The Importance of Verbal Communication and the Negative Impact of Ethnocentrism

Human advances within the realm of knowledge and technology, including travel and public transportation on a national and global scale, are changing the way individuals are living and communicating on a societal and cultural level (Sison, 2017). Sison reports that “The United Nations reported 244 million international migrants living worldwide in 2015, up by 41 percent from 2000,” including almost 20 million refugees (Sison, 2017, p. 130). No longer can any nation or continent claim that every member of its society is of the same faith, has the same beliefs or shares similar perspectives on issues. In other words, the way of the homogenous or ethnocentric society is becoming an outdated ideal.

Furthermore, global exchanges of knowledge, news, and social matters are occurring instantly, at all hours of the day and humans must adapt or struggle to maintain their outdated ways (Hosseini Fatemi, Khajavi, & Choi, 2016). Even the creation and widespread use of communication mediums such as Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, and blogging allows the masses to remotely reach out to individuals and organizations in other parts of the globe in a matter of seconds. The constant and instant connection among diverse global groups and individuals encourages a need and want for intercultural interconnection. Technological and transportation changes allows various groups, cultures, and societies to share their identities and experiences as they are, instead of how the media or dominant groups want them to be, allowing for cultural authenticity (Gabriel, 2016).

Utilizing modern technology and transportation advances marginalized individuals can now exchange art, views, beliefs, and life experiences utilizing their own voice (Gabriel, 2016). Without these global exchanges of ideas and experiences, uncertainty and anxiety about individuals from foreign cultures will present communication barriers that will halt the possibility for intercultural exchanges (Imamura & Zhang, 2014). Globally increasing cultural intelligence (CQ) through the sharing of knowledge about various cultures is key to becoming effective intercultural communicators and a welcoming, non-ethnocentric world (Presbitero & Attar, 2018).

The purpose of this paper is to show how verbal communication in an intercultural context encourages meaningful relationships. The research that will be utilized in this review addresses the cause and effects of culture and value differences that effect intercultural communication, and the impact that intercultural communication has in the organizational and educational arenas. The goal of the following literature review is to address how verbal intercultural exchanges can increase organizational productivity, encourage work and educational satisfaction, and the importance of verbal communication in an intercultural context to prevent social and cultural stagnancy. Before delving into the deeper subjects involving the use of verbal communication in an intercultural setting, the following portion of this literature review will provide key terms and theories the researchers highlight throughout the utilized studies.

The term intercultural communication is used to describe how individuals from different races, cultures, or societies utilize knowledge sharing to share experiences, ideas, politics, values, beliefs, or work towards a common goal (Gabriel, 2016)(Presbitero & Attar, 2018). The use of verbal communication to forge intercultural relationships must come from a place of willingness and a desire to engage and learn from others who encompass otherness, or those who do not belong to the in-groups (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016). This intercultural willingness to communicate (IWTC) is described as an essential attribute for an individual to possess (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016).

IWTC is an important trait to have when combating ethnocentrism which is the belief that the in-group, or the dominant culture within a society is the superior group (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016). The assertion of ethnocentric values can be seen in a wide array of professional and social realms such as, the medical industries use of white framing (Vardeman-Winter, 2017). Vardeman-Winter describes white framing in the medical industry as the dominant groups way of minimizing cultural and ethnic variances and defining how medical professionals should care for marginalized groups (Vardeman-Winter, 2017).

Ethnocentric behavior can also be seen in a corporate setting as described by Bakar and Mccann’s study of how ethnicity can affect how a group members performance or ability is perceived (Bakar & Mccann, 2015). Bakar and Mccann’s study of ethnicity’s role in a group dynamic revealed how ethnicity was often a consideration when deciding a subordinates competency (Bakar & Mccann, 2015). Key weapons deemed effective to combat ethnocentrism and promote intercultural communication competence, or an ability to assimilate, accomplish communication goals, and possess a welcoming attitude toward different cultures, beliefs and values (Yang, Dunleavy, & Phillips, 2015), are ambiguity tolerance and cultural intelligence (CQ).

Ambiguity tolerance is described as an outlook or paradigm that encompasses the idea that the exploration of new and different cultures can be a positive experience and can be seen as an adventure (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016). Individuals who have a low threshold for ambiguity tend to feel anxious in the face of adversity which can cause the individual to avoid verbal intercultural communication in general, contributing to ethnocentric behavior (Presbitero & Attar, 2018). Cultural Intelligence(CQ) is described as an ability that an individual can either naturally possess or learn that allows them to adapt and thrive in various culturally diverse situations (Presbitero & Attar, 2018). The notion that CQ can be a natural or earned leaves hope to combat cultural anxieties and ethnocentric views, because CQ is not just an inherited trait, but can be a practiced skill.

Since key terms and basic understanding of verbal communication in a intercultural communication contexts have been established, the remainder of this literature review will discuss how verbal communication in intercultural relationships will increase organizational productivity and satisfaction, and the importance of verbal communication in an intercultural context to prevent social and cultural stagnancy.

As mentioned earlier, advances in the realm of science, technology, and transportation is changing the way individuals connect and interact on an organizational and social level (Sison, 2017). National and global attempts to soothe over gender, racial, medical, and age related biases can be seen with the passage Equal Employment Opportunities, affirmative action, and Title IV policies implemented in many organizational and educational settings (Gallant & Krone, 2014). Cultural differences can no longer be ignored as a factor, when an organization is considering how they will portray and address matters that involve their corporate social responsibilities internationally (Lim, Sung, & Lee, 2018). Nationalistic values and isolation are rarely an option for many organizations who wish to thrive in today’s culturally and value diverse atmosphere, where an institution’s social image is directly linked with a consumer’s willingness to purchase or partake in their product (Lim et al., 2018). Educational institutions are also no longer exempt from the growing demand for cultural inclusion.

