical explanations as to why we react differently to strangers who act, speak or behave differently from what we are used to.

However, the authors assert that travel and migration can change one’s cultural space. This is attributed to the fact that these two aspects require people to move to new environments. As a result, they have to change various personal aspects in order to adapt to these environments. For example, the authors give a real life situation whereby one travels from an English speaking region to one where people speak French.

As a result, one has to quickly adapt to the new environment in order to effectively communicate with other people. This adaptation leads to assimilation of new sociocultural aspects, which constitute to changes in one’s cultural space. This characterizes postmodern cultural space, which is determined by cultural practices, languages spoken and enacted identities that result from movement of people into new environments.

From this chapter, it is evident that nonverbal communications are unconscious and implied. They use cues such as; facial expressions, gestures and silence to communicate relations, status and deception. In addition, cultural differences in nonverbal communication may lead to prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination among people from different cultures.

Similarly, postmodern cultural spaces have been attributed to changes in the socialization process. Such changes include use of social networks and other forms of communication technologies.

The “building coalitions” approach to intercultural competence

Martin and Nakayama state that intercultural communication competence is of great importance if unity and peace are to prevail in our global community (465). According to past research, motivation, knowledge, attitude and behavior have been cited as the major components, which promote intercultural communication competence.

The four levels of competence are unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, unconscious competence and conscious competence. These competence levels depend on the level of motivation, commitment, knowledge, attitude and behavior one has towards different cultures.

Due to globalization, it is important that people commit to becoming intercultural communication competent. One of the ways through which this can be achieved is by building coalitions with people from different cultures. In this chapter, Martin and Nakayama state that our different identities (based on culture, gender, sexual orientation and religion among others) provide a platform through which intercultural communication competence can be realized (482).

In this context, building coalitions means that an individual should first acknowledge that cultural differences exist and work towards learning and understanding various aspects of different cultures. In so doing, an individual will be better placed to substitute identities in a manner that facilitates efficient intercultural communication. However, the authors warn that building coalitions may lead to situations whereby one’s identities are neglected and conflicted.

Martin and Nakayama give examples of successful coalitions between Jews and Palestinians, American and Muslim women among others (482). In one way or the other, these culturally diverse groups have formed coalitions resulting from intercultural conflicts such as the September 11th terrorism act.

It is evident that coalition building is an effective way of enhancing competence in intercultural communication. While it may be difficult to build coalitions between cultures, the authors suggest that people should be committed and forgiving in order to effectively apply knowledge that facilitates intercultural communication competence.

Strengths of the text book

Overall, this book has been written with great precision and gives adequate evidence explaining the issues surrounding intercultural communication. In chapter seven, the authors give detailed descriptions, explanations and real life cases regarding nonverbal communications and how they are viewed and developed by different cultures.

In this chapter, Martin and Nakayama are very systematic and logical in the way they present their arguments (267). They start of by describing the existing types of nonverbal communications. In the chapter, they mention the nonverbal codes used in nonverbal communication and explains how each one of them impacts intercultural communication.

In addition, the use of rhetorical questions and real life cases engages the reader and enables him/her to place the issue being discussed into context. This not only makes the chapter interesting, but also helps the reader to think far beyond the contents of the book. Similarly, the language used is simple to understand and the points are presented in a concise manner.

As such, reading the chapter is fun and informative since the content is easy to understand and straight to the point. On the same note, the authors give different views regarding nonverbal communication. For example, they talk about the advantages and disadvantages of nonverbal communication and the strengths and weaknesses of each in a cultural context.

As such, the reader is not spoon-fed information but given a broader perspectives on the challenges and benefits of using nonverbal communication in intercultural interactions.

Weakness of the book

While the book offers detailed insights into the histories, challenges and benefits of intercultural communications, it does not effectively address the issue of intercultural communication competence. In chapter 12 of the book, the authors seek to elaborate on how cultural diversity competence can be achieved.

To this end, they state that motivation, knowledge, attitude and behavior are the major components for facilitating intercultural communication competence. In as much as this is true, the authors fail in their attempt to show how these components present challenges in intercultural communication.

For example, in building coalitions, the authors simple describe what building coalitions refers to, and give examples of such coalitions. However, they do not shed light on the social, political, religious and educational challenges that may hinder the process. For example, there are religions that prohibit intercultural unions. This is a challenge to building coalitions. On the same note, the authors state that forgiveness can help improve intercultural communication competence.

However, this is easier said than done. Earlier in the book, the authors state that our cultures, families, neighborhoods and society play a pivotal role in the formation of our identities. Forgiving a person who is viewed by society as a threat is not easy. In addition, forgiveness is a long-term process that requires people to prove that they are worthy.

On the same note, the authors have failed to mention the role of legislation in promoting intercultural competence. For example, there are laws that protect people from religious, racial, gender and ethnical discrimination in work places and schools.

These laws have played an essential role in promoting intercultural competence since they create a platform through which people from different cultures come together and work towards achieving similar goals. In culturally diverse schools, students are better placed to become intercultural communication competent because they learn with students from different cultures.

With this in mind, the authors have fallen short in their argument because cultural diversity competence relies more on understanding that culture is multileveled, understanding the existing barriers to intercultural integration, practicing culturally-centered communication skills and designing and implementing programs that promote intercultural communication competence, rather than forgiveness and coalitions.

These factors should be given priority since they can ensure that forgiveness, building coalitions and forming interpersonal allies becomes easier and achievable despite the challenges.

Culture, communication and conflict

In this chapter, the authors set out to explore intercultural communication conflicts. They classify conflict as being destructive or an opportunity. Martin and Nakayama assert that conflicts arise as a result of cultural, religious, political and economic tensions that characterize different cultures.

They further state that conflict management styles practiced by different cultures may lead to conflict. Specifically, they note that various cultures have differing norms and values. In such scenarios, the authors propose that conflicts will occur along the cultural fault lines that differentiate one group of people from the other. As a matter of fact, some of the most violent conflicts in historical times have been sparked by cultural differences.

The reason why the differences between cultures are hard to deal with is because some of them have taken centuries to develop and it can therefore not be expected that they will disappear overnight. Even so, cultural competence can assist to overcome these conflicts, which are mostly ignited by ignorance. When a person of a different culture perceives that his culture is being respected, he will be inclined to act in a favorable manner to the person of the other culture.

Martin and Nakayama also inform the reader that there are five types of conflicts and five conflict styles. The conflict style chosen by a society is influenced by gender, culture and ethnicity. The authors reveal that social movements are among the causes of conflicts and confrontation.

They conclude this chapter by stating that different styles of mediation have been implemented by various cultures in a bid to quell intercultural communication conflicts. They further propose that change in the conflict management style, maintaining contact and acknowledging the existence of other conflict management styles could be useful in alleviating intercultural communication conflicts.

Works Cited

Martin, Judith and Nakayama, Thomas. Intercultural Communication in Context. Boston: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2009. Print.

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