Benefits and Challenges of Intercultural Relationships
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Benefits and Challenges of Intercultural Relationships
There are increasing opportunities today to interact with individuals from other cultures, but many young people tend not to express an interest in taking advantage of these opportunities. We rarely think about the potential that our personal relationships might cause us to lose our nationality or other group memberships, but it must be recognized that not all cultures recognize or value all relationships. This chapter will explore the benefits and challenges of intercultural relationships and will describe six dialectics as a way of thinking about intercultural friendships and romantic relationships.
- Benefits and Challenges of Intercultural Relationships
- Benefits: Most people have a variety of intercultural relationships that may feature differences in age, physical ability, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, race, or
- Rewards of intercultural relationships are great, and the key to these relationships is an interesting balance of differences and similarities.
- Benefits include:
- Acquiring knowledge about the world
- Breaking stereotypes
- Acquiring new skills
- In intercultural relationships we often learn about the partner’s language, cultural patterns, and history. This relational learning comes from a particular relationship, but generalizes to other contexts.
- Building intercultural relationships provides information and experiences that may challenge previously held stereotypes.
- We may learn how to do new things (new games, new recipes, new sports).
- These benefits lead to a sense of interconnectedness to others and establish a lifelong pattern of communication across differences.
- Challenges: There are several ways in which intercultural relationships are unique, and these present particular challenges.
- Dissimilarities may be more obvious during early stages of the relationship and then
have less impact as commonalities are established and the relationship develops.
- There seems to be an interplay between differences and similarities in intercultural
- Because differences are a given, the challenge is to discover and build on
- Negative stereotypes often affect intercultural relationships.
- People often experience anxiety initially in intercultural relationships.
- It is greater in intercultural relationships than intracultural relationships.
- It comes from being worried about possible negative consequences.
- Once someone has developed a close intercultural relationship, that person is
more inclined to have others.
- The level of anxiety will be higher if: one or both parties has negative
expectations because of negative stereotypes or negative previous experiences.
- Intercultural relationships often present us with the challenge to explain to ourselves,
to each other, and to our communities.
- The biggest obstacles come from majority communities because they have less to
gain from boundary-crossing friendships.
- In intercultural relationships, individuals recognize and respect differences.
- Thinking Dialectically About Intercultural Relationships
- A dialectical model explains the dynamics of relationships (co-existing tensions present between relationship partners).
- Intercultural relationships are both personal and contextual.
- Individuals may feel more or less comfortable in intercultural relationships
dependent upon contexts.
- Diversity of one’s social network predicts the likelihood of cross-cultural dating.
- Media images of attractiveness influence to whom we are attracted.
III. Intercultural Relationships: There are three communication approaches to the study of intercultural relationships. The social science approach identifies cross-cultural differences in relationships. The interpretive approach explores the in-depth nature of these relationships and the role communication plays in them. The critical approach examines the influences of various contexts in facilitating or discouraging the development and maintenance of intercultural relationships.
- Social Science Approach: Cross-Cultural Differences
- Differences in Notions of Friendship
- Friendships are seen in quite different ways around the globe: Western cultures
tend to view friendship as more voluntary, individual-oriented, and spontaneous
in contrast to family or work relationships.
- Notions of friendship are related to notions of identity and values.
- In some collectivist cultures such as China, friendships are long-term and
involve obligations such as guanxi and mutual economic support in ways that
are not seen in a positive light in individualistic cultures.
- Differences in Relational Development
- Cultural differences may come into play at the very beginning stages of
- There are different cultural rules for how to address strangers relative to the
potential that they may or may not become friends.
- Barnlund (1989) and colleagues found many differences in Japanese and U.S.
American students’ relational development.
- More recent scholarship has found that the influence of a third culture can
complicate the stage model for intercultural friendships, but can also serve as a
useful background for building these friendships.
- Friendships: As relationships develop more intimacy in this phase, friends share
more personal and private information.
- Lewin (1948) suggests that there are three areas of information we self-disclose.
- The outer boundary includes superficial information about ourselves and our
- The middle circle includes more personal information-like history, family
iii.The inner core includes very personal and private information, some of which
we never share.
- These areas may correspond with relational phases: i. In the orientation phase, superficial information is shared.
- In the exploratory phase, personal information is exchanged.
iii. In the stability phase, more intimate information is disclosed.
- The most cross-cultural variation in Lewin’s studies was in the degree to which the outer area was more or less permeable.
- What most people in the world consider simply a “friend” is probably what a U.S.
American would consider a “close friend.”
- Collier (1996) found comparable differences among racial groups within the
- European American students felt that developing a close friendship took only f
few months, whereas other groups felt that it took about a year.
- There were also differences in what each group thought was important in close
friendships: “Latinos emphasized relational support, Asian Americans
emphasized a caring, positive exchange of ideas, African Americans
emphasized respect and acceptance and Anglo Americans emphasized
recognizing the needs of individuals” (p. 315).
- There are also cultural variations in how much nonverbal expression is
- Romantic Relationships: Some intimate relationships develop into romantic
- Cross-cultural studies suggest both similarities and cultural differences in romantic relationships.
