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Abstract

Intercultural misunderstandings involve a number of complex causes which can easily escalate into conflicts. Since conflicts are also complex, it is not easy to find solutions because there is no one solution for all problems. Systems Theory, transdisciplinarity, and the social ecological model take a holistic approach in investigating complex phenomena. They permit the creation of a theoretical framework based on previous empirical research and theories across scientific disciplines to identify the relevant elements of complex phenomena and to understand the interrelationship of these elements. Intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts are very complex phenomena because they include culture, perception, identity, ethnocentrism, relationships, trust building and conflict management as well as intercultural commu-nication competence which entails cognition, metacognition, and social metacognition. Since most em-pirical studies focus on isolated, individual elements in specific contexts, this article describes the theoretical framework of how the various findings and theories developed in different scientific disciplines can be used to form a cohesive framework to help circumvent intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts. In so doing, it follows the general principles of Systems Theory, transdisciplinarity, and the social ecological model.
Russian Journal of Linguistics 2017 Vol. 21 No. 4 885—909
Вестник РУДН. Серия: ЛИНГВИСТИКА http://journals.rudn.ru/linguistics
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 885
DOI: 10.22363/2312-9182-2017-21-4-885-909
INTERCULTURAL MISUNDERSTANDINGS:
CAUSES AND SOLUTIONS
Michael B. Hinner
TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany
6 Akademiestraße, 09599 Freiberg, Saxony, Germany
Abstract. Intercultural misunderstandings involve a number of complex causes which can easily
escalate into conflicts. Since conflicts are also complex, it is not easy to find solutions because there is
no one solution for all problems. Systems Theory, transdisciplinarity, and the social ecological model take
a holistic approach in investigating complex phenomena. They permit the creation of a theoretical framework
based on previous empirical research and theories across scientific disciplines to identify the relevant
elements of complex phenomena and to understand the interrelationship of these elements. Intercultural
misunderstandings and conflicts are very complex phenomena because they include culture, perception,
identity, ethnocentrism, relationships, trust building and conflict management as well as intercultural commu-
nication competence which entails cognition, metacognition, and social metacognition. Since most em-
pirical studies focus on isolated, individual elements in specific contexts, this article describes the theoretical
framework of how the various findings and theories developed in different scientific disciplines can be used
to form a cohesive framework to help circumvent intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts. In so doing,
it follows the general principles of Systems Theory, transdisciplinarity, and the social ecological model.
Keywords: conflicts, cognition, culture, ethnocentrism, identity, metacognition, perception, relation-
ships, social metacognition, trust
1. INTRODUCTION
In today’s world, intercultural encounters have become common. While in the past
only a few select individuals met and interacted with interlocutors from other countries,
today intercultural encounters happen almost everywhere — at work, in school, or even
in the supermarket. Since most people assume that others think, behave, and perceive
the world around them like they do (i.e., the Implicit Personality Theory) (Pedersen 1965;
Schneider 1973), this can lead to misunderstandings and even result in unintentional con-
flicts (i.e. so-called pseudo-conflicts) (Bruner & Tagiuri 1954; Krippendorff & Bermejo
2009). People may intend a particular meaning with a specific message, but their coun-
terpart may attach a different meaning to that message which then results in misunder-
standings which could then actually lead to a conflict. Culture can be one of the causes
for such misunderstandings and conflicts because culture influences to a large extent
how individuals perceive the world around them, what meaning they attach to what they
perceive, and it teaches people how to respond to those perceptions (Jandt 2013; Klopf
1998; Lustig & Koester 2013; Oetzel 2009; Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, & Roy 2013).
While culture has some influence on people’s communication, culture does not explain
all aspects of human communication because how individuals communicate with one
another and manage conflicts is also influenced by individual characteristics. These in-
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886 МЕЖКУЛЬТУРНАЯ КОММУНИКАЦИЯ И ПЕРЕВОД
dividual characteristics are based on who we are, where we come from, how we per-
ceive the world around us, what peer and media messages we have internalized, how
we perceive others, how we think others perceive us, and how we then interact and
communicate with others (Adler, Rodman, & du Pré 2013; DeVito 2015; Doise 1996;
Gamble & Gamble 2012; Hamacheck 1992).
By their very nature, intercultural misunderstandings (Chen & Starosta 1998;
Gudykunst 2005; Jandt 2013; Oetzel 2009) and conflicts (Canary & Lakey 2006;
Caughlin & Vangelisit 2006; Roloff & Wright 2013) are complex phenomena. As such,
they involve culture, perception, identity, ethnocentrism, relationships, trust, conflict
management, intercultural communication competence, cognition, metacognition, and
social metacognition. Empirical studies have focused on isolated elements and analyzed
them. A number of theories have been developed in different scientific disciplines that
seek to explain these elements. Unfortunately, only a few studies have examined the
complex interrelationship of all of these elements. Creating a theoretical framework,
though, can be helpful in understanding such complex interrelationships (Frodeman
2010) as is the case in intercultural misunderstandings and conflicts.
According to Systems Theory (von Bertalanffy 1968), isolated elements cannot ex-
plain a phenomenon because the phenomenon is larger than any isolated part. Commu-
nication is an integrated process that occurs within a specific environment; it is not an
isolated event. So in order to understand this process, it is necessary to identify the
elements that make up this process. Transdisciplinarity (Mittelstrass 2003; Mokiy 2013)
and the social ecological model (Bronfenbrenner 1979, 2005; Bronfenbrenner & Ceci
1994) advocate similar holistic approaches. Such holistic approaches are of interest
because they permit the creation of a theoretical framework that transcends disciplinary
boundaries and isolated elements by combining studies and theories from different scien-
tific disciplines. It is this theoretical framework which then helps understand the inter-
relationship of individual elements, and it can even propose potential solutions to com-
plex issues (Frodeman 2010).
This article develops a theoretical framework to explore the interrelationship of
meaning and conflict and how, culture, perception, identity as well as ethnocentrism can
lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. It also looks at how conflicts can be managed
successfully or even prevented through good relationships and trust coupled with inter-
cultural communication competence. In fact, intercultural communication competence
and trust are key elements in preventing or overcoming misunderstandings and conflicts.
Such competence and trust are created through cognition, metacognition, and social meta-
cognition. In exploring these different elements of intercultural misunderstandings and
successful conflict management in line with Systems Theory and the social ecological
model, this article applies the principles of transdisciplinarity (Mittelstrass 2003; Mokiy
2013) by borrowing the theoretical constructs, i.e. theories, from various related scien-
tific disciplines; primarily from communication science and psychology. According to
Frodeman (2010), this is a very productive and insightful approach because it is not
limited to just one perspective which might be biased. A broader theoretical framework
based on the triangulation of different theories reduces potential biases (Frodeman 2010).
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 887
That is why this theoretical framework explores the interrelationship of meaning, culture,
perception, identity, ethnocentrism, relationships, trust, conflicts, cognition, metacogni-
tion, social metacognition, and intercultural communication competence.
2. MISUNDERSTANDINGS IN MEANING
Meanings are in people and not in words (Adler, Rodman, & du Pré 2013; Ogden
& Richard 1923; Ruhly 1982). Traditionally, meanings are classified as denotative, con-
notative, contextual, and figurative (Klopf 1998). While connotative, contextual, and
figurative meanings are considered to be fairly subjective, denotative meaning is often
considered to be relatively stable because the meaning is fixed. Denotative meaning is
said to be the literal, or dictionary, meaning. That is, words have set meanings, and these
meanings tend to stand independent of the contexts in which they are used (Adler et al.
2013; Klopf 1998). This guiding principle is followed in traditional foreign instruction
when students memorize vocabulary lists assuming that the meaning of a word on one
side of the list equals the meaning the word on the other side. After all, the denotative
meaning is the same. But is this truly the case? If it is, then it should be very easy to
avoid misunderstandings or conflicts as long the right word is picked from the vocabu-
lary list and applied in a grammatically correct sentence. Yet misunderstandings still
occur and conflicts erupt even though this is done. Obviously, intercultural communi-
cation competence entails more than selecting words from a vocabulary list and using
grammatically correct sentences.
