Dr. Marcella LaFever (University of New Mexico, 2005) joined the faculty of the Communications Department at University of the Fraser Valley in January 2010. Marcella’s doctoral dissertation work focused on intercultural communication in the British Columbia treaty process. Her interest in this topic stemmed from her consultation work in community development within Ktunaxa traditional territory and her home community of Golden, BC. Dr. LaFever continues to be interested in the impact of cultural diversity during small group decision-making processes and is also currently working on a research project investigating classroom teaching and assessment practices that are culturally responsive to aboriginal students in a post-secondary educational environment.
Last week in CMNS 180 (Introduction to Intercultural Communication), for an assignment related to our unit on Culture, Communication and Social Categorization, I asked the class to:
Find a current news article or broadcast about Canada’s experience with Covid_19 that demonstrates some element of ingroup/outgroup; othering; or social categorization
Provide a link to the item
Provide your take on how the situation in the news relates to this topic
After reading all the responses, very pleased with how the took on the assignment, I sent them this email and I thought other people might like to see the list too.
Dear Class: “I thought you might like to see the broad range of topics and articles that were submitted to me for the Canada Now – Covid_19 assignment.
This is just the links with none of the related comments which I found really fascinating with some things that I hadn’t thought of and with so much direct relationship to communication. Some of this variety included things like ageism, finances, border crossing, conspiracy theories, racism and racist graffiti, Indigenous communities, partisan politics, and many more – have a look.
The down side? our society has a lot of work to do to be better.” Regards, M
Intercultural Communication considers the impact that culture has on the way that people create and decipher messages; how they come to understand meanings through interactions with culturally different humans.
Why is Intercultural Communication Important
Learning to become interculturally competent is important in order to eliminate stereotyping and the judgment against other groups based on the lack of knowledge that people have on other groups. At the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) we have the privilege to delve into the world of intercultural communication, where we as students can lean each other and support each other through our educational goals. There are many opportunities to get involved with intercultural communication at UFV; there are different social groups, intercultural events, support groups and counseling to help international students settle into their lives at UFV and in Abbotsford. Students from all over the world come here to complete their post secondary education or to study abroad to gain that experience of living in another country.
UFV has partnerships for the Abroad program from all over the world. Some of the countries include:
Each of these countries offer different post secondary education programs to give international students a chance to grow in their education and chase their passion. The programs that are available to students range from Business and Social work to open studies, to language studies. All of these programs are offered between multiple Universities in the countries mentioned. These different groups experience each other’s way of life and become acknowledged about their traditions, cultures and norms.
How Does it Impact UFV Students
Intercultural communication allows for UFV students to expand their cultural knowledge, and meet new people to share information. University is the time of your life to explore and have new experiences, why not learn about a new culture and experience something new. Learning about each other’s cultures can reduce culture shock amongst the international students that are here for an extended period of time. Also, these opportunities let the domestic students learn about the different cultures if they do not have the opportunity to travel. They give students and faculty a chance to communicate in a variety of ways. Communicating across cultural norms allows for open mindedness, especially when considering the difficulties that some international students may face, such as: language barriers, trying to open up and not being confident to introduce themselves. The social groups and peer mentoring help the international students to be more comfortable in a new country, new environment, and new learning atmosphere.
Intercultural Communication 101 at UFV (no not the course)
Some tips on how to achieve intercultural communication:
What are Universities Doing to enhance Intercultural Communication?
The University of Fraser Valley also has peer to peer mentoring to help the international students. On their website, you can look at the profiles of the mentors and see which of the mentors match your personality the best.
Here is an example of a Student:
Additionally the UFV centre for Teaching and Learning offers a page full of great resources and notes about what you can glean from them. This resource is intended for everyone at UFV; students, staff, administration and faculty.
Navigate find their way in life in Canada. Where they can find tutors, how to budget, how to find a doctor, and much more
Additionally, the University of Toronto has a website page dedicated to tips that professors can use in the classroom that will help international students with learning the material during lectures, which in turn will also help the domestic university students.
Let’s get personal; A UFV International student experience from one of the authors:
Q. How do you find UFV as a school?
A. UFV is a good school, more than I expected. International group lounge was very helpful in my adjustment here, the group lounge is particularly for international students to meet each other.
Q. Was your transition to UFV Easy?
A. It’s not so easy transitioning here from India, missing family and friends, and being in a new culture. Living alone and having to grocery shop, manage rent are all new things for me. I have difficulty finding a job and making new friends. UFV has many opportunities in helping make friends, different groups to join and meet people.
Q. What are some gaps you find in North American culture compared to Indian Culture?
A. There are many differences such as clothing, food, language, different styles of learning, celebrations, and different ways of greeting each other
Q.If you knew about intercultural communication when you moved to Canada, would it have made a difference in your transition?
