Laray M. Barna- Stumbling Blocks in Intercultural Communication

In Barna's article, he outlines basic forms of communication, from looks and judging on ethnicity to Darwin's theory asserting "that facial expressions are universal." Barna makes some very interesting connections in looking into why people are so misunderstood: "One answer to the question of why misunderstanding and/or rejection occurs is that many people naively assume there are sufficient similarities among peoples of the world to make communication easy. They expect that simply being human, having common requirements of food, shelter, security, and so on, makes everyone alike. Unfortunately they overlook the fact that the forms of adaptation to these common biological and social needs and the values, beliefs, and attitudes surrounding them are vastly different from culture to culture. The biological commonalities are not much help when it comes to communication, where we need to exchange ideas and information, find ways to live and work together, or just make the kind of impression we want to make."

This is an interesting concept. It implies that we cannot just assume "everyone in my choir likes music and being happy and laughing so I just need to cater to that." A deep connection and true communication does not come from covering people with a blanket statement. You must truly get to know each person and what makes them tick. For instance, I grew up in a culture where all I had to do was smile and say hello to everyone I knew or passed by, and all was well with the world. People liked me and I liked them, and we would only get past the hello and into a deeper conversation every once in a while. Now I find myself in a situation where many people find that to be fake and off-putting. I was applying a blanket "smile at them and they will feel comfortable around you" when that is not always the case. And that is what keeps many teachers on one side of the bubble and students on the other; the teacher keeps trying the same tactics, and blames the students for not understanding her. Such a teacher shakes her head and wonders why her 3rd grade class is reacting differently than last year's class did to the same material taught the same way. And yet therein lies the problem: she is teaching it the same way to a completely different set of students. We cannot do this, in the same way that we cannot say, "we all need shelter, food, and sleep, therefore we are all the same."

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