- Gao (1991) identified common themes of openness, involvement, shared nonverbal meanings, and relationship assessment between Chinese and U.S. American students.
- Gao also found that the U.S. students emphasized physical attraction, passion, and love, whereas the Chinese students stressed connectedness to families and other relational connections.
- Interpretive Approach: Communicating in Intercultural Relationships
Although intracultural and intercultural relationships share some similarities, they have some unique characteristics that can guide our thinking about communicating in these relationships.
- In the research of Sudweeks (1990) and colleagues, several themes emerged as important to intercultural relationships: competence, similarity, involvement, and turning points.
- Language is important and may challenge intercultural relationships even when people speak the same language.
- Although dissimilarity may account for initial attraction, it is important to find similarities in relationships that transcend cultural differences.
- Time has to be made for the relationship.
- Intimacy of interaction is important, and so are shared friendship networks and turning points were important to intercultural friendship development, such as doing favors for each other, self-disclosure, and so on.
- Intercultural Work Relationships: The workplace can be the site of the most diversity (religious, language, ethnicity, race, nationality) for many people.
- Encounters may be face-to-face or mediated.
- Foxhole diversity becomes an issue (the view that one needs to think about the skills and expertise those in the “foxhole” with one really need, not simple those desired).
- The challenge in the workplace is to get along with individuals who are quite different.
- Power is an issue that exists in most work relationships and that must be negotiated.
- Intercultural Relationships Online
The increased use of the Internet affords increasing opportunities to form intercultural relationships online, but online communication is both similar and different from real life relationships.
- The lack of nonverbal cues (“line of sight” data, such as gender, age, race, etc.) may serve to facilitate the development of intercultural relationships.
- Physical appearance may not be an initial factor in the development of the online relationships and may become less of an issue, but may enter into the equation at a later time.
- Online relationships, such as those in “Cybertown,” are also similar to real life relationships.
- Language differences can be a factor in the development of online relationships, too.
- Nonnative speakers have more time to construct a message than they might in a face-to-face interaction.
- Misunderstandings can occur in areas such as humor, irony, sarcasm, and cynicism.
iii. Interactions between high-context and low-context individuals might also cause problems online, since there is a lack of nonverbal cues.
- Interactions between those from high power distance cultures and those from low power distance cultures might also prove to be challenging.
- Intercultural Dating
- Lampe’s (1982) study showed that people gave similar reasons for dating within and outside of their ethnic groups: they were attracted to each other physically and/or sexually.
- The variations occurred in reasons for not dating.
- Reasons given for not dating within one’s group were lack of attraction and so forth.
- Reasons given for not dating outside of one’s group were no opportunity and never thought about it.
- More recent studies suggest that things have changed since Lampe’s study; according to one study:
- 77% of respondents in one more recent study said it is all right for blacks and
whites to date each other.
- 91% of those surveyed who were born after 1976 said that interracial dating is
iii. Martin, Bradford, Chitgopekar and Drzewiecka (2003) found, however, that
individual dating experiences and societal contexts are closely related.
- The likelihood of dating interculturally is influenced by family attitudes, geographic context, social status, and larger social discourses.
- Permanent Relationships
- There are other factors that do not clearly explain intercultural dating patterns.
- In a recent study of internet personal ads, it was found that Blacks who knew they
did not want children were more willing to date other Blacks than were Blacks
who were unsure.
- Blacks in the West were less willing to date other Blacks than were those who
lived in other parts of the United States.
iii. Black smokers were less willing to date other Blacks.
- In spite of substantial resistance to interethnic and interracial romantic
relationships, increasing numbers of people are marrying across ethnic and racial
- Increasing numbers of multiracial people are likely to erode structural barriers to
- Major concerns of intercultural relationships include pressures from family and society and issues around raising children.
- Sometimes these concerns are intertwined.
- People in intercultural marriages tend to have more disagreements about how to raise children and are more likely to encounter opposition and resistance from their families about the marriage.
- Romantic love is also influenced by society, and certain groups have been made to seem as if they are more attractive and acceptable as partners.
- Romano’s interviews of people who had married spouses from other countries identified challenges in these marriages.
- Challenges they shared with intracultural couples were friends, politics, finances, sex, in-laws, illness and suffering, and raising children.
- Challenges that seemed exacerbated in intercultural marriages were values, eating and drinking habits, gender roles, time, religion, place of residence, dealing with stress, and ethnocentrism.
- Romano also found that most intercultural couples have their own systems for working out the power balance in their relationships, which can be categorized into four styles:
- Submission style: The most common style, with one partner submitting to the culture of the other and abandoning or denying his/her own. This model rarely works because people cannot erase their cultural backgrounds.
- Compromise style: Each partner gives up certain parts of his or her cultural beliefs and norms to accommodate the other.
iii. Obliteration style: Both partners deal with the differences by attempting to abandon their own cultures and forming a new third culture with new beliefs. This is difficult because it is hard to be completely cut off from your own cultural background.
- Consensus style: The most desirable model; it is based on agreement and negotiation. Neither person permanently tries to abandon his/her cultural ways but may temporarily suspend them to adapt to the context. This requires flexibility and negotiation.