When communicating interculturally, it must be realized that the same word may
not carry the same denotative meaning across cultures (Klopf 1998). Thus, the German
word Fakultät can refer to an organizational unit at a German university. British English
uses faculty for a similar organizational unit at British universities. American English,
though, uses department for such an organizational unit at a university in the USA. But
an American university department will have faculty members, i.e. the department’s
teaching staff1. This is a situation that could result in misunderstandings because the word
faculty denotes in both dialects of English a similar context. Thus, the grammatically cor-
rect statement “I am a member of the English faculty” will be associated in both dialects
with a university and in the wider sense also its staff. So both interlocutors would think
they share meaning when they hear that sentence. The American English speaker,
though, will associate the statement with someone who is from the teaching staff whereas
the British English speaker could associate it with the organizational unit at the univer-
sity that encompasses both teaching and administrative staff members. But the meaning
of faculty2 is such in American and British English that both interlocutors would think
they share meaning when in fact they do not. Had one of the interlocutors associated
faculty with something that is not from the world of academia, then that statement in the
larger context of the discourse might have caused irritation or uncertainty in at least
one of the interlocutors because that term would not fit into the general context of the
1 The subsequent discussion is based on the author’s own experiences.
2 Faculty can also mean an inherent mental ability or physical power, e.g. “his mental faculties
are inadequate for the intellectual complexity of the task at hand”.
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discourse. For example, if one of the speakers were to associate faculty with an auto re-
pair shop. Or when one dialect uses a word that does not hold any meaning in the other
dialect. For example, a speaker of American English would not associate ballpoint pen
with biro, the British English equivalent of ballpoint pen. In fact for most Americans,
the British English word biro holds no meaning. They would, thus, be puzzled by its use
in a sentence that refers to writing. Some may even guess that biro must be a writing
implement on the basis of how it is used in the topic’s context. Fortunately for many
situations, the context is such that a more general meaning suffices to establish general
convergence in meaning.
This situation is even more complex when it involves non-native speakers of Eng-
lish. For example, when a German business manager hears sales contract, that manager
will associate this specific type of contract with the German civil code, the Bürgerliches
Gesetzbuch. Someone from the United States will associate sales contract with common
law3. Generally speaking, both legal concepts refer to an agreement that regulates the
voluntary sale and purchase of a product, but there are also some differences. Under
German law, a sales contract is binding if there is no willful deceit and the contracting
parties are of sound mind and of legal age when they voluntarily sign the contract without
duress. Under U.S. law, a sales contract is also binding under the same terms and condi-
tions as under German law, but it is not binding if there is no consideration. Consideration
is a legal principle that does not exist in German contract law. Consideration means that
the purchased object must be close to or equivalent of the actual value, otherwise there
is no consideration and the contract may be rescinded. For example, if a tie worth ten
dollars is sold for one thousand dollars, then there would be no consideration and the
contract would not be enforceable. Under German law it could be enforceable if the other
terms and condition were met. This small, but vital difference could have considerable
impact on the sale of a product and the enforceability of that sales contract. Typically,
most parties to such a contract are often not even aware of these differences in meaning
when they communicate in English and refer to a sales contract because people tend
to assume that everyone shares the same denotative meaning, and often also the conno-
tative meaning. In most encounters, as noted above, the situation does not arise in which
it becomes apparent to either one or both parties that meaning is not shared completely
because most business contexts do not require a closer examination of the meaning or
complete convergence with regard to the meaning of sales contract. A general conver-
gence in most general principles suffices. This latitude permits uninterrupted discourse.
Only some specific situations require greater convergence in meaning, for example the
price of a specific quantity of goods. If that were not the case, it would hinder the com-
munication and the interaction (Adler et al 2013; Klopf 1998; Lustig & Koester 2013;
Oetzel 2009).
From the above examples, it becomes apparent that denotative meaning can vary
significantly from one dialect of English to another which can make communication
across dialects difficult. The situation gets to be even more complex when non-native
3 This example is based on the author’s own experiences gained at an American law school and
the conversations with a German law professor.
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 889
speakers are involved because many non-native speakers transfer the denotative mean-
ing of the word or concept from their native language into English. As the above example
of sales contracts demonstrates, the denotative meaning can vary considerably from one
language to another and result in misunderstandings that have the potential for conflicts.
3. CULTURE
Who we are and why we communicate the way we do is in part due to our culture
(Doise 1986; Servaes 1989). The construction of the self occurs as a person acts on her
or his environment and discovers what one can and cannot do as noted above (Collier
& Thomas 1988; Combs & Snygg 1959; Piaget 1954; Yep 1998). Culture plays an im-
portant role in determining the rules, regulations, and norms of social interaction, i.e.
schemata, behavioral scripts, and frames (Lustig & Koester 2013; Samovar et al. 2013).
A person typically becomes aware that other norms might exit when interacting with
members from other cultures (Chen & Starosta 1998, Lustig & Koester 2013, Samovar
et al. 2013). It is culture that provides the guidelines for the preferred mode of interac-
tion and communication (Doise 1986; Servaes 1989). Culture influences, among other
things, communication (Hall 1976), perception (Cole & Scribner 1974; Fisher 1997; Nis-
bett & Miyamoto 2005), behavior, and identity (Collier & Thomas 1988; Combs &
Snygg 1959; Yep 1998).
Perception
As pointed out above, every word has also a connotative meaning, i.e. the meaning
or feeling a person associates with a denotative meaning (Adler et al. 2013; Klopf 1998;
Samovar et al. 2013). In other words, every person associates a different meaning with
the same word, object, phenomenon, behavior, nonverbal cue, etc. This difference in per-
sonal meaning can be explained by perception. Perception refers to the identification,
organization, and interpretation of sensory stimuli humans are exposed to (Adler et al.
2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Jandt 2013; Klopf 1998). As people grow
up, interact with other people, and experience the world around them, they learn to as-
sociate specific meaning(s) with specific words, nonverbal cues, objects, etc. To prevent
chaos, people learn to categorize those sensations so that they can reduce the overwhelm-
ing complexity of their sensory world into manageable proportions. That is why people
place what they experience and learn into categories or classes; for example, people
learn to deal with the 7.5 million colors the human eye can discern (assuming there is
no visual dysfunction) by assigning them to categories — red, blue, green, yellow, etc.
It is culture that often determines the categories into which people place perceived
sensory stimuli (Adler et al. 2013; Jandt 2013; Klopf 1998). People learn to respond
to those categories as they experienced them and as their culture instructs them. Thus,
perception and culture are often interrelated. Obviously, individual divergence exists
as noted above. But some broad denotative meanings are shared, to a larger or lesser
degree, among the members of a culture. After all, it is this shared denotative mean-
ing that permits constructive interaction among members of that culture (Jandt 2013,
Klopf 1998; Lustig & Koester 2013; Oetzel 2009). As a person grows up in a specific
cultural environment, that person interacts with other people and learns to associate
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specific meaning for specific contexts. That shared meaning permits the successful in-
teraction with other members of that culture (Cole & Scribner 1974; Fisher 1997; Nis-
bett & Maiyamoto 2005). Culture and perception are, thus, interrelated (Cole & Scrib-
ner 1974; Fisher 1997; Nisbett & Maiyamoto 2005).
According to Kuypers (2009), people use frames to filter their perceptions by mak-
ing some information more relevant than others. Culture and personal experiences teach
individuals what is relevant or irrelevant. That is why some people may consider a par-
ticular object or behavior to be important while others may not. This has obvious con-
sequences as to what relevance is attached to particular objects or behavior and explains
why someone might be insulted by a particular behavior while the interlocutor had no
intentions of insulting that other person. But it is perceived as such. The reason is that
sensory stimuli are organized within existing knowledge structures (Hewes & Planalp
1987). In other words, the meanings one associated with specific stimuli are based on
the associations one has internalized. For example, a cow may be considered an ordinary
farm animal that provides milk and/or meat; or it may be considered a holy animal that
should not be harmed. In other words, two people viewing the same animal (or object
or behavior) may associate completely different meanings or attach different relevance
to that same animal (or object or behavior) and, thus, exhibit different reactions to that
animal (or object or behavior). And the reaction of the one person to that animal (or ob-
ject or behavior) may, in turn, be perceived as offensive by the other person even though
that was not the intention.