A. YES 🙂
Activities for Communication in a Classroom
Activity #1 – Create a Poem
“ Where I’m From”
“Creating a “reflection” that communicates an affirmative personal, cultural, and linguistic identity is likely to benefit all students in class, but this pedagogical approach has been seen as particularly impactful for English language learners, whose home cultures and languages may be perceived as inferior in the mainstream social and educational environment.”
Allowing the students to write about where they are from, and the different cultures/ identities was able to help engage the students learning english as a second language a chance to give them each something to talk and show where they are from. Allowing them each to write about themselves and the place they came from gave them a sense of empowerment
Activity #2 – What Would You Do?
Time Required: 45–60 minutes: 30 minutes for activity and 30 minutes to debrief
Objectives: 1. Describe a range of “appropriate” responses in a given scenario. 2. Explore the diversity of communication styles within the group.
Materials: Post-it notes Pen or pencil for each participant Communication Styles Handout (distribute after step 3) Four pieces of poster-size paper: Each with a situation
Process: 1. Ask participants to read and decide how they would respond to each situation. 2. Have them record individual responses on Post-it notes and place them on the appropriate situation chart. 3. Ask participants to choose one charted situation to stand next to. Balance the four groups. 4. Ask each group to examine the responses to their situation. 5. Distribute the Communication Styles Handout. Review the style preferences listed on page 33. 6. Cluster responses into “style” preference.
Example Scenario: “You see someone using racist terms”
Example Response: “Say that you are not OK with that”, “Get somewhere safe”, “Get help”
Activity #3 – Personal Reflection for Transition
Time required: 75-95 minutes ( 5 minutes for setup; 20-30 minutes for completing worksheet; 20-30 minutes for small group discussion; 30 minutes for debriefing
Objectives: 1) for participants to let go of their current locations and psychologically moving on to their new location, and to reflect. 2) for participants to recognize that transitions are a process, not distinct events, and they can move on with conscious intent. 3) for participants to relax and get additional perspective and inspiration during what is typically a challenging time.
Process: answer questions about their departure and their transition into the new space.
To follow up: talk about the answers, and help the participants feel better.
References and additional resources:
Baldwin, J. R., & Levy, S. (2014). Intercultural communication for everyday life. Wiley-Blackwell. Berardo, K,. Deardorff, D.K,. Building Cultural Competence: Innovative Activities and Models. (2008) Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&id
Stringer, D. M. & Cassiday, P. (2009) 52 Activities for Improving Cross-Cultural Communication. Boston: Intercultural Press.
Zhang, M. M., Jie Xia, D, & Zhu, J. C. (2016). Managing Student Diversity in Business Education: Incorporating Campus Diversity Into the Curriculum to Foster Inclusion and Academic Success of International Students. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 15(2), 366–380.
Do you think being “colourblind” is a solution or that historically oppressed groups should just “get over it?” In this piece we explore what racism is, some history of government sanctioned racism through laws and Acts, the Canadian denial of racism, and what the government is doing to combat racism. Through this blog and the links we provide we hope you learn a bit about racism in Canada and how it shapes the Canada of today and inspires you to use that knowledge to shape the Canada of tomorrow as a country that values all its citizens and welcomes their contributions.
What is Racism?
Racism in Canada seems to get swept under the rug so first, let us try to answer the what is racism? Charlotte Reading, in her article Social Determinants of Health: Understanding Racism, written for the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Rights, explains that term definitions such as race, racism, ethnicity and ethnocentrism, and topics of interests such as ideology of racism, forms of racism, epistemic racism, structural racism, social exclusion, symbolic racism, embodied racism and the concept of “colorblindness.” There is obviously a lot to learn when it is time to answer the question of “What is racism?”
One of the concepts that we found it useful to explore for our piece is the concept of “colorblindness.” Something that on the surface seems perfectly reasonable – not judging people by the colour of their skin; that if more Canadians became “colorblind” our society would become more accepting, allowing minority groups, immigrants and aboriginal peoples to feel more welcomed in a place that they call their home. In reality this is not anywhere near the answer. As Canadian scholar Robyn Maynard states “One of the reasons that racism persists in Canada is because our commitment to the perception of racial tolerance and harmony seems to be prized above the actual lived experiences of people.”
Charlotte points out that believing that ignoring skin colour will solve all our problems fails to consider the very real experience of racismthat occur in daily life. As a result, this attitude actually helps to maintain inequities. While people put into the category of “white” continue to access unearned priviledge based on their skin colour, racialized people continue to experience discrimination and oppression. Rather than promoting social justice, colour-blindness is simply a new form of racism that becomes even more subtle and indirect. Forms that slip through the net of Canada’s laws and Acts of Parliament that are meant to stop racism.