- She suggests that couples planning intercultural relationships should prepare carefully for the commitment.
- Gay and Lesbian Relationships: Little information is available about cultural differences in gay relationships.
- Homosexuality has existed in every society and in every era, and Chesbro (1981) suggests that in the majority of cultures outside the United States homosexuality is not considered problematic behavior.
- There are several areas where gay and straight relationships differ: the role of same-sex friendships, the role of cross-sex friendships, and the relative importance of friendships.
- Same-sex friendships may play different roles for gay and straight males in the United States because typically U.S. heterosexual men turn to women for their social support and emotional intimacy.
- Earlier in the United States and in many countries male friendships have often closely paralleled romantic love.
- This also seems to be true for gay men who tend to seek emotional support in same-sex friendships.
- The same pattern does not hold true for women because both gay and heterosexual women seek more intimacy in same-sex friendships.
- Sexuality may play a different role in heterosexual and gay friendships.
- In heterosexual relationships, friendship and sexual involvement sometimes seem mutually exclusive.
- In gay and lesbian relationships, friendships often start with sexual attraction and involvement but last after sexual involvement is terminated.
- There is a clear distinction between “‘lover” and “friend” for both gay men and women.
- Close relationships may play a more important role for gay people than for straight people because of the social discrimination and strained family relationships.
- Many romantic relationship issues are the same for both heterosexual and gay couples; however, some issues (permanent relationships, relational dissolution) are unique to gay and lesbian partners.
- Same-sex relationships, like heterosexual relationships, are very much influenced by the cultural and legal contexts in which they occur.
- Critical Approach: Contextual Influences: It is important to consider intercultural relationships in the contexts in which they emerge.
- Family and Neighborhood Contexts
- We first learn how to respond to those who are different and how to respond in new situations through our family.
- Parents often serve as models for our learning of communication responses.
- Our parents’ social networks and the diversity or lack of diversity is likely to impact whether a child will date interracially or not.
- The diversity of one’s neighborhood is also an influence on whether one has interracial friendships.
- Religious and Educational Contexts
- Institutions play a part in encouraging or discouraging intercultural friendships.
- Recent research suggests that integrated religious institutions and educational institutions provide the best opportunities for intercultural friendships and the best environment for the improvement of attitudes about interracial marriage.
- Having ethnically diverse friendships has a greater influence on interethnic romance than does a generally diverse social environment.
- Historical and Political Contexts
- History is an important context for understanding intercultural interactions and relationships.
- The symbolic and material realm is important to understand culture.
- Power has a direct effect on direction communication takes in intercultural relations.
- There are many examples of how colonial histories have framed relationships.
- The dialectical tensions lie in the social, political, and economic contexts that make some kinds of intercultural relationships possible, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, in the desires and motives of the partners involved.
- Different cultural groups have different demographics, histories, and social concerns and larger structures, such as proximity, need to be studied in understanding interracial marriage.
Chapter 11 Extended Outline
EXTENDED CHAPTER OUTLINE
Conflict is inevitable. Worldwide, conflicts occur at many different levels: interpersonal, social, national, and international. Conflict among cultural groups can escalate into enormous tragedies that reverberate across generations. Three broad, complementary approaches to understanding conflict are the social science approach, which focuses on how cultural differences cause conflict and influence the management of the conflict on the interpersonal level, the interpretive approach, and the critical approach, which both focus more on intergroup relationships, cultural, historical and structural elements as the primary sources of conflict. These three approaches emphasize different aspects of the individual-contextual dialectic. Understanding intercultural conflict seems important because of the relationship between culture and conflict. Cultural differences can cause conflict, and once conflict occurs, cultural backgrounds and experiences influence how individuals deal with conflict. Unfortunately little is known about how to deal effectively with intercultural conflict because most of the research to date in the United States applies exclusively to majority culture members. This chapter reviews this information and identifies what can be applied in intercultural contexts and suggests some new ways to think about conflict.
- Characteristics of Intercultural Conflict
- The dialectical perspective is useful in thinking about intercultural conflict.
- Intercultural conflicts can be viewed as both individual and cultural.
- They can be seen as both personal and social.
- The history/past-present/future dialectic can also be useful.
- The economic context, the cultural identities and belongingness as well as political and religious contexts can contribute to conflict, as seen in the French riots detailed in the Martin and Nakayama.
- People have varied beliefs on the effectiveness of riots and violence in effective change.
- There may be multiple sources for conflict, such as economic, social, political, and religious sources.
- Ambiguity is a typical characteristic of intercultural conflicts and causes people to resort to their default conflict style, which sometimes exacerbates the conflict.
- Language issues are also significant in intercultural conflict; when you do not know the language well, it is difficult to effectively handle the conflict.
- Different orientations to conflict and conflict management styles also complicate intercultural conflict.
- Two Orientations to Conflict: Conflict should be thought of dialectically.
- Conflict as Opportunity: This view is the one most commonly advocated in U.S. interpersonal communication texts.
- Conflict is defined as involving a perceived or real incompatibility of goals, values, expectations, process, or outcomes between two or more interdependent individuals or groups.
- This perspective is shared by many Western cultural groups, and Augsburger (1992) suggests that it is based on four assumptions:
- Conflict is a normal, useful process.