Selecting Sensory Stimuli
At any given moment in time, people are exposed to a host of sensory stimuli. A sti-
mulus can be defined as any input to any of the senses, e.g. sound, sight, smell, taste,
touch. Stimuli have to be perceived in order for the consciousness to act upon them; this
is called exposure. People tend to select specific stimuli to which they are exposed at any
given time (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998).
In fact, people sometimes look for specific stimuli while ignoring others. This is called
selective perception. Selective perception includes selective attention and selective ex-
posure. Selective attention refers to the anticipation of those things that will fulfill one’s
needs. For example, looking for specific information in a library during an assignment
and deliberately ignoring all the other available information. Selective exposure refers
the behavior of people that actively seeks out information and people that support their
opinions and actively avoids information or people that contradict their existing opinions,
beliefs, attitudes, and values. Selection is based on differential intensity. That is, using
something that is different from the ordinary to catch people’s attention. For example,
a specific product may stand out because of its high price. Past experience is important
in making certain selections. If people encounter a particular situation which is perceived
to be similar to what they already encountered in the past, it can determine whether they
want to seek it out again, or ignore it (Adler et al 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble
2012; Jandt 2013; Klopf 1998). For example, a person may buy the next car from the
same auto maker because the previous cars were all reliable. Motivation can also deter-
mine what people focus on. For example, if someone is very hungry, then that person
will focus on finding food and ignore everything else unrelated to food.
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 891
Organizing Sensory Stimuli
Once a sensory stimulus has been recognized, it needs to be organized within exist-
ing knowledge structures in order for the sensory stimulus to make sense (Hewes
& Planalp 1987; Mitchell 1982; Reiser, Black & Abelson 1985; Salzer, Burks, Laird,
Dodge, Pettit, & Bates 1999). This is done within existing frames of reference. The or-
ganization of perceived sensory stimuli includes grouping which refers to putting the
stimuli into categories that appear to be similar or close to one another (Adler et al. 2013;
DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Jandt 2013; Klopf 1998). That is, information
can either be included or excluded from a group, e.g. beef is considered food or taboo.
When information is perceived to be incomplete, then the missing information is
added. This is called closure and refers to the tendency of people to fill in the missing
pieces (DeVito 2015; Klopf 1998). Sometimes people hear some information that is as-
sumed to be incomplete. People will then attempt to fill in the missing information on
the basis of their own past experiences. Closure can fill in the right or the wrong missing
information. If it involves a different culture, it is more probable that the added infor-
mation or the conclusions drawn might be faulty; hence, creating the potential for mis-
understandings (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998).
Some organizational concepts are schemata, behavioral scripts, and frames. Sche-
mata are mental templates that are general ideas people have of others, themselves, or
social roles (DeVito 2015; DeFleur, Kearney, Plax, & DeFleur 2013; Hewes & Planalp
1987). Schemata allow people to organize the information they come into contact with
every day along with those that are already stored in their memory so that new situations
become manageable. Schemata are developed from a person’s experiences, real ones
or those gained through media (De Vito 2015; DeFleur et al. 2013). Behavioral scripts
are a sequence of expected behaviors and messages associated with a given situation
(Sternberg 2012). A script is a general idea of how an event should play out or unfold,
i.e. the rules governing events and their sequence as well as the typical discourse that
accompanies these events (DeVito 2015; DeFleur et al. 2013). Framing is a cognitive
bias that people develop over time (Plous 1993). Frames help people focus on specific
information while filtering out other sensory stimuli considered irrelevant for the situa-
tion. Frames define problems, analyze their causes, evaluate the situation, and offer solu-
tions (Kuypers 2009). That is, frames permit people to understand and respond to specific
situations in a particular way because people experienced perceived similar events and
learned or had been taught to respond in a particular way to those situations. Schemata,
scripts, and frames are important because the permit reaction and interaction to be in part
without conscious effort; thus, permitting free flowing communication without too many
interruptions due to too many deliberations. But they also have the potential for mis-
understandings.
Interpretation and Evaluation
Once the information has been organized, it is often interpreted. Interpretation is im-
portant because it attaches meaning to what people perceive (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito
2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998; Samovar et al. 2013). It, thus, becomes ob-
vious that it is not easy to clearly separate perceptual concepts from interpretation and
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892 МЕЖКУЛЬТУРНАЯ КОММУНИКАЦИЯ И ПЕРЕВОД
evaluation. Interpretation is based on past experiences, expectations, needs, values, be-
liefs as well as physical and emotional states (DeVito 2009; Klopf 1998; Samovar et al.
2013). That is why two people exposed to the same situation can interpret it differently;
even though they are from the same culture.
Three factors influence interpretation: Disconfirmed expectations, predisposition,
and attribution (DeVito 2015; Klopf 1998). Disconfirmed expectation refers to the phe-
nomenon that people often anticipate something to happen in a certain way. People ex-
pect it to happen that way because that is the way it happened to them before, or it hap-
pened to people they know, or it happened in accounts they read, saw, or heard about
(Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998). If people’s
expectations are not met in the way it was anticipated, their expectations are discon-
firmed. The result can be frustration which has the potential for interpersonal conflicts
(Adler et al, 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998; Samovar et
al. 2013).
Predisposition refers to the phenomenon that people tend to be predisposed to be-
have in certain ways. Needs, emotional states, values, beliefs, and attitudes constitute
those predispositions which help people decide what is good or bad, right or wrong,
important or unimportant in what they perceive. These factors play an important role
in the meanings people assign to the stimuli they sense and can vary considerably from
one person to another (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble, 2012;
Klopf 1998).
Attribution refers to the process of seeking explanations for the observed behavior
of others (Adler et al 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998). People
try to make sense of the behavior of others and in doing so people attribute causes to
that behavior. Even though one may not know why another person behaved the way
they did, one assigns a cause which is based on how one would have behaved in the
same situation. Most of the time, though, people are guessing; they are not sure of the
facts, so they speculate about or imagine the cause. This could result in a problem
because an attempt is made to understand why the others behave as they do from one’s
own perspective and not that of the others. Attribution is useful, though, because it per-
mits one to act and react in new situations which one has not experienced before since
one has determined a probable cause for the observed behavior (Adler et al. 2013; De-
Vito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012; Klopf 1998). Under those circumstances, people
use attribution to reduce uncertainty and attempt to make the behavior of others more
predictable in the future in order to avoid physical and psychological stress which often
results during uncertainty (Berger & Calabrese 1975).
People tend to interpret information in ways that are consistent with their own in-
terests, i.e. cognitive consistency. Such self-serving bias influences not only the inter-
pretation of the information but also the subsequent action of the interlocutors. Thus,
the perceived message influences the subsequent behavior and communication and not
the actual intended message. This divergence in meaning need not have a negative im-
pact on the interlocutors’ relationship because misunderstandings are remedied through
rationalization (Adler et al. 2013). Rationalization refers to the efforts undertaken by the
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 893
interlocutors to understand the perceived message (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015;
Gamble & Gamble 2012). If one of the interlocutors appears to behave in a manner
contrary to the perceived meaning of the message, the degree of deviation influences
the rationalization. Thus, if the degree of deviation is considered to be irrelevant for the
context of the message, then it will be ignored. For example, if the encoded messages
contains a few minor grammatical mistakes, or the nonverbal behavior contains a few
unusual gestures, then people tend to ignore them. If, however, the degree of divergence
is large, then the message will be misunderstood in part or entirely. So if one is familiar
with a particular culture and a specific individual, then this familiarity will allow one
to anticipate messages in a particular context and, thus, achieve greater convergence
in meaning (Adler et al 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012). Because people
seek information that reinforces their current perception of the environment and the in-
teraction, they are more likely to filter out undesirable information if it is inconsistent
with their expectation of the message content. This is due to the need for cognitive con-
sistency (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012) as noted above.