Canada and a Government Sanctioned History of Racism
Currently, Canada has many laws that prohibit singling out people of a certain race or ethnic origin for discrimination. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has a section that deals with equality and rights. It states that people are to be treated equally no matter their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion but this hasn’t always been the practice. In the past the Canadian Government has enacted laws that single out a race or ethnicity for exclusion. Some examples of this are the Continuous Voyage Legislation, Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Immigration act, and the WWII internment of Japanese Canadians.
Continuous Journey Regulation
In 1908 and until 1947, the Canadian government Immigration Act included was was called the Continuous Journey Regulation. It stated that in order to be eligible to immigrate to Canada a person must complete their journey from their country of origin without any stopovers, or in other words a continuous journey. Without stating it, this regulation was specifically aimed at immigrants from India and Japan who, due to the technology of the time, were unable to sail to Canada without stopping at another country.
This regulation was challenged numerous times and was up-dated several times. One of the challenges, the Komagata Maru Incident of 1914 that happened in Vancouver, led to the death of twenty passengers and the imprisonment and execution of most when the ship landed back in Budge Budge, India. In 2008 the Canadian Government apologized for this incident.
Indian Residential Schools
Residential schools were Canadian Government funded school administered by religious bodies. They first opened in 1830 and the last one closed in 1996. The stated goal of these schools was to educate and convert to Christianity Indigenous youths so they could integrate into “Canadian” society but to accomplish this the method was to separate them from their families and culture and destroy their identity. Or as one government official said to “kill the Indian in the child.”Many of the children suffered years of abuse, neglect and death. The outcomes of this school system left generations trapped between two worlds.
Chinese Immigration Act and Head Tax
Due to the demand for cheap and exploitable labour to build the Canadian Pacific Railway (as well as for mining, fishing, and forestry) the Canadian Government encouraged the immigration of Chinese labourers. The cross-Canada railway was finished in 1885and in that year the Canadian Government passed the Chinese Immigration Act which applied a “head tax” of $50 per person of Chinese ethnic origin as well as limiting the number of Chinese people a ship could carry. In 1900 the head tax was raised to $100. In 1903 it was raise to $500. Then, in 1923 the Canadian Government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act which banned the immigration of people of Chinese ethnic origin all together. These discriminatory Acts not only prevented Chinese immigration to Canada but also broke up families by preventing the wives and children to join the men who came to help build Canada.
Japanese Internment Camps
After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 during WW2 the Canadian Government created a “protected zone” along the coast of British Columbia in which there was to be no one of Japanese descent due to the distrust of anyone who “might have” Japanese loyalties … even if they were Canadian by birth. People were forcibly removed from their homes. Any possessions they could not carry were taken into government custody and sold. This included their homes, businesses, fishing boats, and even personal property. Men, women, and children were interned in camps in the interior of British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba. In 1946 when the war was over many were forced to return to a war devastated Japan. Even after the war, the people who remained in Canada were not allowed to return to their former homes.
Racism and communities of African descent in Canada
As Matthew McRae (2020) tells us in his piece “The Story of Africville” the history of Black people in Canada goes back at least to where there were communities in Nova Scotia since before the founding of the city of Halifax in 1749. Then after the American Revolution, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, large groups of Black settlers came, many of them former enslaved people who had been promised freedom and land. Instead they faced attitudes of superiority and segregation. Despite this they build vibrant communities that were routinely excluded from being provided proper municipal services of all kinds. Eventually in 1964, the community known as Africville, a part of the City of Halifax was destroyed under the guise of relocation and homes destroyed with little to no notice. They continued to face racism in their new homes. Robyn Maynard in her recently published book Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present delves in to the legacy of such actions and government policies.
Denials of Racism in Canada
Sadly we still experience widespread and disgraceful denials of racism in Canada. Trevor Gulliver (2018), in his article Canada the Redeemer and Denials of Racism does an amazing job of explaining this in his chapter Denials of Racism. According to this article there are many different ways that Canada uses to be shielded from accusations of racism. Strategies includes minimizing incidents (it wasn’t that bad) or acknowledges to a limited extent (its just some individuals) but, even then, it is posited as in the past and better now.
What Strategies has Canada Implemented to Stop Racism?
One such strategyis the Anti-Racism Strategy created by the Government of Canada in 2018. The strategy focuses on three principles “demonstrating federal leadership, empowering communities, and building awareness and changing attitudes.” This also includes what is called the Anti-Racism Action Program which provides help to religious minorities, racialized communities and Indigenous peoples having issues with employment, justice and social participation. This website is very important to read and to become familiar with to become educated about the laws and regulations Canada has set in place to combat racism.