Yang, Dunleavy and Phillips’s study on international Chinese students program satisfaction found that students who possessed higher levels of intercultural competence (ICC) experienced a higher level of satisfaction in their programs, and were able to develop relationships with mentors and friends with far greater ease than those with low levels of ICC (Yang et al., 2015). However, it is important to note that this study only researched the role of the student to the mentor and program and not vice versa (Yang et al., 2015). The following segment discusses how verbal communication in an intercultural context can prevent social and cultural stagnancy.

The current urgency and importance of verbally communicating via knowledge sharing (executed verbally), in an intercultural setting is no longer an option, but a demand to thrive in the face of diversity (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016). The ability of an individual, organization, or institution to remain relevant in a culturally expanding world requires flexibility, by expressing a willingness to reduce uncertainty, embracing ambiguity, and for an individual to either increase, or utilize pre-existing CQ (Presbitero & Attar, 2018). Students wishing to develop meaningful mentor-protege relationships must embrace acculturative stress (AS) and employ ICC skills (Yang et al., 2015). Organizations must consider cultural variations when creating and implementing corporate social responsibility messages to the public (Lim et al., 2018). Lastly, medical health professionals and public health organizations must play their part in avoiding racism, gender disparities, and cultural or belief based biases when treating or implementing procedures that effect marginalized individuals (Vardeman-Winter, 2017). The following paragraph will discuss discrepancies between each study.

Many of the studies reviewed throughout this literature review assert the importance of embracing cultural diversity and advocate for the willingness to verbally and mentally engage with members of varied cultural and beliefs based memberships. However, in Deborah Gabriel’s study of black female bloggers, the message that is portrayed is that black British women use their voice via blogging to advocate for, and discuss their experiences to educate individuals across racial and gender lines about the struggles facing black British women in a culturally diverse space, as well as empower black individuals and promote awareness (Gabriel, 2016). Gabriel’s perspective opposes the other studies such as Fatemi et al., who discusses the negative impact that ethnocentrism has on developing CQ and promoting ICC (Hosseini Fatemi et al., 2016).

Another interesting contradiction is between Gallant and Krone’s study vs. Presbitero and Attar’s study. Gallant and Krone argue that organizational members still express discomfort and resistance with diversity training and policies despite an organizations implementation of inclusion policies such as EEO and affirmative action (Gallant & Krone, 2014). Gallant and Krone claim that the forced acceptance of diversity among employee’s causes some rebellion to the notion that intercultural interaction and inclusion between majority and minority groups should be a norm (Gallant & Krone, 2014). Whereas, Presbitero and Attar’s study claims that promoting and implementing diversity programs can increase CQ, thus decreasing an individual’s uncertainty and anxiety about intercultural interaction (Presbitero & Attar, 2018).

The goal of this literature review was to show how verbal communication between individuals from differing cultures encourages meaningful relationships. The studies chosen to prove the importance of verbal communication in intercultural relationships were selected to show the negative impact of ethnocentrism, and the lack of willingness to work beyond uncertainty. By gaining CQ and accepting ambiguity in the unknown realm of foreign cultures, societies, and belief systems, societies can create meaningful and eclectic relationships. Time, technology, and the increase of world wide migrational patterns will not be forgiving to those who choose to remain in the days of nationalistic or ethnocentric ideals, values, and practices.

References

  1. Bakar, H. A., & Mccann, R. M. (2015). A longitudinal examination of the effects of self perceived leader–member dyadic communication differentiation and perceived group member performance: Does ethnicity make a difference? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 47, 56-68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2015.03.031
  2. Gabriel, D. (2016). Blogging while black, british and female: A critical study on discursive activism. Information, Communication & Society, 1-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1146784
  3. Gallant, L. M., & Krone, K. J. (2014). Tensions in talking diversity. Communication Reports, 27, 39-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08934215.2013.837497
  4. Hosseini Fatemi, A., Khajavi, G. H., & Choi, C. W. (2016). Testing a model of intercultural willingness to communicate based on ethnocentrism, ambiguity tolerance and sensation seeking: The role of learning english in Iran. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 45, 304-318. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17475759.2016.1190776
  5. Imamura, M., & Zhang, Y. B. (2014). Functions of the common ingroup identity model and acculturation strategies in intercultural communication: American host nationals’ communication with Chinese international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 43, 227-238. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2014.08.018
  6. Lim, R. E., Sung, Y. H., & Lee, W. (2018). Connecting with global consumers through corporate social responsibility initiatives: A cross-cultural investigation of congruence effects of attribution and communication styles. Journal of Business Research, 88, 11-19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.03.002
  7. Presbitero, A., & Attar, H. (2018). Intercultural communication effectiveness, cultural intelligence and knowledge sharing: Extending anxiety-uncertainty management theory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 67, 35-43. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2018.08.004
  8. Sison, M. D. (2017). Communicating across, within and between, cultures: Toward inclusion and social change. Public Relations Review, 43, 130-132. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.10.015
  9. Vardeman-Winter, J. (2017). The framing of women and health disparities: A critical look at race, gender, and class from the perspectives of grassroots gealth communicators. Health Communication, 32, 629-638. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1160318
  10. Yang, Q., Dunleavy, V. O., & Phillips, J. R. (2015). Are you satisfied? Exploring the mediating effects of mentoring communication strategies in predicting Chinese international graduate students’ program satisfaction. Communication Education, 1-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2015.1090005
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The importance of verbal communication and the negative impact of ethnocentrism. (2021, May 29). Retrieved August 10, 2022 , from
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