In an intercultural context, the exchange of meanings is complex because consistency
is not always guaranteed due to not just personal differences, but also cultural differences
(Chen & Starosta 1998; Gudykunst 2005; Klopf 1998; Oetzel 2009). That is why it is im-
portant to familiarize oneself with the other culture and one’s communication partner
if one wishes to communicate effectively with someone from another culture (Chen
& Starosta 1998; Klopf 1998; Oetzel 2009; Samovar et al. 2013).
Once the information has been interpreted, it is evaluated (DeVito 2015; Klopf
1998). In other words, people decide whether they like or dislike what they have per-
ceived and act upon that evaluation — or not, depending on one’s past experiences, per-
sonality, current situation, etc. Here again, previous experiences and current emotional
states — as well as other factors including culture — can determine whether a person
considers the interpreted information to be positive, neutral, or negative — and every-
thing in-between. Even the same person can evaluate the same information differently,
depending on the circumstances.
4. IDENTITY
How we perceive the world and how the world perceives us has, to some extent,
also an influence on our identity. Identity influences how people communicate, i.e. how
they create and interpret messages (Doise 1986) and how individuals perceive them-
selves, i.e. self-concept, which includes the interaction with others (Adler et al. 2013).
The self-concept, in turn, consists of self-image and self-esteem (Adler et al. 2013;
Gamble & Gamble 2012). Self-image refers to how a person sees herself/himself,
how others see that person, and how that person thinks others see her/him. Self-image
includes the (Gamble & Gamble 2012) roles one sees oneself perform, the categories
one places oneself in, the words one uses to describe or identify oneself, and the un-
derstanding of how others see one (metacognition). Self-image is also called self-
schema and includes those traits with which people define themselves. Those traits and
all information that defines a person are organized in a coherent scheme, i.e. self-referen-
tial coding (Rogers, Kuiper, & Kirker 1977).
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People with a poor self-image tend to exhibit poor self-worth and could develop
social disorders (Rogers et al 1977). People who have a negative self-image can use ste-
reotyping and prejudice to maintain their self-image (Fein & Spencer 1997), creating
a potential conflict situation. Florack, Scarabis, and Gosejohann (2005) postulate that
stereotyping and prejudices may be used to restore self-esteem. Negative feedback seems
to threaten people’s self-image and results in evaluating the perceived initiator more
negatively in an attempt to restore self-esteem (Fein & Spencer 1997).
Self-esteem refers to how well one likes and values oneself. It is often derived from
the success and/or failures one encountered in life (Gamble & Gamble 2012). Self-
esteem, thus, influences the self-image with a predominantly positive or negative con-
cept (Adler et al. 2013). Hence, if someone has a generally positive self-perception,
then that person will probably have high self-esteem. Someone with high self-esteem
is more willing to communicate than someone with low self-esteem (Adler et al. 2013;
Hamacheck 1992). And someone with high self-esteem is more likely to think highly
of others and expect to be accepted by others. These individuals are not afraid of the re-
actions of others and perform well when others watch them. When confronted with crit-
icism, they are comfortable defending themselves (Adler et al. 2013). In contrast, some-
one with a negative self-perception will probably have low self-esteem. People with low
self-esteem are likely to be critical of others and expect rejection from them (Adler et al.
2013; Hamacheck 1992). They are also critical of their own performance. People with
low self-esteem are sensitive to possible disapproval of others and perform poorly when
watched (Adler et al. 2013). They feel threatened by others they perceive as superior
and have difficulty in defending themselves against negative comments of others, i.e.
a potential for conflict. Self-esteem, thus, has considerable impact on a person’s com-
munication (Hamacheck 1992).
If those who are important to one have a positive image of one, this will make one
feel accepted, valued, worthwhile, lovable, and significant; hence, one will probably de-
velop a positive self-image with high self-esteem (Adler et al 2013; Gamble & Gamble
2012). If, however, those who are important to one have a negative image of one, one
will probably develop a negative self-image with low self-esteem (Adler et al 2013).
Identity is, thus, a social construct that is created over time and is subjective rather than
fixed and objective (Yep 1998). It is a social construction that is given meaning through
interaction with others (Collier & Thomas 1988; Combs & Snygg 1959). Identity is not
assigned or concrete; identity is created, reflected, and maintained through interactions
with people (Collier & Thomas 1988; Piaget 1954; Yep 1998). Even though a person
undergoes change — once identity is in place, it is relatively stable and difficult to alter
(Keltikangas 1990). However, from the above discussion, it is clear why individuals with-
in the same cultural context are not identical to one another, but unique individuals who
grew up in the same cultural context.
It seems that all humans have a need for an identity that is secure, included, pre-
dictable, connected to others, and consistent (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito, 2015; Gamble
& Gamble, 2012). Thus, setting the stage for (perceived) positive relationships. If one
interacts with people from different cultures, that identity can be threatened because such
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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 895
encounters are often unpredictable (Gudykunst 1988; Lustig & Koester 2013; Samovar
et al. 2013). It is unpredictable because different cultures can use different verbal and
nonverbal cues, making communication less predictable. People often feel threatened
by unpredictable situations (Berger & Calabrese 1975; Gudykunst 1988; Lustig &
Koester 2013; Samovar et al 2013).
5. ETHNOCENTRISM
Ethnocentrism refers to the assumption that one’s own culture is the center of every-
thing; consequently, one’s cultural traits are seen as natural, correct, and superior to other
cultures (Klopf, 1998; Lustig & Koester 2013; Samovar et al. 2013). Culture provides
one with a frame of reference with which one can compare objects, behaviors, etc.
of other cultures with one’s own culture. All cultures teach their members “preferred”
ways of responding to the world which are often labeled as “natural” or “appropriate”.
Consequently, people believe that the values of their culture are natural and correct. Thus,
people from other cultures who do things differently might be seen with suspicion.
A fundamental aspect in understanding ethnocentrism is the concept of in-groups
and out-groups. As people develop their cultural identities, they learn to differentiate
themselves from others in different groups. During interactions with members of one’s
own groups and those of others, one learns to distinguish the in-group from the out-group.
In-groups provide a person with a social identity. Out-groups, in contrast, are perceived
as different, and its members as strange. Some people are even taught to avoid specific
out-groups because they are different and because they behave incorrectly (Klopf 1998;
Lustig & Koester 2013; Samovar et al. 2013).
The Social Identity Theory of Tajfel and Turner (1986) focuses on how the social
categorization of people into groups affects interactions between people of different so-
cial identities, i.e. national or ethnic culture. In particular, it emphasizes that people have
a desire to enhance their self-image and to differentiate themselves from other groups.
Awareness of membership in a social group is the most important factor influencing in-
tergroup behaviors and results in establishing a positive social identity. The desire to
achieve a positive social identity results in a positive bias favoring the in-group (Tajfel
& Turner 1986). Group members achieve this positive identity in several ways including
preference and intergroup competition.
The theory explains that individuals with a strong in-group bias or identification
have a preference for, or discriminate in favor of, the in-group as a result of striving for
positive social identity. They view members of the in-group as more similar to them-
selves than out-group members and have loyalty toward the in-group and its products.
Studies have shown that the greater the individual’s in-group identification, the more
likely these individuals are to discriminate in favor of the in-group (Gagnon & Bourhis
1996; Perreault & Bourhis 1999). In other words, people give more rewards to their
in-group members than the out-group members for the same level of work. In addition
to in-group preference, individuals tend to engage in social competition to preserve a po-
sitive social identity when interacting with members of out-groups (Turner 1975).
That is why the type and the degree of the relationship between the interlocutors
plays a crucial role in the interpretation of the perceived message and its meaning (Adler
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et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012). If the degree of divergence is con-
sidered irrelevant for the context of the message, it will be ignored. The more familiar
one is with the other person and culture, the easier it will be to accurately anticipate and
decode messages in a particular context with that person and, thus, achieve greater con-
vergence in meaning (Adler et al. 2013). People are more likely to filter out undesirable
information if it is inconsistent with the expectation towards the message content because
people have a need for cognitive consistency (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015). The in-
terlocutors often come to a particular conclusion as to what meaning a message has.