- All issues are subject to change through negotiation.
- Direct confrontation and conciliation are valued.
- Conflict is a necessary renegotiation of an implied contract, a redistribution of opportunity, a release of tensions, and a renewal of relationships.
- The main idea is that working through conflicts constructively results in stronger, healthier, and more satisfying relationships.
- Some of the benefits for groups who work through conflicts are:
- Gaining new information about people or other groups.
- Diffusing more serious conflict.
- Increasing cohesiveness.
- Individuals should be encouraged to think of creative, even far-reaching solutions to conflict resolution.
- The most desirable conflict response is to recognize and work through it in an open, productive way.
- Relationships without conflict may mean that partners are not resolving issues that need to be dealt with.
- Conflict is a renegotiation of contract, so it is worthy of celebration.
- Conflict as Destructive: Many cultural groups view conflict as ultimately unproductive for relationships, sometimes related to spiritual and/or cultural values (for example, many Asian cultures, Quakers, Amish).
- Augsburger (1992) notes that this approach has four assumptions:
- Conflict is a destructive disturbance of the peace.
- The social system should not be adjusted to the needs of members; rather, members should adapt to established values.
- Confrontations are destructive and ineffective.
- Disputants should be disciplined.
- The Amish, for example, see conflict not as an opportunity for personal growth but as certain destruction of their interpersonal and community harmony.
- When conflict does arise, the strong spiritual value of pacifism dictates a nonresistant response-often avoidance.
- This nonresistant stance prohibits the use of force in human relations, and legal and personal confrontation is avoided.
- This extends to refusal to participate in military confrontation and in personal and business relations; they would prefer to lose face or money than escalate a conflict.
- Cultural groups that view conflict as destructive often avoid low-level conflict and sometimes seek intervention from a third party, or intermediary.
- Informal intervention: a colleague or friend is asked to intervene.
- Formal intervention: professional help is used to intervene (for example, lawyers, real estate agents, counselors/therapists).
- Discipline is seen as a means for censuring conflict.
- The approach does not suggest the absence of conflict and is not just an objection to fighting but is a difficult (possibly risky) orientation to interpersonal relationships.
- The “peacemaking” approach:
- Strongly values the other person and encourages his or her growth.
- Attempts to de-escalate or keep conflicts from escalating once they start.
- Attempts to find creative negotiation to resolve conflicts when they arise.
- Ting-Toomey (1991) suggests that these two orientations are based on different cultural values for identity and face saving.
- The conflict as opportunity orientation stems from a concern for saving individual dignity.
- The conflict as destructive orientation stems from a value for maintaining harmony in interpersonal relationships and saving the dignity of others.
- Cultural Differences in Conflict Views: A Dialectical Perspective. Cultural variation in approaches to conflict seems to result from structural, individual, and interpersonal characteristics. Thinking dialectically, one can see that there is no single approach to conflict that is appropriate to all situations, and the best solution may be found at some middle ground.
- A contrast between Ireland and Norway suggests that higher levels of conflict may reflect:
- segregated communities with high levels of stereotypes and discrimination;
- identity conflict, emotional distance, and lack of trust; and
- socialization that tolerates conflict and aggression.
- Ross (1993) found that low-conflict societies share certain characteristics:
- interpersonal practices that build security and trust;
- strong linkage between individual and community interests;
- high identification with the community;
- preferences for joint problem solving;
- available third parties to facilitate conflict management;
- an emphasis on the restoration of social harmony;
- the possibility of exit; and
- strategies of conflict avoidance.
III. The Social Science Approach to Conflict: Different orientations to conflict may result in more conflict.
- Types of Conflict: There are many different types of conflict and different styles to deal with them. In Cole’s (1996) study, he found that Japanese students use most of the same categories as those identified in the United States:
- Affective Conflict: This type of conflict occurs when individuals become aware that their feelings and emotions are incompatible.
- Conflict of Interest: This occurs when people have incompatible preferences for courses of action or plans.
- Value Conflict: This is a more serious conflict type and occurs when people differ in ideologies.
- Cognitive Conflict: A situation in which people become aware that their thought processes or perceptions are incongruent.
- Goal Conflict: This occurs when people disagree about a preferred outcome or end state.
- Strategies and Tactics for Dealing with Conflict: Face negotiation is a theory that links cultural values to facework and conflict styles. Facework refers to specific communication strategies we use to “save” our own or someone else’s face and is a universal concept, yet how we “do” facework varies among cultures and influences conflict communication. The ways people deal with conflict are influenced by their cultural backgrounds, and they usually are defined by how people manage self-image in relational settings.
- Although people may have a general disposition toward conflict, they may choose different tactics in different situations.
- There are at least five styles of conflict management.
- Dominating style: This win-lose style reflects high concern for self and low concern for others and uses forcing behaviors to win one’s position.
b Integrating style: High concern for both self and others are reflected in an open and direct exchange of information in an attempt to reach a solution acceptable to both parties. It is seen as the most effective style for most conflicts, but it requires a lot of time and energy.
