Overcoming Diversity Barriers in Effective Communication Larry Rankin II HUB 640 National University Abstract Utilizing effective communication is becoming increasingly important as groups are becoming more diverse and varied across cultural barriers. The problems that face each person, community, and each country cannot be solved without global cooperation and Joint action. Changes in the world economy, transportation and communication are resulting in increased interdependence among individuals, groups, organizations, communities and societies.
With these changes, individuals must find ways to effectively interact and communicate with one another. In Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast, young Belle risks all and sacrifices her own freedom to save the life of her father's, by living in the enchanted castle with the Beast. Although initially fearful of the Beast and horrified by his monstrous appearance, Belle is able to change her perception of him and becomes drawn to kind and sensitive nature.
Ultimately the story ends in the "happily ever after" frame, but one of the key elements that remain in the mind of the audience is the idea of overcoming diversity in a relationship. One reason Beauty and the Beast retains its popularity is because this idea strikes a familiar chord within many members of the audience. Often individuals find themselves initially repelled by unfamiliarity, and then later becoming very close with the same premises and concepts that once seemed so foreign.
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The moral of this children's tale shines through when we look at communication across cultures, whether in small or large groups. The diversity that exists among individuals creates an opportunity for both positive and negative outcomes when these individuals come together in groups to achieve a goal or complete a task Monsoon ; Johnson, 1989). More specifically, diversity among group members can result in beneficial consequences, such as increased achievement and productivity, creative problem solving, and growth in cognitive and moral reasoning.
To the contrary, diversity among group members can also result in harmful consequences, such as lower achievement and productivity, close-minded rejection of new information, increased egocentrics, prejudice, stereotyping and racism. The pathway of diversity is ultimately determined by the willingness of the group members to utilize effective communication to propel the needs of the group as a whole while respecting the culture and diversity of its individual members (p. 461). Diversity among group members is an important resource that can be utilized to improve the group's productivity.
While doing so may not be easy, it is important to understand that there are a number of barriers to effective interactions with culturally diverse groups. These include stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, he tendency to blame the victim, and cultural clashes. Stereotypes Stereotypes can be found everywhere, and everyone has them. Stereotypes are a product of the way the mind stores, organizes, and recalls information. They are used to describe differences among groups and to predict how others will behave.
They reduce complexities, assist in making quick decisions, fill in gaps of what is known, and help to recognize patterns needed to draw conclusions. In modern thought, stereotypes are defined as "a belief that associates a whole group of people with certain traits. Stereotypes are (1) cognitive; (2) reflect a set of related beliefs rather than isolated behaviors; (3) describe attributes, personalities, and characters so that groups can be compared and differentiated; and are shared by individuals and groups holding them (Cashmere &Del Boca, 1979).
Prejudice and Discrimination To be prejudiced meaner, literally, to prejudge, however, prejudice can be defined as an unjustified negative attitude toward a person based solely on that individual's membership in a group other than one's own. Stereotypes taken to extremes, restudies are Judgments made about others that establish a superiority/inferiority belief system. If one person dislikes another simply because that other is identified with a different ethnic group, sex, religion, socio-economic status, or creed, then prejudice is present (Lopper, 1954).
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to regard one's own ethnic group, nation, religion, or culture as better or more "correct" than others. When ethnocentrism is present, the standards and values of our culture are used as a yardstick to measure the worth of other ethnic groups. Ethnocentrism is often perpetuated by cultural conditioning. As children, individuals are raised to fit a into a particular culture, and conditioned to respond to various situations in similar ways that are modeled by the adults (Rotary, Evans, ; Fuller, 1979). Racism is a prejudice directed at people because of their race, or ethnic membership.
Although scientific evidence indicates that only one human race exists, with many variations, various other people assume that biological differences exist as evidenced by physical appearances. Race has taken on a social meaning, suggesting one's status within the social construct. This status structure introduces power preferences as people of different constructs interact with one another (Steele & Aaron's, 1995). When prejudice is acted upon, it is discrimination. Discrimination is an action taken to harm a group or any of its members. It is a negative, and often aggressive action aimed at the target of the prejudice.
Discrimination is aimed at denying members of the targeted groups treatment and opportunities equal to those afforded to the dominant group. To reduce prejudices, use of stereotypes, and potential to discriminate, the following steps may be utilized Monsoon ; Johnson, 1999): 1) admit to having prejudices (everyone does; there are no exceptions) and commit to reducing them; 2) Identify the stereotypes that reflect the presence of prejudices and feedback from diverse friends and colleagues about how well the value and respect for diversity are being communicated.
Blaming the victim Many people believe the world is Just a place where individuals "get what they deserve", (I. E. Winning the lotto is a result of being a nice person who deserves some good luck, or being robbed is the result of being careless and is punishment for past misdeeds). The question arises then, "what happens when the situations appear unjust? " One method that is utilized and present in much of the communications between individuals is to blame the victim by convincing the self, that no injustice actually occurred.
Victims of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination are often seen as "having done something wrong. " Blaming the victim occurs when the cause of discrimination or misfortune is attributed to the personal characteristics of the victim (Hellhole, 1994). Culture Clash Another common barrier to effective communications across divers cultures is the dead of cultural clash. Cultural clashes are conflicts over basic values that occur when members of minority groups question the values of the majority.
Common reaction by majority group members when their values are being questioned are feeling: 1) Threatened: their responses include avoidance, denial, and defensiveness; 2) Confused: their responses include seeking more information in an attempt to redefine the problem; 3) Enhanced: their responses include heightened anticipation, awareness, and positive actions that lead to solving the problem (Outsold, 1991). Many cultural clashes develop in and between groups.
These clashes range from threatening to confusing to enhancing, and when handled appropriately, these clashes are another form of conflict and they can serve as learning experiences rather than barriers. In our increasingly global community, highly diverse individuals interact daily, studying, working, and playing together in small groups. Rapidly growing global interdependence and the increasing emphasis on teamwork have resulted in groups with quite diverse membership.
Diversity among members is no longer exceptional or optional; it is the everyday rule. Individuals are expected to interact effectively and utilize appropriate communication skills among people with a variety of characteristics and backgrounds. Doing so has many advantages, including increased group productivity on a variety of tasks. Heterogeneity in groups also increases the difficulty of developing cohesive relationships among its members and increases the potential for conflict among members.
For group members to capitalize on their differences, a high level of cultural competence and awareness must be implemented into the daily communications, to ensure that a high level of positive interdependence exists among group members. This can be accomplished by using communication to create a subordinates group identity based on a pluralistic set of values, enabling members to gain sophistication about the differences among members through personal relationships that have sufficient trust to allow for candid discussions Monsoon ;Johnson, 2005).
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