People tend to interpret the message in ways that are consistent with their own interests.
Such self-serving bias influences not only the interpretation of the message, but also the
subsequent action of the interlocutors. Consequently, the perceived message influences
the subsequent behavior of the interlocutors and not the actual, objective message. In-
terestingly, this divergence in meaning need not have an impact on the relationship of
the interlocutors because misunderstandings may be remedied by rationalization (Adler
et al. 2013; DeVito, 2015; Gamble & Gamble, 2012).
6. RELATIONSHIPS AND TRUST
The Communication Accommodation Theory (Giles, Coupland, and Coupland 1991)
proposes that the initial orientation of interpersonal encounters is strongly affected by
one’s personal and social identity which tends to let one view interactions in a particu-
lar way (Giles et al. 1991). But the situational constraints, such as the norms, topics, and
competitiveness, of each interaction are likely to change the initial orientation of the
interactors. During the interaction, people begin to employ different strategies to identify
themselves as speakers or to react to the others. These strategies may include individual
factors such as personal goals and likes and dislikes; sociolinguistic and behavioral skills
in encoding and decoding verbal and nonverbal messages, i.e. cultural preferences; and
evaluating one’s own behavior and that of others to determine how that interaction is
to be viewed (DeVito 2015; Gamble and Gamble 2012). This evaluation will then either
change or reinforce the initial orientation during the next interaction, i.e. monitoring
and self-control.
In some situations, people are consciously aware of how they interact with others
while in other situations they are not (Adler et al. 2013). Abelson (1981) postulates that
people use scripts for many routine situations which do not require complete conscious
awareness to facilitate an uninterrupted flow of communication. Some people are much
more aware of their behavior than others (Gamble and Gamble 2012). These are called
high self-monitors who have the ability to pay attention to their own behavior and others’
reactions, adjusting their communication to create the desired impression. Low self-mo-
nitors express what they are thinking and feeling without much attention to the im-
pression their behavior creates in others. People differ in their degree of identity man-
agement (Adler et al. 2013). For example, one may only select that information which
confirms one’s own self-concept and ignore the rest, i.e. selective perception. Self-aware-
ness, thus, has considerable impact on how one monitors one’s own behavior and com-
munication and that of others.
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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 897
To understand others, one must understand how they look at the world and other
people. Self-awareness and how others perceive one can be explored through a psycho-
logical testing device known as the Johari Window created by Joseph Luft and Harring-
ton Ingham (1955). The Johari Window consists of four quadrants; namely, the open,
blind, hidden, and unknown “panes” (Adler et al. 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012). The
Open pane refers to information about oneself that is known to oneself and others (Adler
et al. 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012). The size of this quadrant varies from one rela-
tionship to another and depends on the degree of closeness and trust one shares with
another person. The Blind pane contains information about oneself that others are aware
of, but oneself is not aware of (Adler et al. 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012). Some
people have a very large blind area and are unaware of their own faults and virtues. The
Hidden pane represents one’s hidden self (Adler et al. 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012).
It contains information one knows about oneself but does not want others to know about
oneself for fear of being rejected. As one moves from the Hidden pane to the Open pane,
one is engaged in self-disclosure. Self-disclosure occurs when one deliberately reveals
to others information about oneself that the other person would otherwise not know
(Adler et al. 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012). And finally, the Unknown pane contains
information about oneself which neither oneself nor others are aware of (Adler et al.
2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012).
People typically develop a style that is a consistent and preferred way of behaving
towards and communicating with others. Some are very open and self-disclose. Their re-
lationships with others are characterized by candor, openness, and sensitivity to the needs
and insights of others. Others have a large hidden area. They desire relationships but
also greatly fear exposure and generally mistrust others. And if the blind area dominates,
then such persons are overly confident of their own opinions and painfully unaware
of how they affect others or are perceived by others. People who are dominated by the
unknown area adopt a fairly impersonal approach to relationships. Such people usually
withdraw from others, avoid disclosure or involvements, and project an image that is
rigid, aloof, and uncommunicative (Adler et al 2013; Gamble and Gamble 2012) which
is why they will probably be perceived negatively by others. So individual differences
can have considerable impact on how individuals communicate with one another.
Relationships are dynamic and influenced through communication with others.
Relationships are hierarchical and include strangers, acquaintances, and intimate friends.
Different levels of relationships call for different degrees of involvement. Relationships
are reciprocal and exist when members in relationship networks satisfy each other’s
needs (DeVito 2015). Prolonged reciprocal incompatibility usually results in a breakdown
of the relationship. The Social Exchange Theory (Thibaut and Kelley 1959) postulates
that people will only work to maintain a relationship as long as the perceived benefits
outweigh the costs. The benefits can include self-worth, a sense of personal growth,
a greater sense of security, an increased ability to cope with problems, and additional
resources. Costs can include the time spent trying to make the relationship work, psy-
chological and physical stress, and damaged self-image. People enter a relationship with
a comparison level in mind (DeVito 2015). People have a general idea, standard, or ex-
pectation of the kind of rewards and profits they believe they ought to get out of the re-
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lationship. When the rewards equal or surpass the comparison level, people feel satisfied
about the relationship. People also have a comparison level for alternatives (Thibaut and
Kelley 1959). People compare the rewards they get from a current relationship with those
they think they can get from an alternative relationship. If it is assumed the present
relationship rewards are below those they could get from an alternative one, then they
might exit the present relationship. People use communication to explore a relationship
in order to determine if they wish to maintain the relationship or not (DeVito 2015),
i.e. the Social Penetration Theory which proposes that the development of relationships
is determined by the information one discloses to the other person (Altman and Tay-
lor 1973).
The Uncertainty Reduction Theory (Berger and Calabrese, 1975) examines how
people come to know each other in the initial stage of relationship development. Un-
certainty refers to the cognitive inability to explain one’s own or another’s feelings and
behaviors in interactions because an ambiguous situation evokes anxiety. The theory
proposes that interpersonal relationships develop and progress when people are able
to reduce the uncertainty about each other. That is why people seek to reduce uncertainty
by exchanging information in the process of relationship development and while build-
ing trust.
Trust is an outgrowth of interpersonal communication and very important for inter-
personal relationships (DeVito 2015; Gamble and Gamble 2012). Trust is a reflection
of how secure one is that other people will act in a predicted and desired way. When
one trusts other people, one is confident that they will behave as one expects them to
and that they will not use whatever personal information one has revealed to them to
harm one. The degree of trust one has in others depends on whether prior relationships
reinforced trusting behavior or consolidated fears about the risks of exhibiting trusting
behavior (DeVito 2015; Gamble and Gamble 2012). Trust is built by developing a posi-
tive communication climate that recognizes and acknowledges the other person’s ideas
and messages in a positive manner. Disconfirming responses, i.e. messages that deny the
value of the other person’s ideas, can prevent the establishment of trustful relationships
as the Communication Accommodation Theory postulates (Adler et al. 2013). This does
not mean, though, that one cannot disagree with the other person’s opinion. What is im-
portant is how one communicates such disagreement. In other words, one needs to avoid
personal attacks and/or messages that can be construed as being hurtful (Adler et al. 2013).
Trust creates a paradox: To be able to trust, one must be willing to take the risk
of trusting (Rawlins 1983; Rempel and Holmes 1986; Rempel, Holmes, and Zanna
1985). When one risks revealing hidden information about oneself to another person,
then one risks being wrong because the other person could use that information against
one. But if one fails to take that risk, one can never build trustful relationships with others
(Rawlins 1983; Rempel and Holmes 1986; Rempel et al 1985). Tolerance of vulnerability
is the degree of trust one places in another person to accept information one discloses
without that person hurting one or the relationship (Rawlins 1983). At the same time,
trust creates greater tolerance for divergent behavior and communication because a trust-
ed person is given the benefit of the doubt. In fact, one may even make excuses for
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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 899
the behavior and communication of the other as is explained above by the principles
of rationalization and cognitive consistency (Adler et al 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble
and Gamble 2012). Trust, thus, means that both interactors need to be open and practice
self-disclosure to reduce the hidden area of the Johari Window and reduce uncertainty.