Another anti-racism initiative is through the Ontario Human Rights Commission. This website shows the different human rights laws and systems used to provide information on and address discrimination. This website provides the reader with the description of the human rights code which “provides for equal rights and opportunities and freedom from discrimination.” This website also provides the description of racism and racial discrimination because many people confuse these terms. Racism is “a belief that one group is superior to others” whereas racial discrimination is “the illegal expression of racism.” This website also defines systemic racial discrimination and lastly identifies and addresses racial discrimination. To understand racism this website really helps and makes it easier to identify and stop these types of discrimination from occurring.
By learning about these and other discriminatory acts and understand how they came to be through fear and the blame game, where you pick an easy target rather than looking for the root cause of your fears and troubles, we can be better prepared to meet the challenges of today, fairly, for all Canadians. Not only will our children and grandchilden be proud of us but we can build a strong united Canada that values all its citizens and welcomes their contributions.
We hope this blog and the links we provided will motivate you to look at racism in Canada with open eyes. There are so many stories of perseverance and courage, both in Canada’s past and present. Hopefully this will motivate you to go out and join the fighters and make a difference. Knowledge is power. Use it wisely.
Additional References and Resources (Books available from UFV Library)
Understanding the struggle of how someone manages daily life with physical challenges or deals with the hardships of stereotyping is not something you can truly understand as an outside observer. Until you have experienced what it is truly like to live in their shoes, you can only speculate on the physical hardship and emotional turmoil that can occur on a frequent, daily basis.
Using the resources we have available through both online and physical research articles and interviews, we can learn more regarding the struggle that everyday communication can be for people who live with these kinds of challenges and those who are subjected to ridicule based on misplaced stereotypes and potential language barriers.
With our growing use of online communication and interaction with members of the general public worldwide, we are afforded the chance to communicate while avoiding the risk of interacting based on stereotypes. Ware (2011) offers the premise that technology mediates social discourses and offers a way to have discussions in multiple ways. This means that someone with their own biases may now be required to interact or discuss someone else’s work purely on the content that they have created and not based on the person themselves. This means of interaction provides many marginalized group members with the chance to grow and develop without the fear or external judgment or ridicule.
Societies have also started to shift towards becoming more inclusive environments as well through technology. In television shows or movies such as Wicked, Maleficent, and Game of Thrones, characters with physical challenges are being portrayed in positive ways rather than positions of inferiority or isolation as stated by Donnelly (2016). While this is a good start, there is still progress that needs to be made. Modern day advertising still plays a large role on how we believe people should act. Mensa and Bittner (2020)) gives the example of Latin American countries still depicting women in a sexualized way. They are seen as decorative objects, doing activities outside the home in social contexts, but still removed from roles of power and completeness. With women often shown the same in domestic, maternal, and romantic roles, there is little opportunities for them to escape the feelings and acts of gender stereotyping (Litosselity and Sunderland, 2002).
Another area that has deeply imbedded stereotypes around gender but is starting to change in the media and in daily life is in the perception of non-binary gender. Acceptance of a broad range of gender identities is something that may seem new to our culture however, third genders have been around for longer than we might think. According to Souerbry (2020) many different cultures have had third genders with evidence that dates back to 2000 BCE. Wakashu also known as “beautiful youths” is a widely accepted third gender in Japan. The Muxe is another third gender that originated in Oaxaca, Mexico. Muxes are usually men who identify more as women however they may just be people who don’t fall into the traditional male-female or gay-straight categories. Two-Spirit, a term created for a modern understanding of third-gender understandings of Indigenous peoples of the North American continent is another example (Neptune, 2018). It’s important for us to understand that even though modern culture may just be getting used to the idea of gender binaries, our ancestors already thought of this idea as normal and even had their own definitions of it.
For those who are faced with the physical challenges of daily life as well coping with stereotyping, the struggle is immense. As one of the author’s of this piece, from person experience with being bound to a wheelchair for several weeks due to a broken leg, I can relate that every small task turned into a large project. Thankfully there were people who went out of their way to give assistance but there were many chances for people to help when they chose not to. I was lucky to only have to experience this for a short-period of time, many people are not so lucky.
Just in passing people by, a person’s non-verbal communication can express much of their views. Alberts et al. (2010) share the fact that while may people are not aware of it, people who struggle with accessibility or gender stereotypes are generally well versed in non-verbal communication. They experience these biased perceptions of themselves on a daily basis and it plays an integral part of how communication will occur between the parties.