- Compromising style: Reflects a moderate degree of concern for self and others. It involves sharing and exchanging information to the end that both individuals give up something to find a mutually acceptable decision.
- Obliging style: In this style, one person plays down the differences and incompatibilities while emphasizing commonalities that satisfy the other.
- Avoiding style: Reflects low concern for self and others in U.S. cultural contexts, but in some cultural contexts this may be viewed as an appropriate style leading to harmonious relationships.
- There are many reasons one style may be preferred over another, and the primary influence on style choice is family background.
- Gender, Ethnicity, and Conflict: In this section ideas concerning the effect of gender and ethnicity on handling conflict are investigated.
- Gender differences: Some studies show gender differences in conflict management styles, and others do not.
- In some studies, women report more collaborative conflict styles, whereas men report more competitive styles.
- Among older adults, however, these gender differences seem to disappear.
- The relationship between ethnicity, gender, and conflict is even more complex.
- Collier (1991) found both differences among ethnic groups and gender differences within ethnic groups, though some of her findings appear to contradict previous research.
- Although some differences appear to exist, it is important to remember that it is inappropriate to assume that a person will behave a particular way because of his/her ethnicity and/or gender.
- Value Differences and Conflict Styles
- Cultural variations in intercultural conflict resolution may be understood by looking at how cultural values influence conflict management.
- Contrasting value differences, such as individualism and collectivism, influence communication patterns during conflict.
- Studies suggest that people from individualist societies tend to be more concerned about their own self-esteem during conflict; more direct in their communication; and use more controlling, confrontational, and solution-oriented conflict styles.
- People from collectivist societies tend to be more concerned with preserving group harmony and with saving the other person’s dignity during conflict so they may use a less direct conversational style and may use avoiding and obliging conflict styles instead.
- Some evidence suggests that not all collectivistic societies prefer indirect styles of dealing with conflict.
- Cole’s (1996) study suggests that Japanese college students use more dominating or avoiding styles with outgroup members where harmony is not as important.
- Interpretive and Critical Approaches to Social Conflict: Both approaches have tended to emphasize the social and cultural aspects of conflict.
- Conflict from these perspectives is more complex than the ways interpersonal conflict is enacted.
- It is deeply rooted in cultural differences in the context of social, economic, and historical conflict.
- Social conflict arises from unequal or unjust social relationships between groups.
- These conflicts may be motivated by the desire for social change.
- In social movements people band together to create social change.
- Sometimes social movements use confrontation to highlight system injustices.
- Historical and political contexts are sources of conflict.
- Many international conflicts have centered on border disputes.
- Historical reasons for conflicts help us understand the claims of both sides.
- Social Contexts
- The context makes a difference in how people handle conflict.
- Many conflicts arise and must be understood against the backdrop of existing social movements.
- Social movements are large-scale efforts designed to accomplish change in contemporary society (for example, women’s suffrage movement).
- Confrontation from this perspective is seen as an opportunity for change.
- Some social movements use a nonviolent confrontation strategy whereas others choose violence.
- Social movements highlight issues related to intercultural interaction.
- Economic Contexts
- Many conflicts are fueled by economic problems which may be expressed in cultural differences.
- Many people find it easier to explain economic troubles by pointing to cultural differences or assigning blame.
- Kivel (1996) suggests that blaming immigrants, people of color, and Jews for economic problems diverts attention from the decision makers who are responsible for the problem.
- As economic contexts change, more cultural conflict occurs.
- Historical and Political Contexts
- It is only through understanding the past that we can understand what it means to be members of particular cultural groups.
- Sometimes identities are constructed in opposition to or in conflict with other identities.
- Differences marked by cultural identification, when fueled by historical context, can lead to conflict, as seen with the “white Australia” case.
- Rather than assuming that conflict is simply caused by personal issues between individuals, it is important to view it in terms of the context as well.
- Managing Intercultural Conflict
- Productive Versus Destructive Conflict
- One way of dealing with conflict management in intercultural interaction is in terms of what is more or less successful conflict management or resolution.
- Augsburger (1992) suggests there are four ways in which productive intercultural conflict is different from destructive conflict.
- Individuals or groups narrow the conflict in definition, focus, and issues.
- People limit conflict to the original issue.
- They direct the conflict toward cooperative problem solving.
- They trust leadership that stresses mutually satisfactory outcomes.
- Competition Versus Cooperation: The general theme in destructive conflict is competitive escalation.
- Competitive relational atmospheres promote coercion, deception, and poor communication.
- Cooperative atmospheres promote perceived similarity, trust, and flexibility, and lead to open communication.
- The key is that the atmosphere must be introduced in the beginning stages of relationships or group interaction because it is difficult to turn a competitive relationship into a cooperative one once the conflict starts to escalate.
- Exploration is essential to setting a cooperative atmosphere.
- Exploration consists of putting the conflict issue on hold, exploring other options, or delegating the problem Ito a third party.
- Blaming must be suspended so that it is possible to generate new ideas or positions.
- If all parties are committed to the process, they will share joint ownership in the solution.
- Exploration can encourage people to think of innovative and interesting solutions to conflicts.
- Dealing with Conflict: There are no easy answers for dealing with intercultural conflict.