7. CONFLICTS
Conflicts are perceived disagreements and goal interference. They involve cognition
and how the interlocutors define the context within which the conflict occurs (Roloff
& Wright 2013). According to Rahim (2002), a conflict is “an interactive process mani-
fested in incompatibility, disagreement, or dissonance within or between social entities
(i.e. individual, group, organization, etc.)” (p. 207). In other words, a conflict can also
arise due to differences in communication and meaning. Such differences can include low
vs. high context communication styles (Imahori 2010) or monochronic vs. polychronic
behavior (Ting-Toomey & Oetzel 2007). So cultural differences can result in misper-
ceptions and misunderstandings and lead to conflicts in addition to individual, personal
differences. After all, conflicts also arise between individuals from the same culture.
One category of conflicts are pseudo-conflicts which usually involve, among other
causes, misunderstandings (Bruner & Tagiuri 1954; Krippendorff & Bermejo 2009). Mis-
understandings resemble pseudo-conflicts and can, thus, escalate into real conflicts. Pseu-
do-conflicts are usually resolved when people realize no conflict actually exists (Gamble
& Gamble 2012); otherwise, they could escalate into real conflicts. This means, that it
is also important for misunderstandings to be clarified if they do occur or, even better,
to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Otherwise, real conflicts can erupt and
ending them may be difficult because conflicts are fairly complex (Canary & Lakey
2006; Caughlin & Vangelisit 2006; Roloff & Wright 2013) even without the added
element of culture. As conflicts escalate, new issues can arise. At the same time, the dif-
ferent frames of the conflict parties create fragmented communication that ignores the
concerns of one’s counterpart (Roloff & Wright 2013; Sillars 2010). Thus, conflicts often
involve a variety of goals and goal incompatibility, incoherent and paradoxical action,
escalating arguments and topic shifts, perceptual differences, and cognitive biases (Roloff
& Wright 2013). People rarely take the other’s perspective, but quickly infer what in-
tentions and actions mean without any real knowledge, i.e. faulty attribution (Sillars,
Roberts, Leonard, & Dun 2000). Framing is critical to how the conflict parties view each
other, their relationship, and the conflict task. Framing directs the attention and steers
the focus to what is at stake in a conflict. That is why framing is important in under-
standing (pseudo) conflicts.
Culture includes preferred means of handling specific situations (Chen & Starosta,
1998; Lustig & Koester, 2013; Samovar et al, 2013). That is why Goffman (1974) notes
that the meaning of frames is to be found in culture; hence, explaining why different
cultures communicate and manage conflicts differently due to the different frames people
have internalized. In fact, people are more willing to accept a particular interpretation
if they have existing schemata and frames for specific situations. Frames highlight certain
information to make the situation more understandable by selecting specific problem
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definitions, speculating about a probable cause, coming to a certain evaluation, and stimu-
lating a particular reaction (Entman 1993). Drake and Donohue (1996) found that if
the interlocutors can achieve convergence of their individual frames, then this increases
the frequency of agreement, i.e. convergence in meaning. Shared personal values could
provide a means of overcoming differences (Lee 2014).
Frame convergence increases the focus, control, positive social attribution and inte-
grativeness of the interlocutors (Drake & Donohue 1996). In line with the Social Ex-
change Theory, the interlocutors may consider their personal relationship to be more
important than maintaining or escalating the conflict. That is why it is so important to
establish good relationships based on mutual trust because then the interactors might
realize that misunderstandings and misperceptions exist because they communicate
openly about the conflict due to that trust and are willing to self-disclose, i.e. the Johari
Window.
People usually feel more relaxed and comfortable when they are with someone
they trust (Adler et al. 2013; DeVito 2015; Gamble & Gamble 2012). A trustful relation-
ship produces greater tolerance for divergent behavior due to attribution, rationalization,
and cognitive consistency as noted above. This provides an opportunity to deescalate
a (pseudo) conflict. Successful de-escalation of conflicts requires empathy, putting one-
self in the position of the other, mutual tolerance, a positive attitude, and alternative
coping mechanisms (Roloff & Ifert 2000). According to Roloff and Wright (2013),
people want to understand their social environment. That is why it is important to think
about what is going on during a conflict, i.e. applying cognition. Conflicts also require
self-monitoring and self-regulatory behavior to adjust the communication of the interac-
tors if the conflicts are to be managed properly (Canary & Lakey 2006; Canary & Spitz-
berg 1987; Roloff & Wrigth 2013), i.e. metacognition and social metacognition.
8. INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION COMPETENCE
AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
While there is disagreement on conceptualizing and measuring intercultural com-
munication competence, there is agreement on its fundamental characteristics (Lustig
& Koester 2013). According to Chen and Starosta (1998), intercultural communication
competence is the ability to effectively and appropriately communicate to achieve
a desired response in a specific environment, i.e. intercultural communication sensitivity.
Cultural awareness is the foundation for intercultural communication sensitivity.
The more experience one has with cultural difference, the more competent one is in in-
tercultural situations (Dong, Day, & Collaco, 2008). Proficiency in foreign languages
tends to increase intercultural communication competence as well because such profi-
ciency increases the likelihood that at least the denotative meaning is shared among
the interlocutors (Greenholtz 2000). Hence, Dong et al. (2008) conclude that people need
to interact and communicate with members of another culture in order to increase their
intercultural communication competence (i.e. social metacognition). Intercultural com-
munication competence seems to “promote an individual’s ability to respect cultural dif-
ferences, foster multiple cultural identities, and maintain multicultural coexistence...
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INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 901
[which] may enable individuals to be successful in the diverse cultural environment”
(Dong et al. 2008: 32).
The competent communicator not only knows how to interact effectively and ap-
propriately, but also how to fulfill her/his own communication goals while using this
ability, i.e. adroitness (Chen & Starosta 1998). One, thus, needs to properly perceive
one’s own behavior/communication and the intentions and behavior/communication
of others. That is, one ought to be able to behave/communicate in a manner that is ap-
propriate and perceived as appropriate by others. One also needs to monitor one’s own
behavior/communication and that of others while at the same time properly decoding
the other’s behavior/communication, intentions. In return, one needs to possibly adjust
one’s behavior/communication if it should prove to be necessary. And one has to be
aware of how one’s subsequent behavior/communication is perceived by others so that
one can react/ communicate appropriately again if need be (i.e. adroitness).
According to the Anxiety/Uncertainty Management Theory (Gudykunst 2005), peo-
ple have a certain degree of anxiety, i.e. stress, in encounters with strangers. When the
encounter is of an intercultural nature, people tend to be very aware of the cultural dif-
ferences. In fact, they tend to overemphasize the relevance of culture and ignore individu-
al differences. But when people are mindful, they will have better conscious control
of their own communication (Gudykunst 2005). Mindfulness refers to cognition, moni-
toring, and controlling one’s own behavior and communication so that it is effective
in specific situations with specific individuals because the communicator does not apply
general, stereotypical categories (e.g. schemata, scripts, frames). Instead, the effective
communicator individualizes the categories so that the categories provide a better fit
(Gudykunst 2005).
Thus, knowledge and awareness of cultural differences are important in under-
standing differences in meaning, i.e. cognition. The more one knows of one’s counter-
part and her/his culture, the better one can decode her/his behavior and communication
(Chen & Starosta 1998; Lustig & Koester 2013; Samovar et al. 2013). Furthermore, self-
awareness and self-monitoring help reveal how one communicates, i.e. metacognition.