In the end, behaviours by groups or individuals can influence and change our cultural systems. Our brains are wired to stereotype. Most patterns of stereotyping are socially constructed by our cultures, which means that we can change the patterns and train our brains (Nguyen, 2017). As our societies and cultures shift towards inclusiveness, the general population will also continue to take the right steps in developing healthy relationships with members from every group and cultural and strive towards a better understanding.
References and additional resources:
Alberts, J. K., Nakayama, T. K., & Martin, J. N. (2010). Human communication in society. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Donnelly, C. E. (2016). Re-visioning negative archetypes of disability and deformity in fantasy: Wicked, Maleficent, and Game of Thrones. Disability Studies Quarterly, 36(4).
Litosseliti, L. & Sunderland, J. (2002). Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis.Gender identity and discourse analysis. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins
Mensa, M., & Bittner, V. (2020) Portraits of Women: Mexican and Chilean Stereotypes in
Digital Advertising. Communication & Society, 33(1), 63-78.
One of the advantages of a proactive policy of hiring people of different cultures is that it strengthens the employer’s place in the market. Employees from different cultural backgrounds bring with them an understanding of their new host culture and their original culture. They already have experience in dealing with the inevitable frictions between the cultures and are in a perfect position to interpret the advantages of dealing with their employer.
These intercultural employees are able to guide other host culture employees in the proper direction when dealing with potential clients. In the Narver (2018) video it is made clear that it is very easy to have an unconscious world view that is ethnocentric. Having employees from different backgrounds helps overcome that and positions the company to succeed in the international market place.
The Varner and Beamer (2011) book provides specific advice on raising skills on areas like business socializing in different cultures and handling controversies and various moral and ethical issues in various cultural settings. Working side by side with employees from different cultures raises everyone’s skill level as they observe each other maneuver different challenges.
My own experience in working with a range of cultures was in China. After I earned my first university degree in Chinese Culture, I was hired by Hainan Airlines to help the company cope with integrating its workforce from many Chinese sub-cultures. Hainan is China’s fourth largest airline with over 500 routes servicing many different ethnic regions in China. The airline is based in the city of Haikou which is populated by Mandarin speaking Han Chinese similar to the Chinese in Beijing. The airline services other far away cities such a Urumqi which has a large Uyghur Muslim population and Shenzhen which is a center of Cantonese culture near Hong Kong.
I was part of a team whose mission was to build an efficient and happy workforce which could work together. Our larger goal was to give the population of the various regions of China the feeling that Hainan Airlines was their airline and understood their needs. We developed strategies of cross training so that employees had to do each other’s jobs as part of a learning exercise. We would deliberately mix the cultures from all over China for this training. The object was not to foster a sameness but to build understanding of the different cultures in the group.
We also looked at the market for clients and created marketing messages suited to the cultures we were dealing with. For example, a marketing message for people from Urumqi might show a Muslim family traveling, and an advertisement for Beijing might depict young professionals. The skill was in getting the message just right and this required input from intercultural employees.
Developing skills of intercultural competent communication is vitally important for both the employees of national companies and international companies in this era of globalization. It simply makes sense to take advantage of the breadth of experience available from an intercultural workforce.
Duggan,T. (2018). Strategies for Dealing with Intercultural Communication. Retrieved from:
Although the concept of a Caucasian male speaking on integrating as a minority in the workplace seems odd, I was afforded the opportunity to learn through the research done for this project, as well as experientially through my internship work in Africa, in order to improve my intercultural competency in the workplace.
Much of the literature that exists comments on the need for individuals to be exposed to the culture of minorities they work with, in order to find ways to work more cohesively with each other and achieve a goal that benefits everybody. It is a system that puts heavy emphasis on the reciprocity of respect in the exchange of information. Much of the research conducted found that minorities find the most amount of difficulty understanding information, directions or criticisms when the messages are coded through archaic methods of communication; communicators who still operate using ageist, sexist or even racist undertones do not attribute to a positive, efficient and safe work environment.
Personally, I have worked in an NGO (non-governmental organization) setting, where I was working among many African born members, as well as members of the LGBTQ and several women in positions of authority. As the only member of my own culture group, I felt like a fish out of water, but learning as much as I could about the language, the holidays and the communication systems helped me to grow within the organization and ultimately as an intern and future employee.
Returning from my work in that setting and back into north American society, I have learned that patience, plain language and direct communication are extremely important when it comes to establishing a professional relationship and working together to get a job done. With respect to this project, in a group capacity, I have added to the conversation by suggesting themes that some of my other groupmates (a white Canadian womn, an international student from the Punjab, India and an immigrant mom from China) have been focusing on related to intercultural competency in the workplace in our original plan, I volunteered to be the member of the group who pulled all of the work together into a single presentation.