- Sometimes looking at conflict dialectically can help.
- Sometimes stepping back and showing self-restraint is the answer.
- Sometimes it is appropriate to be assertive and show strong emotion.
- The authors’ suggestions for dealing with intercultural conflict are:
- Stay centered and do not polarize: It is important to practice self-restraint and avoid either-or thinking.
- Maintain contact: People may take a break from the conflict but not the relationship–continued dialogue is important for better understanding the conflict.
- Recognize the existence of different styles: Conflict may be exacerbated when people fail to recognize style differences.
- Identify your preferred style: It is important to recognize your own preferred styles and which styles are difficult for you to deal with.
- Be creative and expand your conflict style repertoire: If the conflict approach you are using is not working, be willing to try a different style.
- Recognize the importance of conflict context: The social, economic, political, and historical contexts need to be considered in understanding conflict in addition to the interpersonal issues.
- Be willing to forgive: Genuine forgiveness is particularly important for long-term relationships.
- Recent research suggests that both revenge and forgiveness are instinctual and universal among humans, and many animal specials also demonstrate these behaviors.
- As cooperation and group level evolves, revenge and forgiveness are not on opposite sides.
iii. Most models of forgiveness include an acknowledgement of feelings or hurt and anger and a need for heeling; it is easier to forgive when one can se the offender as someone who is careworthy, valuable and safe, as well as when the vengeful impulse has been satisfied to some degree.
- Compensation is an important aspect in the prevention of violent rampages.
- According to McCullough (2008), civil wars that end in forgiveness and reconciliation have four processes: redefine affected people’s identities, implement countless small actions, process of public “truth,” and justice short of revenge (legal consequences, amnesty, reparations).
- Forgiveness may take a long time.
- Mediation: When individuals or groups cannot work through conflict on their own, they may get help from an intermediary.
- In Western societies, lawyers may act as mediators to settle community or family disputes, but the contemporary Western mediation models often ignore cultural variations in conflict processes.
- Augsberger suggests that culturally sensitive mediators engage in conflict transformation (not conflict resolution or conflict management).
- Conflict transformers help disputants to think in new ways about the conflict, but this requires a commitment by both parties to regard each other with goodwill and mutual respect.
- Traditional societies often use mediation based on nondirect means.
- Contemporary Western mediators have learned some lessons from traditional non- Western models, and mediation is used increasingly in the United States and other countries to resolve conflicts. Meditation is advantageous because disputants are actively involved and tend to buy-in to the resolution.
- It is also more creative and integrative, and it is cheaper than legal resolution.
Chapter 12 Extended Outline
EXTENDED CHAPTER OUTLINE
To learn how to become a good intercultural communicator, experience is often the best teacher; reading books is not enough. This chapter will provide ideas and suggestions for improving intercultural communication skills.
- The Components of Competence
Knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and motivation are building blocks of intercultural communication competence identifies by social science scholars. Although these represent a starting point, they are just a starting point. Further, these components are also impacted by context and it is useful to apply a dialectical perspective to thinking about them.
- Social Science: Individual Components
- Motivation: Motivation is perhaps the most important dimension of communication competence.
- If one is not motivated to communicate, skill level is not important.
- We can’t assume people always want to communicate.
- Members of less powerful groups have a stronger incentive to learn about more powerful groups than the converse.
- Sometimes people can become motivated to learn about other cultures and to communicate interculturally; increase violence among religions has motivated people to reach out to those of other cultures.
- Anxiety, uncertainty, and fear can also be disincentives to intercultural communication.
- Sometimes people do not address intercultural issues because of fear of being isolated from friends and family who could be prejudiced and unmotivated.
- Motivation is lacking in contexts in which historical events or political circumstances have resulted in communication breakdown.
- Knowledge: The knowledge component comprises what we know about ourselves, others, and various aspects of communication.
- Self-knowledge includes knowing how you may be perceived as a communicator and your strengths and weaknesses.
- Acquiring self-knowledge is a long and sometimes complicated process because it involves being open to information coming in many different ways.
- Sometimes we do not get this information because we do not search for it or have a relationship with enough trust to reveal such information.
iii. Other-knowledge, or knowledge about how other people think and behave, will also help us to be more effective communicators.
- Knowledge about how others think and behave is important.
- Learning about others in an abstract way often leads to stereotyping.
- It is often better to learn through relational experience, however this is not always possible.
iii. To avoid stereotyping, it is important to be aware of the range in thought and behavior across cultures and not to assume that since a person belongs to a particular group that he or she will behave in a particular way.
- Linguistic knowledge is another important aspect of intercultural communication.
- Understanding the challenges of learning a second language helps us appreciate the challenges of sojourners and immigrants.
- Knowing a second or third language expands one’s communication repertoire and empathy for culturally different individuals.
- Attitudes: Many attitudes contribute to intercultural communication competence.
- Tolerance for ambiguity refers to ease in dealing with situations where there is much unknown and is one of the most difficult things to attain.
- Empathy is the ability to know what it is like to “walk in another person’s shoes.”
- Since our empathic skills are tied to our cultures, we cannot be empathetic without knowing something about others’ experiences and lives.