Metacognition refers to monitoring and controlling one’s cognitive processes so as to
improve their effectiveness (Brown 1978, 1987; Flavel 1979, 1987; Frith 2012). Veeman,
Van Hout-Wolters, and Afflerbach (2006) point out that metacognition relies on cogni-
tion. So specific knowledge of another person and another culture is needed to properly
apply metacognition. By monitoring how the other person reacts to one’s own behavior
and communication, one can adjust one’s own behavior/communication to the reaction
of the other person (social metacognition) by applying cognition.
Social metacognition can help manage conflicts effectively because it permits con-
flicting parties to see the conflict from the perspective of the other party to better isolate
and predict the possible behavior/communication of the other and adjust one’s own
behavior/communication accordingly (Frith 2012; Jost, Kruglanski, & Nelson 1998).
To reach convergence in meaning, it is necessary to put oneself in the position of one’s
counterpart and attempt to perceive one’s own behavior/communication from the per-
spective of one’s counterpart. This calls for familiarity, i.e. cognition, of one’s coun-
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terpart because familiarity fosters mutual self-disclosure and trust which creates better
predictability (Frith 2012; Jost et al. 1998). And it requires self- and other-monitoring
to properly adjust one’s behavior/communication, i.e. social metacognition.
According to Veeman et al. (2006), metacognition (and social metacognition)
is most effective if it is learned in the context in which it is to be used, i.e. real world
situations. According to Frith (2012), metacognition can be developed through interac-
tion and a willingness to communicate with others about the reasons for one’s own ac-
tions and perceptions as well as listening to the reasons of one’s counterpart presents
to explain her or his actions, i.e. practice self-disclosure. This enables people to over-
come their lack of direct access to the underlying cognitive processes in themselves
and others. Thus, permitting a more accurate image of what the others are seeing and
thinking (Frith 2012).
According to Keysar, Hayakawa, and An (2012), framing seems to disappear when
it is encountered in a second language. A second language seems to provide greater cog-
nitive and emotional distance allowing people to interpret and evaluate messages less
biased. This is probably because most people tend to process a second language less
automatically than they do their native language. Consequently, people are more de-
liberate in their cognition which affects their decision making process; thus, creating
decisions that are more systematic and involving more intense monitoring/self-awareness
and control to see how one’s message is being perceived by the other, i.e. (social meta-
cognition) (Keysar et al 2012). People should also enter any encounter with interlocutors
from other cultures with as few preconceived attitudes and frames as possible because
existing attitudes and frames are often the basis for future attitudes (Song & Ewoldson
2015). Hence, explaining why people are unlikely to change existing attitudes and frames
if they have preconceived attitudes and are intolerant of others. New information can be
negated if prior attitudes are held with a high degree of confidence, i.e. the Selective Ex-
posure Theory (Hart, Albarracin, Eagly, Brechan, Lindberg, & Merrill 2009; Sullivan
2009) and the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger 1957).
A mismatch of people’s implicit and explicit attitudes seems to encourage people
to use more elaborate information processes (Song & Ewoldson, 2015). Song and Ewold-
son (2015) note that divergent information which is transmitted by trusted people “has
a stronger influence on a person’s perception of the validity or certainty of attitudinal-
ly relevant beliefs than that same information presented by the media” (p. 35). All the
more reason to build and maintain a trustful relationship since it encourages constructive
interaction due to self-disclosure and trust building.
The interrelationship of the above discussed elements may be depicted as follows:
Cognition Metacognition Social Metacognition
SelfDisclosure Trust
Interaction
& Communication
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION AND TRANSLATION 903
9. CONCLUSION
From the above discussion, it is apparent that awareness and monitoring one’s own
behavior and communication as well as that of one’s counterpart are important elements
which can help reduce misunderstandings and misperceptions because they consider
knowledge that is required for effective communication; thus, permitting greater conver-
gence in meaning. They also hone perception in that they expand the range and aware-
ness of schemata, scripts, and frames. They also permit more accurate self-monitoring
and other-monitoring. This is, however, only improved through the constructive interac-
tion with one’s counterpart because the interaction with the help of cognition and meta-
cognition allows one to see if and how one’s own behavior and communication are being
perceived by one’s counterpart. This interaction also involves self-monitoring and re-
adjusting one’s behavior and communication to correct misunderstandings and misper-
ceptions — both in oneself and in one’s counterpart. But here as well, it is necessary
to interact and communicate with one’s counterpart to discover if one’s own communi-
cation and self-evaluation is being perceived and interpreted as intended by one’s coun-
terpart as Frith (2012) points out. This should then increase predictability which is also
an important component of trust. Trust requires, on the one hand, a tolerance of vulner-
ability because one does not know what one’s counterpart will do with the disclosed
information. But without self-disclosure, trust cannot be built. And, on the other hand,
trust creates a tolerance for greater divergence because with trust, one tends to give one’s
counterpart the benefit of the doubt through rationalization and cognitive consistency.
Trust helps build stronger relationships because trust reduces uncertainty and anxiety
and increases predictability. Predictability permits one to attune one’s messages to one’s
counterpart because one knows how one’s counterpart will react to a given message.
Trust also increases the likelihood of both interlocutors practicing more self-disclosure.
This increased mutual self-disclosure increases cognition, i.e. one gains more knowledge
of one’s counterpart’s behavior and communication; thus, increasing shared meaning
and resulting in greater convergence of meaning while also reducing uncertainty and
anxiety. With more knowledge, it is possible to improve self-monitoring and controlling
one’s own behavior and communication, i.e. metacognition, as Veeman et al (2006)
note. And with more knowledge of one’s counterpart, one will be able to improve one’s
ability to predict the behavior and reaction of one’s counterpart, i.e. social metacognition.
This, in turn, will improve the overall communication and provide a more harmonious
relationship with fewer misunderstandings and misperceptions; hence, deescalating or
even preventing (pseudo) conflicts.
© Michael Hinner, 2017
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Article history:
Received: 10 September 2017
Revised: 07 October 2017
Accepted: 15 October 2017
For citation:
Hinner, M. (2017) Cultural Misunderstandings: Causes and Solutions. Russian Journal of Lin-
guistics, 21 (4), 885—909. DOI: 10.22363/2312-9182-2017-21-4-885-909.
Bio note:
Michael B. Hinner, Dr., Professor of Business English and Intercultural Communication at the Faculty
of Business Administration and the International Resource Industry, Technische Universität Bergaka-
demie Freiberg (Germany), editor of the book series for business and intercultural communication
(Beiträge zur Interkulturellen und Wirtschaftskommunikation). Research interests: Business English,
Intercultural Communication, Organizational Communication, Culture and Communication in a Business
Context, Perception and Communication. Contact information: e-mail: hinner@bwl.tu-freiberg.de
DOI: 10.22363/2312-9182-2017-21-4-885-909
НЕПОНИМАНИЕ В МЕЖКУЛЬТУРНОЙ КОММУНИКАЦИИ:
ПРИЧИНЫ И ПОИСКИ РЕШЕНИЙ
Майкл Б. Хиннер
Технический университет
Akademiestraße 6, 09599 Freiberg, Saxony, Germany
Межкультурное непонимание вызывается рядом комплексных причин, которые легко могут
привести к конфликту. Поскольку конфликт представляет собой сложное явление, его нелегко уре-
гулировать, так как не существует единого решения для всех проблем. Теория систем, междисцип-
линарный подход и социоэкологическая модель обеспечивают всестороннее рассмотрение сложных
явлений. Они позволяют создать теоретическую основу, базирующуюся на предыдущих эмпири-
ческих исследованиях и междисциплинарных теориях, с помощью которой можно определить
значимые элементы сложных явлений и понять их взаимосвязь. Межкультурное непонимание
и конфликты — это комплексные феномены, включающие в себя культуру, восприятие, идентич-
ность, этноцентризм, взаимоотношения, завоевание доверия и управление конфликтами, а также
межкультурную коммуникативную компетенцию, предусматривающую когнитивную, метакогни-
тивную и социальную метакогнитивную деятельность. Поскольку большинство эмпирических
исследований направлено на отдельные, изолированные элементы в специфических контекстах,
данная статья показывает, как на основе имеющихся данных и теорий, разработанных в различных
научных областях, можно создать теоретическую основу для разработки целостной методики
по предотвращению межкультурных неудач и конфликтов. В основу положены главные принципы
теории систем, трансдисциплинарности и социоэкологической модели.