As the COVID_19 pandemic hit us here at the University of the Fraser Valley and interfered with our original plans to interact with other students through displays, I hope you enjoy reading, and can learn from, our individual portions in these blog postings.
For more detailed information here are some great information sources:
Aguirre, A. (2000). Women and minority faculty in the academic workplace[microform] :
recruitment, retention, academic culture [Washington, DC : ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education]. George Washington University, Dept. of Education.
Grant, M. G. (2020). Culture War in the Workplace. New Republic, 251(1/2), 20–29.
Leeming, D. E., & Mora, M. D. I. (2016). Work Based Learning in Intercultural Settings: A
Model in Practice. In Research-publishing.net. Research-publishing.net.
Lüdi, G., Höchle Meier, K., & Yanaprasart, P. (2016). Managing Plurilingual and Intercultural
Practices in the Workplace: The Case of Multilingual Switzerland. John Benjamins
Publishing Company. 320.
Mickahail, B. K., & Aquino, C. T. E. de. (2019). Effective and creative leadership in diverse
workforces improving organizational performance and culture in the workplace. Chapter 4:
Leadership, Culture, and Innovation. 66.
The concept of diversity is a burning topic in western countries where people from different rthnicities and cultures reside together in search of better life. This diversity in the workplace offers an entirely new challenge for the employers. Anyone traveling from a different part of the world has their own set of beliefs, norms, values and most importantly perspectives, for instance, colors depict different meanings in among cultures. Sometimes these differences can be stark, so it is necessary to inculcate these differences in a good way so that everyone feels respected. Effective communication at the workplace is the most essential stepping-stone for bringing together people from different cultures. This includes sharing ideas, beliefs and understanding to help adapt quickly and work productively for the organization.
Every organization defines a set of goals and has a vision towards their success, but having a set of rules in place is not the only thing the organization can rely on. It is the effective delivery of these goals and ideas to the employees that would bring a change. Since we are talking about a multicultural workforce, the delivery of these ideas have to be very clear and easy for anyone to understand. According to Graduateway (2016) “A diverse cultural community helps an organization to change their market and moreover an organization has to be familiar with the social aspects of thinking in order to reach to their desired target.”
To put this in perspective, let me take my personal experience as an example. I came to Canada as an international student, found a part time job at a big store. I had certain set of duties and tasks to perform everyday like maintaining a clean and safe work environment, being friendly to my colleagues and managers and above all interacting with customers. During the first week of my job, I found it very hard to talk to anyone. I was hesitant to initiate conversation fearing what the person in would think of me as I was from a different part of the world and wore a turban. However, my managers and colleagues were very friendly and open minded and helped me out in every task where I felt stuck. I was fortunate that I worked in an organization where people helped each other but not everyone is always that lucky.
If my coworkers would have been rude or offensive to my opinions or culture, I would have faced a lot of difficulty in adjusting to my new life and could have even quit. Concluding this, it was the friendliness, openness, warmth and understanding of my peers that made a difference. This clearly defines the important role that intercultural communication played in developing a strong and long-lasting relationship with the organization.
There are various ways through which intercultural communication at the workplace can become effective. One of the best ways is listening to the podcasts and reading books on interculturism. Recently, I found a podcast about resolving the issues related to intercultural communication by understanding the nature of intercultural conflicts. In this video (2017), Marie Gervais, CEO Shift Management Inc. talks about the diversity in the developed countries. Followed by the discussion on the ways understanding can be improved among the individuals who come from different cultures or countries.
Communication has a deeper meaning than what we normally perceive. It is effective when it creates a friendly environment and encourages people to share their ideas without skepticism. Also, communication should make people feel comfortable about discussing their opinions with their supervisors and other higher authorities. Sometimes a person with a brilliant idea can be undermined just because they are culturally different. Thirdly, effective communication not only means communicating the message effectively but also giving an equal importance to the feedback because this will make anyone feel valued for their thoughts. As a consequence, if effective intercultural communication is practiced at the workplace, the process of adapting to a new culture would speed up for a new immigrant and they would be able to work more productively and efficiently.
Often, when people are met with something that they are unfamiliar with, it can spark a feeling of extreme discomfort and intimidation. From my personal experience and from what I have learned through my intercultural communications class, this is typically due to the fact that people are unsure of how to interact in these situations as they do not have the necessary knowledge and cultural sensitivity to communicate. Generally, people do not want to do or say the wrong thing therefore; this can also lead them to avoid asking any question from the people they encounter such as those whom may have disabilities.
