The Way to Overcome Stumbling Blocks
in Intercultural Communication



One way to overcome stumbling blocks in intercultural communication is to understand the background that makes people difficult to be successful in intercultural communication. According to Laray M Barna, there are many stumbling blocks. But she only suggests that gWe can study other languages and learn to expect differences in nonverbal forms and other cultural aspects. It is also possible to train ourselves to meet intercultural encounters with more attention to situational details, using an investigative approach rather than preconceptions and stereotypes.h (70) Therefore, readers can not understand specifically what to do to overcome stumbling blocks. Thus, the purpose of this essay is to help readers to understand specifically, by showing the answers of a survey for students, and other examples. Now people should remain three points to overcome stumbling blocks: level, scale and structure of home.


Firstly, people have to consider the level that most of the problems happen. If a problem of misunderstanding is dramatic and important level, everyone can notice (Condon and Yousef 45). But most problems occur in not dramatic and more complicated level, and that makes people sometimes not be able to understand completely what went wrong (45). Therefore, people must be sensitive to culture influences (45). For example, one student experienced that she minded about the behavior of one Chilean student when he blew his nose with a big sound (Survey). And she explained that she could understand about his behavior because she found that it is not rudeness in Chile when she discussed about the difference of etiquette (Survey). In another case, one student said that he became confused because there were many ways of handshaking that is different by culture when he was a student of international school (Survey). And he explained that he could communicate well after noticing the differences that is difficult to distinguish (Survey). Like these, there are differences that prevent people to communicate with another people who have different senses of values smoothly. In other words, people should not evaluate people from another culture by their own criteria. One student said that at first she got offended because people in Britain often did not act punctually when she lived in England (Survey). Another student said that American people tend to be lukewarm (Survey). And both of them said that they tried to change their attitude along local culture (Survey). Thus, to notice the minor differences is one of the keys that enable people to overcome stumbling blocks in intercultural communication.


Secondly, it is necessary for people to consider the scale of the problems. Condon and Yousef state gwe must threat values not individually but combinationh (118). In particular, one student said that people in Thailand are trying to behave cheerfully by saying positive phrases when they felt hard or sad (Survey). She also said that in the work camp in Thailand, she got more and more angry because she was said such a positive phrases when she felt hard (Survey). But she said she could understand the purpose that they said positive phrases after she became calm again (Survey). In this instance, there are both gTendency to evaluateh and gHigh anxietyh as Barna stated. And it is important to appreciate nonverbal behaviors in larger context (Condon and Yousef 146). For instance, it is possible that there is a contradiction between what is said verbally and what is expressed nonverbally (Condon and Yousef 127). In such a case, only about 30 percent of what is communicated is verbal (Condon and Yousef 125). If a person said he was happy but he looked quite unhappy, the observers must trust the nonverbal over the verbal because nonverbal communication occupies very important part (Condon and Yousef 125). Then such nonverbal attitudes are important to notice the existence of problem in his mind, so that it becomes easy to communicate. As shown above, people are sometimes required to relate more than two factors to overcome stumbling blocks in intercultural communication.


Finally, people have to take structure of home into consideration. Many things in home are different from by culture, and home is a microcosm of society (Condon and Yousef 166). As an illustration, there is a difference between western houses and Japanese houses about the use of rooms. In Western houses, living room, dining room and bedroom is clearly distinguished. In Japanese houses, contrastively, single room can serve all of the three (Condon and Yousef 155). And this causes the correlations between home structure and cultural patterns of communication. In the case of the example above, there is less individualism within the Japanese home. And this is exactly what is usually said about Japanese culture. Precisely, home is the place where each person first learns how to communicate within his or her culture (Condon and Yousef 167). Because people have the experience of learning the way to communicate in their culture, it is possible to do the same thing in another culture. Therefore, to learn the structure of home in another culture in advance helps us to overcome stumbling blocks in intercultural communication.


Works Cited

John C Condon and Fathi Yousef. "An introduction to Intercultural
Communication". Edited by Russel R Windes. Queens College of the
City University of New York, 1975.

Barna M. Laray "Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication",
in "Intercultural Communication: A Reader". Edited by Larry Saomver
& Richard Porter. 1988. (In ELP Reader, 2004.61-73)

A survey about intercultural communication. Made by Shun Watanabe.
To the freshmen of International Christian@University
(Section AA and Section BJ).2004.


Written by Shun Watanabe


Back to the Top Page(English Page)