- Howell suggests that empathy is the capacity to imagine oneself in another role, within the context of one’s cultural identity.
iii. Empathy across cultures has also been described as transpection, a postmodern phenomenon that often involves trying to learn foreign beliefs, assumptions, perspectives, and feelings in a foreign context.
- Transpection can only be achieved with practice and requires structured experience and self-reflection.
- Bennett suggests a “Platinum Rule”: “Do unto others as they themselveswould have done to them” (1998, p. 213).
- Achieving nonjudgmentalism is not easy because we do not like to recognize that we judge using our own cultural frames of reference.
- The D.I.E. exercise is helpful in developing nonjudgmental attitudes.
- It involves learning to distinguish between description, interpretation, and evaluation in processing information.
iii. Descriptive statements (nonjudgmental) contain factual information that is verified through the senses.
- Interpretive statements attach meaning to the description.
- Evaluative statements clarify how we feel about something.
- This device may enable us to recognize the level at which we are processing information.
vii. Confusing the levels in our communication can lead to misunderstandings and ineffectiveness.
- Behaviors and Skills: This is another component of intercultural competence.
- Ruben (1976/1977) devised the fol1owing list of universal behaviors, which includes some attitudes:
- Display of respect
- Interaction management
iii. Ambiguity tolerance
- Relational rather than task behavior
- Interaction posture
- Some general behaviors may work well in all cultural groups and contexts, however they can become problematic when we try to apply them in very specific ways.
- There are also culturally specific rules and expectations for behavior; for example, respect may be an important behavior in all cultures, but the way respect is displayed may be different in specific cultures.
- It is not enough to know how competent behaviors vary from culture to culture; one needs to be able to put that knowledge into practice by demonstrating those behaviors appropriately.
- While it is useful to acquire knowledge about how competent behaviors vary, this analytical knowledge may not be enough.
- Howell (1982) emphasized that intercultural communication required a combination of holistic and analytic thinking and identified four levels of intercultural communication competence:
- Unconscious incompetence: The “be yourself” level where there is no consciousness of differences or need to act in any particular way. During intercultural communication, being ourselves may mean being incompetent and not realizing it.
- Conscious incompetence: We may realize that we are not having success but not be able to figure out why.
iii. Conscious competence: This is the level that intercultural communication courses try to motivate students to reach by focusing on analytic thinking and learning.
- Unconscious competence: Communication at this level is successful, but not conscious, and occurs when the analytic and holistic parts are functioning together. It occurs when one is attitudinally and cognitively prepared but lets go of conscious thought and relies on holistic cognitive processing.
- Interpretive Perspective: Competence in Contexts: Competence requires an understanding of the context in which the communication occurs.
- Cultures may find differences in appropriate behaviors between task contexts and social contexts.
- Mediate contexts (CMC) the lack nonverbal cues, and may require different skills involving language and identity expression (especially since much our identity expression is usually nonverbal).
- Mediated contexts can also use language to help people who do not share a language to communicate, since they have more time to interpret and translate when using CMC.
- An interpretive perspective reminds us that a good communicator is sensitive to the many contexts in which intercultural communication occurs.
- It is important to recognize the social position from which one is communicating in relation to the speech community and the contexts.
- A critical perspective reminds us that an individual’s competence may be constrained by political, economic, and historical contexts.
- Critical Perspective: Competence for Whom? A critical perspective reminds us that individuals’ competence may be constrained by political, economic, and historical contexts.
- Early research on communication competence conducted by white researchers using
white respondents failed to consider issues of power differentials in understanding
- Later research included issues such as stereotyping, powerlessness, and
- More recent research also notes differences and changes in women’s
communication behaviors over then past fifty years; African American women say
that they use stronger, more assertive, aggressive and divergent strategies than might
have been used many years ago.
- It is important to determine the reasons we may wish to be competent in
intercultural communication; the critical perspective provides such questions for us
to answer in determining our goals in engaging in intercultural interactions.
- Applying Knowledge About Intercultural Communication: Some specific suggestions for becoming better intercultural communicators that recognize both the importance of individual skills and contextual constraints in improving intercultural relations include:
- Entering Into Dialogue
- To recognize and embrace our connectedness to people who are different, we have to engage in true dialogue.
- A central notion of dialogue is sharing and reciprocity:
- Mutual listening
- Sharing of narratives
- Expanding the repertoire of possibilities in explaining the world
- To resist the tendency to focus only the loudest and most obvious voices, we should strive for “harmonic discourse” in which all voices “retain their individual integrity, yet combine to form a whole discourse that is orderly and congruous” (Stewart, 1997, p. 119).
- Any conciliation between cultures must reclaim the notion of a voice for allinteractants.
- One way to become a more competent communicator is to work on dialogue skills, which include listening as well as speaking.
- Becoming Interpersonal Allies: The dialectical approach involves becoming allies with others, all working for better intergroup relationships.
- We need to think about multiculturalism and cultural diversity in a new way that recognizes the complexities of communication across cultures and power issues.
- The goal is to find a way in which people can work toward equitable unity that holds many different and contradictory truths, a unity based on conscious coalition, of affinity, of political kinship, in which we all win.