When culture comes to one’s mind disability doesn’t usually fall under that umbrella. However, people with disabilities identify as their own cultural groups. For instance, a popular one is deaf culture and blind culture, as these groups also have their own languages, sign language, and codes such as Braille. In the article “ Disability as a cultural identity,” it is suggested that with the right control from people who are disabled, special education schools have the potential to become positive sights for the promotion of disability in a positive cultural identity. It is also conveyed that this could offer disabled children and their families a genuine choice within their education. Although some people with disabilities such as myself wish to be integrated into the main stream educational system, some people wish to stick closer to their cultural identity. For example, people who are deaf within the United States, may wish to attend Gauldet University as the people there are already familiar with their language and accepting of who they are.
Due to people having disabilities, it is often not thought that they too will be traveling our world and making connections with others. In the article “ Intercultural communication and disabilities from a communication complex perspective (Parrish-Sprowl, 2015),” it is expressed that 10 percent of the world’s population is comprised of people with a disability and are often overlooked. However these people are being mainstreamed within cultures as well as traveling to other countries along with others who are now more frequently traveling due to technological advances. The disabled are marginalized and discriminated against within their own country, therefore when the able bodied interact with those who have a disability interculturally the challenge is greater. The article suggests that people with disabilities should be taken into consideration when developing skills and in future studies conducted.
It is important for the able bodied society to know not only that they can ask individuals with disabilities questions, but also what steps they themselves can take to foster and uphold an inclusive environment. In the TEDx Talk “Blind is Beautiful” (Saran, 2018) I discuss my own challenges with my disability and explain how we can not only educate society about this topic, but how to also incorporate the learning about disabilities within the educational system. Throughout my educational journey, I have learned about various minorities in depth, and yet disability was seldom mentioned. Perhaps this may be why communication and interaction between the disabled and able bodied is quite challenging.
Due to many misconceptions held by society people with disabilities are often deprived of the physical activity they need or crave. In his TEDx Talk, “People with disability are athletes too,” David Kyle (2017) describes their journey with their disability and becoming a athlete. They stress the importance of physical activity for all people.
People with disabilities struggle with the same challenges that able bodied people experience, it is just that they do things slightly differently. In the video “Blind Parenting,” (Marsolais, 2016) this is demonstrated quite accurately. Shawn Marsolais explains her experience with parent-hood and how though it has been difficult meeting other moms, that she believes her son has become a better communicator due to having a blind mother. She also stresses the point that she deals with the same challenges any working mother would.
Though the sources and information presented here are quite accurate in providing a basis of understanding and a gateway in building connections among the physically challenged and able-bodied, there is no way to replace the face-to-face experience and chance to ask questions for both groups as even two people with the same challenges are still different people. All one needs to do is view this as a characteristic of our personality and hopefully that makes things slightly easier. Remember, just start with “Hello.”
To find out more and increase your intercultural competency, following is a list of places to start:
Diversity in the workplace has increased drastically due to many factors such as globalization, outsourcing, and even drawing talent from multicultural regions. This increase in diversity makes it much more important to focus on creating inclusive corporate cultures. When considering how to build an inclusive corporate culture, it is important to understand the challenges that each diverse group faces in order to become more interculturally competent communicators in the workplace.
Women make up a large portion of the work force, yet there are still many challenges that they face daily in the workplace. When considering women in the workplace, the wage gap, and lack of women in leadership positions within a company, sexual harassment, expectations to look and dress a certain way, or inability to contribute openly in meetings are serious concerns. Uncovering and understanding these issues is the first step to creating a better corporate culture, then learning how to address them and increasing the intercultural competence within the company will help corporate teams to be more successful and will create a culture where people of diverse backgrounds can thrive.
I have been very fortunate in that the organizations I have worked for have had very inclusive cultures, but I know that many women and people from diverse backgrounds aren’t always so lucky. Aside from reading books, there are many ways that a person can increase their own intercultural competence to make sure that they are treating all people in the workplace in an appropriate way.
One way I learn to become a better intercultural communicator is by listening to podcasts. I commute at least an hour every day, and I try to fill that time with something educational. I recently came across a podcast called The Transformative Leader, and the episode I listened to was an interview between culture transformation consultant Amir Ghannad, president and founder of the Ghannad Group and Vicki Hudson, Chief Collaboration Officer of Highroad Global Services. The podcast discussed how to build a collaborative, high performing team across diverse cultures. In the interview, Vicki discusses the challenges that companies face in different scenarios that require intercultural communication and competence such as offshoring, mergers and acquisitions, and the day to day existence of global brands. Her three recommendations for building a productive cross cultural team were to learn culturally specific terms and acronyms; to set clear rules around objectives such as meeting etiquette and project deadlines; and to always try to find ways to connect on an personal level with those from other cultures to be able to build trust.