Ключевые слова: конфликты, сознание, культура, этноцентризм, идентичность
История статьи:
Дата поступления в редакцию: 10 сентября 2017
Дата принятия к печати: 15 октября 2017
Michael B. Hinner. Russian Journal of Linguistics, 2017, 21 (4), 885—909
Для цитирования:
Hinner, M. (2017) Cultural Misunderstandings: Causes and Solutions. Russian Journal of Lin-
guistics, 21 (4), 885—909. DOI: 10.22363/2312-9182-2017-21-4-885-909.
Сведения об авторе:
Доктор Майкл Б. Хиннер преподает деловой английский и межкультурную коммуникацию
в Техническом университете Фрайбергская горная академия (Фрайберг, Германия). Он является
редактором серии книг по межкультурной коммуникации в сфере бизнеса (Beiträge zur Interkul-
turellen und Wirtschaftskommunikation). Сфера научных интересов: деловой английский, меж-
культурная коммуникация, культура и коммуникация в сфере бизнеса. Контактная информа-
ция: e-mail: hinner@bwl.tu-freiberg.de
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Thesis
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En el nuevo contexto de diversidad cultural en Chile, es relevante analizar las prácticas y perspectivas que los docentes de ciencias naturales y biología poseen sobre la presencia de alumnos extranjeros (AE) en sus aulas, asumiéndose una epistemología constructivista, donde la diversidad enriquece el desarrollo de actitudes de respeto y valoración, como asimismo la posibilidad de ampliar las perspectivas científicas tanto de alumnos nacionales (AN) como AE. El objetivo general de esta investigación fue averiguar el futuro existente para la enseñanza de las ciencias en aulas interculturales. Para lograr este objetivo, se realizaron dos estudios complementarios. En el primer estudio se utilizó una encuesta por cuestionario, donde se procuró averiguar las representaciones de los profesores acerca de la interculturalidad en las aulas de ciencias a 114 profesores, revelando una sobreposición conceptual entre interculturalidad y multiculturalidad. Un elevado porcentaje de estos profesores releva la importancia de evitar actos discriminatorios y considera que los AE son siempre un aporte de conocimientos a la clase de ciencias, sin embargo, esta valoración dependería de la nacionalidad de procedencia. Fueron también identificados obstáculos comunicacionales y desfases curriculares con los AE. El segundo estudio utilizó la observación de clases y la realización de entrevistas post aula a seis profesores. Se comprobó que el levantamiento de ideas previas es la principal estrategia utilizada para identificar los saberes científicos de los AE, otorgando reforzamiento positivo y oportunidades de participación similares a AE y AN, exceptuando sólo a los AE no hispanoparlantes. Las ideas científicas de los AE, dependieron del contenido disciplinar trabajado, edad del estudiante, y del nivel de contacto que mantienen con su cultura de origen. En conclusión, se puede afirmar que: en la perspectiva de los profesores es necesario incluir competencias interculturales en la formación inicial y continua de profesores de ciencias, que les permitan superar la perspectiva romántica-folclórica que poseen, y desarrollar un foco reflexivo-humanista para el trabajo con AE, donde este nuevo contexto cultural permita desenvolver una ciencia con foco intercultural que comparta los significados culturales, pero asimismo desarrolle actitudes y valoración a esta diversidad.
... It is no longer a surprising fact that such kind of obvious differences could lead to a conflict especially when it comes to the professional setting. Hinner (2017) explained that even the same word may not carry the same denotative meaning across cultures and might cause conflict when it comes to communicating interculturally. This situation is even more complex when it involves non-native speakers in intercultural communication (Cheng, 2002). ...
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This research is aiming at discussing the benefits of learning English and Japanese languages simultaneously to cross-cultural competency. This article is also having a further discussion about the human resources development benefits gained from learning the two languages and cultures. English and Japanese are two languages that are famous as foreign languages for international business. It is because The United States, Japan, and the major economic forces of Western Europe are developed countries whose infrastructures and well-established financial markets are conducive to the operation and potential success of multinational corporations (MNCs). This study is a qualitative study with explanatory research as its method. The data gained by analyzing the perceptions drawn from the existing literature of various scholars documented in journals and books connected to Japanese and English languages, as well as human resources development issues. The results showed that learning Japanese and English simultaneously is also a good method in teaching the worker or students that will work in an international setting in having the comprehension of cross-cultural issues in general. The differences of those languages in terms of culture such as direct and indirect behavior in speaking, personal address system, and polite speech will become an example of understanding two different foreign language categories: high and low context cultures.
... Thus, the survey results prove that the first-year students are ready to master the intercultural competence skills, since they realize that they live in the global world, and intercultural competence is necessary for successful communication between people in various life and activity spheres (Cranmer, 2017;Hinner, 2017). On the other hand, the scientific and pedagogical literature analysis coupled with the survey results indicate that the students' intercultural competence level can be defined as average. ...
... It is no longer a surprising fact that such kind of obvious differences could lead to a conflict especially when it comes to the professional setting. Hinner (2017) explained that even the same word may not carry the same denotative meaning across cultures and might cause conflict when it comes to communicating interculturally. This situation is even more complex when it involves non-native speakers in intercultural communication (Cheng, 2002). ...
Article
Full-text available
This research is aiming at discussing the benefits of learning English and Japanese languages simultaneously to cross-cultural competency. This article is also having a further discussion about the human resources development benefits gained from learning the two languages and cultures. Engli sh and Japanese are two languages that are famous as foreign languages for international business. It is because The United States, Japan, and the major economic forces of Western Europe are developed countries whose infrastructures and well-established financial markets are conducive to the operation and potential success of multinational corporations (MNCs). This study is a qualitative study with explanatory research as its method. The data gained by analyzing the perceptions drawn from the existing literature of various scholars documented in journals and books connected to Japanese and English languages, as well as human resources development issues. The results showed that learning Japanese and English simultaneously is also a good method in teaching th e worker or students that will work in an international setting in having the comprehension of cross-cultural issues in general. The differences of those languages in terms of culture such as direct and indirect behavior in speaking, personal address system, and polite speech will become an example of understanding two different foreign language categories: high and low context cultures.
... Therefore, communication is a significant aspect of the way people establish their life. Where communication contexts do not exists, misunderstanding can arise due to the different use of words which vary from person to person (Hinner, 2017). Additionally, context deals with the conditions and the environment supporting the primary message being communicated. ...
Chapter
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English language teaching has long gone beyond the classroom walls. The term itself includes a whole educational paradigm related to the social-cognitive, pragmatic and ethical aspects of the English-speaking world. Both English learners and teachers in the course of communication face not only language-related challenges but also those borne in historically, socially, and culturally diverse psychology and outlooks: ways of rationalizing perceptions, knowledge structures, attitudes, and the choices of expressing these feelings and beliefs. For both learners and teachers, language learning and cognition are inseparable from the emotional component, which is a factor that regulates adaptation to changes caused by external and internal learning events. Viewing these challenges within the psycholinguistic discipline, the study proposes a set of interrelated approaches and actions, including: (a) a systematic approach to the design of English learner and teacher competencies; (b) the implementation of the psycholinguistic approach to English language learning/teaching (ELL/ELT) that foregrounds learner personality; (c) support for graduate and post-graduate language educator programs with ethnolinguistic cross-cultural study components; and (d) the design of compatible formats for lecturer-student co-research activities and mechanisms of application of these products. The present chapter examines the tasks concerning the implementation of these actions, with recommendations leading to a methodological framework for language personality development in ELT. The proposed methodology has emerged due to the author’s study series in the linguistic categorization of emotions, language acquisition and bilingual identity, and culture research frameworks in language education.
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Differentiates between news framing analysis from a social scientific perspective and a rhetorical perspective. Provides suggestions for rhetorical analysis.
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