- Collier (1998a) suggests intercultural alliances are characterized by three issues:
- Power and unearned privilege: Intercultural friends recognize and try to understand issues of ethnic, gender, and class differences and how these determine power and then try to manage these power issues.
- Most students arrive at college with little experience in intercultural relations and are generally unaware or hold negative attitudes towards racial issues or see themselves as victims.
- Understanding and acknowledging one’s privilege is necessary to intercultural friendships.
- Impact of history: Intercultural friends recognize that people in power interpret the importance of history differently from those who have less power.
- Orientations of affirmation: Intercultural friends value and appreciate differences and are committed to the relationship even during difficulties and misunderstandings.
- Building Coalitions: There are specific ways to build coalitions.
- Coalitions can arise from multiple identities.
- As people strive to build better intercultural relations, they may need to transcend some of their identities or reinforce other identities.
- Shifting identities allow people to build coalitions across seemingly different peoples, to foster positive intercultural relationships for a better world.
- Coalitions built of multiple identities are never easy, and in the process people may find that some of their own identities feel neglected or injured. To achieve success, they have to work through emotional injuries.
- Social Justice and Transformation
- The ethical challenge associated with the acquisition of intercultural knowledge and
insights is presented.
- This acquisition not only transforms the student but should benefit the larger society
and other cultural groups.
- Acknowledgement of oppression and inequities is a first step in working for social
- Social inequities are sometimes present in work contexts, such as cases of workplace
- Being bullied in the workplace can be experienced by individuals from diverse
ii.Recent research determined that Asian-Americans, African Americans and Latinos
experience more bullying in the workplace than do Whites.
- Intercultural listening should be followed by action/application.
- Johnson provides concrete suggestions for working toward social justice and
- Acknowledge that trouble exists.
- Pay attention.
- Do something.
- Although limited and problematic, forgiveness is an option for promoting intercultural understanding and reconciliation.
- Forgiveness requires a deep intellectual and emotional commitment during moments of great pain.
- It also requires a true transformation of spirit.
- Leaders must construct conditions of contact among groups that lead to decategorization and recategorization, opportunities to develop intimate private knowledge of each other and providing superordinate goals that foster cooperation.
- By building up reserves of new positive experiences, leaders can use them as a sort of psychological buffer to help them undo vicious ingroup-outgroup revenge.
- While revenge is often spoken of as a negative, not all groups who espouse this ideal actually practice it.
- A 2004 study demonstrated that conservative Americans with strong religious
beliefs were three times more likely to believe that Muslim Americans’
movements should be monitored by the government.
- Christina beliefs would, then, seem to motivate people to be tough on terrorists
as well as the millions of Muslim Americans who have done nothing wrong.
- The future of the world may hinge on our abilities to control revenge while
III. What the Future Holds: The world is rapidly changing with increasing diversity both domestically and internationally.
- Changes are economic, political, historical, and ideological.
- It is important to think dialectically about these changes.
- Seeing the complexities of life is an important step toward successful intercultural communication.
- Have the confidence to engage in intercultural communication, but know that there is always more to learn.
QUALITY OF RESPONSE NO RESPONSE POOR / UNSATISFACTORY SATISFACTORY GOOD EXCELLENT Content (worth a maximum of 50% of the total points) Zero points: Student failed to submit the final paper. 20 points out of 50: The essay illustrates poor understanding of the relevant material by failing to address or incorrectly addressing the relevant content; failing to identify or inaccurately explaining/defining key concepts/ideas; ignoring or incorrectly explaining key points/claims and the reasoning behind them; and/or incorrectly or inappropriately using terminology; and elements of the response are lacking. 30 points out of 50: The essay illustrates a rudimentary understanding of the relevant material by mentioning but not full explaining the relevant content; identifying some of the key concepts/ideas though failing to fully or accurately explain many of them; using terminology, though sometimes inaccurately or inappropriately; and/or incorporating some key claims/points but failing to explain the reasoning behind them or doing so inaccurately. 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Zero points: Student failed to include citations and/or references. Or the student failed to submit a final paper. 5 out 20 points: Sources are seldom cited to support statements and/or format of citations are not recognizable as APA 6th Edition format. There are major errors in the formation of the references and citations. And/or there is a major reliance on highly questionable. The Student fails to provide an adequate synthesis of research collected for the paper. 10 out 20 points: References to scholarly sources are occasionally given; many statements seem unsubstantiated. Frequent errors in APA 6th Edition format, leaving the reader confused about the source of the information. There are significant errors of the formation in the references and citations. And/or there is a significant use of highly questionable sources. 15 out 20 points: Credible Scholarly sources are used effectively support claims and are, for the most part, clear and fairly represented. 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The paper has slight errors within the paper. This can include small errors or omissions with the cover page, abstract, page number, and headers. There could be also slight formatting issues with the document spacing or the font Additionally the paper might slightly exceed or undershoot the specific number of required written pages for the assignment. 10 points: Student provides a high-caliber, formatted paper. This includes an APA 6th edition cover page, abstract, page number, headers and is double spaced in 12’ Times Roman Font. Additionally, the paper conforms to the specific number of required written pages and neither goes over or under the specified length of the paper.
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