Another series that I have started listening to is called Women at Work by the Harvard Business Review. This podcast has over 40 episodes that walk women through different aspects of being women in the workplace, many of which are centred around communication. I enjoy listening to this podcast as it helps me to understand the challenges that women face in the workplace and gives great advice on how to overcome these challenges. This will help me to be a leader in my workplace, and will prepare me in the event that a future company that I work for is less interculturally competent.
Cardon, P. G. (2010). Using films to learn about the nature of cross-cultural stereotypes in intercultural business communication courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 73(2), 150-165. Doi:10.1177/1080569910365724
Cheney, R. S. (2001). Intercultural business communication, international students and experiential learning. Business Communication Quarterly, 64(4), 150-165. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy.ufv.ca:2443/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=17393266&site=bsi-live
Ghannad, A., & Hudson, V. (2019, Dec 5). TTLP 053: “The Power of Cross Cultural Collaboration” – An Interview with Vicki Hudson [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://theghannadgroup.com/podcast-feed/ttlp-053
Jaidev, R. (2014). How pedagogical blogging helps prepare students for intercultural communication in the global workplace. Language and Intercultural Communication, 14(1), 132-139. doi: 10.1080/14708477.2013.866129
Kochman, T., & Mavrelis, J. (2009). Corporate tribalism: white men/white women and cultural diversity at work. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
To meet demand in the Fall 2019 term, our department ran two hybrid sections of CMNS 180, Introduction to Intercultural Communication. In practical terms this meant stepping up the amount of out of class and online activities while still meeting learning outcomes around improving intercultural competence in the daily lives of our students. Intercultural competency is something that really needs to be accomplished through interpersonal interactions and that is hard to do online.
Working from an idea found in the course textbook “Introducing intercultural communication: Global cultures and contexts” by Shuang Liu, Zala Volčič and Cindy Gallois, students were asked to “Get together with several friends, family, coworkers, or students (from classes other than this one) and get people talking about (insert topic here)… Make a journal entry about content and communication dynamics of the conversation.” There were five topics spread across the semester of which the class members needed to initiate four out of five. Topics were: intercultural issues in politics The Canadian federal election happened in October), identity, cultural appropriation (always a good discussion prompted by Halloween), cultural adaptation, and conflict.
NO ONE was excited about the prospect of completing this assignment but some took it on right away while others lagged to the very last minute, and everywhere in-between.
However journaling was not the whole assignment. The culmination of all those Blackboard journal entries was our One Day (research) Project in the final class session. Drawing from what they had written, each student was asked to answer six questions based on the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why framework (concentrating not on the content of the discussions but on the dynamics). The answers were then crowdsourced onto six posters and the class divided up to look for patterns in the answers, relate those patterns to things they had been learning about intercultural communication, and to ultimately come up with a list of “best practices” for engaging in tough conversations around intercultural issues.
Some of the things that surprised many of the students were that:
* family, friends, coworkers and even strangers were interested in elevating casual conversation beyond surface topics (i.e. the weather 🙂 )
* they learned a lot about the people they thought they already knew really well
* they started to look forward to having the conversations
* the people in their lives were interested in the details of what they were learning in class
In the end our list became “best practices for getting more comfortable with having tough conversations.”
* people you already know or are in a context where they might already expect such a conversation (i.e. university)
* places where you are comfortable and where a conversation is most likely to happen naturally
* places where you already know people
* places where you go frequently
* Work towards going out of your comfort zone (engaging with new people in public places)
* Find new comfortable places
* Pay attention to surroundings for what might impact participants willingness to engage
* Watch for right time/place; Make sure conversations are in a safe environment
* Consider age/maturity of those in conversation
* Approach topics casually
* Make conversations one-on-one personal
* Do during normal routines of the day; During free time, preplanned w no surprises
* Using an indirect approach (don’t be blunt and demanding about having a conversation)
* Looking for common ground
* Demonstrating attention/active listening
* Taking responsibility to lead/guide the conversation
* Using current issues
* Always having an eye to building relationships
* Having conversations regularly
* Possibilities for having a facilitator (third-party)
Prepare yourself to:
* Be willing to ask questions
* Show curiosity
* Validate others
* Be present in the conversation
* Give prompts
* Value others opinions
* Use examples
* Be open-minded and show others that you want to listen
* Be willing to challenge your own beliefs and ways of thinking
* Be intentional
Improve your own comfort level by:
* Personally engaging in and learning about topic so you feel comfortable and can engage others
* Start with video/article/info to create interest, knowledge and participation
* Developing relationships and meaningful connections to learn about others interests and to create an environment where one feels safe addressing culturally sensitive topics
* Setting aside intentional time or incorporating into everyday conversations