The most significant barrier to effective cross-cultural communication is the tendency of human beings to stereotype, or more specifically, to categorize and make assumptions about others based on identified characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, socioeconomic status or nationality. Whether we realize it or not (and we often do not), we all stereotype and make assumptions about others at one time or another. Most of us do this on a regular basis. Some of the more blatant and destructive examples of these assumptions include job interviewers who reject certain candidates based on racial or gender stereotypes, teachers who assume that certain students are less likely to succeed because of where they come from, or store owners who harass people from particular racial or ethnic groups. However, not all stereotyping is so blatant. More subtle examples include shying away from people who are culturally different (which is one of the reasons people from similar racial and cultural backgrounds tend to group together), or assuming people will behave a certain way based on their race, gender, place of origin or position within an organization. Bottom-line, whether it is blatant or subtle, stereotyping can have an extremely negative impact on communication and human interaction.
Next Post: March 10, 2014 – The Barriers to Effective Multicultural Communication #2
Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.