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ByHeidi burgess

Original Publication September 2003, updated June 2013. Present Implications added by Heidi burgess in August, 2017.

You are watching: What is a serious consequence of a cultural misunderstanding


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Current Implications

This post talks about misunderstandings between different cultures...particularly highlighting high-context cultures with low-context cultures. We are now seeing in the unified States, exactly how there deserve to be cultural misunderstandings in between groups that appear on the surface to be rather similar. More...


Social problems often involve some misunderstanding. Parties in conflict communicate by what they say (or execute not say) and how they behave towards each other. Even normal communication may show off faulty communication, but conflict appears to worsen the problem. As soon as two people are in conflict, they often make an adverse assumptions around "the other." Consequently, a explain that might have seemed innocuous as soon as two parties were friends could seem hostile or threatening as soon as the same parties room in conflict.

Sources of Misunderstanding

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All communication has two parts: a sender and also a receiver. The sender has a article he or she intends come transmit, and s/he puts the in words, which, come her/him, best reflect what s/he is thinking. However many things have the right to intervene to stop the intended article from being obtained accurately.

If the interaction is verbal, tone of voice have the right to influence interpretation. The boss"s words, "Hey, i noticed you were taking specifically long break this morning," can be understood as an attack if she or he said that in a disapproving tone, when the comment can be viewed as a minor reminder about office rules if it was stated in a familiar way. If the employee has actually a health problem that sometimes requires lengthy breaks, the comment might have even been a friendly inquiry about what to be happening and whether the employee needed any type of help. Here, tone of voice and also situational and also relationship components would influence the translate of the message.

Nonverbal cues additionally are important. Is the sender"s attitude open and friendly, or closed and cold? Is her facial expression familiar or accusatory? every one of these determinants influence how the same words will certainly be received.

In enhancement to just how the article is sent, many extr factors determine how the recipient interprets the message. All new information we find out is compared with the understanding we currently have. If it confirms what we currently know, us will likely receive the brand-new information accurately, despite we may pay tiny attention come it. If that calls right into question our previous assumptions or translate of the situation, we may distort the in our minds so the it is made come fit our human being view, or we might dismiss the details as deceptive, misguided, or simply wrong.

S.Y. Bowland describes exactly how subtle gyeongju or gender predisposition can result in misunderstandings.

If the post is ambiguous, the receiver is specifically likely to clarify it because that him or herself in a method which coincides with his or she expectations. For example, if two people are involved in an escalated conflict, and they each assume that the various other is walking to it is in aggressive and also hostile, then any ambiguous article will be interpreted as aggressive and also hostile, also if the was no intended to it is in that way at all. Our expectations work as blinders or filters the distort what we view so the it fits our preconceived pictures of the world. (Conflict theorists contact these filters "frames." check out the essay top top Frames, Framing, and also Reframing for an ext information.)

An analogy have the right to be made to an experiment the tested people"s interpretation of intuitive cues. When world were given eyeglasses that turned the people upside-down, they had to experience through through upside-down images for a week or two. After that, their brains learned to reverse the images, for this reason they were seeing things right-side up again. The same thing happens once we hear something we "know" is wrong. Our brain "fix" it so that it shows up as we expect it to.

Cultural differences increase the likelihood of misunderstanding together well. If civilization speak different languages, the peril of bad translation is obvious. However even if people speak the same language, castle may connect in different ways.

Common distinctions are in between high-context and low-context communication. Low-context communication stands ~ above its own; that does not require context or interpretation to provide it meaning. High-context communication is more ambiguous. It needs background knowledge and understanding (context), in enhancement to the native themselves, for communication. If everyone offers both kinds of communication, Western cultures tend to use low-context communication an ext often, while Eastern and also Latin American and African cultures tend to use high-context communication. If such distinctions are not construed and readjusted for, misunderstanding is virtually inevitable.<1>

Frank Blechman states that surprises offer the intervenor a chance to re-assess the assumptions he/she has actually made around a conflict.

Culture additionally affects communication by affecting the recipients" assumptions. As described above, ours minds try to twisted incoming information to do it to the right in ours worldview. Due to the fact that different societies have really different worldviews, cross-cultural communication is especially likely to change an interpretation between sender and receiver, as the sender may have actually a very different worldview indigenous the receiver.

Given our tendency to listen what we suppose to hear, it is very easy for world in dispute to misunderstand every other. Communication is already likely to it is in strained, and also people will often want come hide the fact to some extent. Hence the potential for misperception and also misunderstanding is high, which deserve to make conflict management or resolution more difficult.

How to prevent Misunderstanding

In problem situations, avoiding misunderstanding take away a most effort. Roger Fisher and William Ury list four an abilities that deserve to improve communication in dispute situations.

Fisher and also Ury"s second rule is come speak directly to your opponent. This is not considered proper in part cultures, yet when permitted, it help to boost understanding. Protect against being distracted through others, or by various other things going on in the exact same room. Emphasis on what you have to say, and also on saying it in a way that your adversary can understand.Fisher and Ury"s fourth dominance is "speak for a purpose." also much communication can be counterproductive, castle warn. Before you do a significant statement, pause and also consider what you desire to communicate, why you want to interact that, and also how you have the right to do it in the clearest possible way.

Other rules might be added to these four. One is to prevent inflammatory language much as possible. Inflammatory language just increases hostility and defensiveness; it hardly ever convinces world that the speaker is right. (Actually, it generally does simply the opposite.) Although inflammation remarks deserve to arouse people"s attention in a conflict and also generate assistance for one"s very own side, the support often comes at the expense of general conflict escalation. Make one"s suggest effectively without inflammatory declaration is a far better option.

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Likewise, all opponents should be treated through respect. That doesn"t aid a conflict instance to treat civilization disrespectfully; it just makes lock angry and also less likely to hear to you, understand you, or perform what you want. No matter what friend think of an additional person, if they space treated through respect and dignity -- even if girlfriend think they carry out not deserve it -- interaction will be much an ext successful, and the conflict will be more easily managed or resolved. Engaging in deep conversations (through problem-solving workshops or dialogues) can also reduce misunderstanding by enhancing relationships, by providing more context come communication, and by breaking down stereotypes that contribute to an adverse characterizations or worldviews. The an ext effort one makes to understand the human sending the message, the much more likely the post will be taken correctly.