Identify cultural barriers to communication in a pluralistic environment and suggest solutions

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Pluralism is lived in every single country where ethnic groups that exist as minorities are allowed to, essentially, live ''alone, together", that is that they get to continue the practices and traditions of their culture while living somewhere else, either as expatriates or as minorities. 

There are ways to live and communicate in harmony despite cultural differences. Here are four very important ones proposed by the journal of Christianity Today as well as by anti-Apartheid groups.

  • Recognize ethnocentric behavior in yourself and others-

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that your own race or ethnicity supersedes those of others. The thing with this type of belief is that it can be quite subtle. You may not even notice your tendency for this attitude. Sometimes something as simple as a small joke, puns, or even expectations tend to show ethnocentrism. 

  • Learn about other ethnicities- 

Whether it is through food, art, music, history, or language, it is beneficial to learn who are your cultural neighbors rather than make assumptions based on ethnocentric statements. Knowing the cultural make-up of people enables communication because it does not aid in creating false assumptions.

  • Remember respect-

Adults tend to forget all the good habits once fostered in our daily routines during childhood. We feel that we know everything and that we can behave whatever way since we have already learned social rules. Nothing is further from the truth. Adults account for 90% of all hate crimes, and there is a good reason behind this: We have chosen to forget what respecting others is. Simply put, if you make yourself understand that humanity is what it is, and that we have a moral obligation to respect one another, you will fare quite well in the big world out there.

  • Remember the leaders-

Look at the people who occupy leading positions in politics, sports, music and the arts. They come from all walks of life, and they represent every ethnicity out there. They have all had an opportunity to show their natural ability at what they do. They are all human. 

Therefore, studying multicultural history and learning about the people in the world, help enhance our approach toward one another in every aspect of communication and override communication barriers. Suggested readings included.

Ya-Wen Teng, L. (2005). A cross-cultural communication experience at a higher education institution in Taiwan. Journal of Intercultural Communication. Available from IMMI.

Du Plessis, P. and Bisschoff, T. (2007). Diversity and complexity in the classroom: valuing racial and cultural diversity. Educational Research and Review, 2 (9), 245-254.

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