According to Bennetts perspective, when it comes to cultural difference, our initial response is to avoid it.Imagine a group of our primate ancestors gathered around their fire and worrying on the day’s catch and another group of primates come into view, heading towards the fire. It clearly shows the differences in their culture. In this case, more likely it is a fight or flight situation. Usually, people tries hard to escape and when they are forced to confront it, it ends with fight. Just when people failed in sidestepping different people, they try to convert them by feeding them with their own beliefs. They think that when people around them are thinking alike them, then it will be more convenient for them to be around. They impose their own beliefs on others through political, economic and religious missionaries. Lastly, when we could not avoid nor convert people who are dissimilar in culture from ours, we tend to kill them. Killing here means not specifically physically ending the existence of others but making their life wretched in our community and environment; so that they don’t flourish and stay alive.
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2. Intercultural communication is basically an understanding of how people from different countries and cultures behave, communicate and perceive the world around them. By definition, cultures are different in their languages, behaviors patterns, and values. Intercultural communication does not allow for assumptions of similarity to be made that easily. If we define cultures by their difference of language, behavior, and values, these differences have to be recognized. Intercultural communication approach therefore, is based on differences. Mono-cultural communication is based on common behavior, language and values. This means that the day to day interactions between members of the same culture are based on roughly common definitions. These similarities allow the members of the same cultural back-ground to be able to predict the behavior of others and assume a common perception of reality (Bennett, 1998). Mono-cultural communication therefore is based on similarities.
3. Stereotypes are generalizations about a group of people whereby we attribute a defined set of characteristics to this group. It arises when we act as if all members of a culture or group share the same characteristics. Stereotypes can be attached to any assumed indicator of group membership, such as race, religion, ethnicity, age, or gender, as well as national culture. Stereotypes can be either positive (“black men are good at basketball”) or negative (“women are bad drivers”). But most stereotypes tend to make us feel superior in some way to the person or group being stereotyped. Stereotypes ignore the uniqueness of individuals by painting all members of a group with the same brush. When the characteristic of that particular group or culture is being respected by the observer, then it is called positive stereotyping and when it is disrespected, it is called negative stereotyping. It is easier to create stereotypes when there is a clearly visible and consistent attribute that can easily be recognized. This is why people of color, police and women are so easily stereotyped. Stereotyping can go around in circles. Men stereotype women and women stereotype men. In certain societies this is intensified as the stereotyping of women pushes them together more and they create men as more of an out-group. The same thing happens with different racial groups, such as ‘white/black’ (an artificial system of opposites, which in origin seems to be more like ‘European/non-European’). Stereotyping can be subconscious, where it subtly biases our decisions and actions, even in people who consciously do not want to be biased. Stereotyping often happens not so much because of aggressive or unkind thoughts. It is more often a simplification to speed conversation on what is not considered to be an important topic. We, as Malaysians, still guilty of stereotyping fellow Malaysians today after enjoying many years of physical and economic development that have made us a prosperous nation. In fact, I believe that our culture has been one of classifying people, one of the major classifiers being race. Ever since different ethnic groups existed here, people have been stereotyped according to race – in relation to where they lived, the language they spoke and the types of jobs they did, largely carried out by the colonial masters of old that, according to historians, sought to divide and rule the country because unity amongst these groups may induce resistance to the colonial government. For example, Malays are always regarded as lazy and slow and Chinese are regarded as greedy and like to gamble and Indians are known as someone who always drunk and beat their wives. To the Malays, the Chinese are unscrupulously business-minded and basically sacrilegious, dress simply and spare no expense in eating (Lewis 2007). Their exclusive preoccupation in making money precludes a holy way of life. The Chinese are smart and crafty and will do almost anything in order to make money (Ling 1995). To the Chinese, the Malays are devoted to Islam to the point that religion comes to preclude successful interest in business. The Malays lead simple lives, eating simple food and dressing in nice clothes. The Chinese observed the Malays as essentially easy-going and sluggish people, who can easily be induced by immediate gratification and short-term gains (Mahathir 1970). The Malays who are not as stingy as the Chinese are frequently seen giving alms to beggars and charity to other poor Malays (Lewis, 2007). They are also stereotyped according to their professions such as a Chinese man is known to be a businessmen and an Indian is a labor or teacher. Stereotyping among different states within Malaysia also is still happening. For instance, Sarawakians are always portrayed as someone who wears rainbow coloured pants and chandelier headdresses and the worst stereotype is that they assume Sarawakians live on trees and eat animals that they hunted in the jungle. The truth is Sarawakians do wear jeans and T-shirts and they live in bungalow and drive Mercedes. Speaking from the aspect of communication, from my observation, I do feel that Malaysians are very passive people. They use more non-verbal communication (body language, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.) than verbal. They are not direct while speaking. Malaysians try to hint at a point, topic, or response rather than making a direct statement, that might be disrespectful to the other person or company. They tend to avoid saying “no”, but instead will respond by saying something along the lines of “I will see what I can do”. The reason they stay away from words like “No”, is so they can make sure that their relationships stay peaceful and harmonious and on good terms with that person or company. The positive stereotype of Malaysia is that it has a good food and multicultural people who are always warm and friendly; and precisely this stereotype is almost true.
4. Emic statements refers to logico-empirical systems whose phenomenal distinctions or “things” are built up out of contrasts and discriminations significant, meaningful, real, accurate, or in some other fashion regarded as appropriate by the actors themselves. Training in alternative cross- status communication styles could help members of both cultures appreciate and deal more effectively with each other in the workplace. This approach, based on specific ethnographies, is an intercultural form of “emic” cultural analysis. According to Helfrich (1999), the emic approach goes beyond the culturally-specific and refers to an approach that attempts to see things from the viewpoint of the individuals being studied. As such, then, the emic approach shows that everything is culture-dependent and nothing can be separated from the culture (Helfrich). This would seem to go beyond Matsumoto and Juang’s (2008) presentation of the emic as the culturally-specific in the sense they imply it to mean: that some psychological processes are universal (etic) and others which are specific to a given culture (emic). Etic statements depend upon phenomenal distinctions judged appropriate by the community of scientific observers. Culture-general approaches to interaction describe general cultural contrasts that are applicable in many cross-cultural situations. For instance, Edward T. Hall’s definition of high-context and low-context cultures is a culture-general contrast that suggests a source of miscommunication among many diverse cultures. Similarly, culture-general skills are communication competencies that would be useful in any cross-cultural situation. They usually include cultural self-awareness, non-evaluative perception, cultural adaptation strategies, and cross-cultural empathy. This approach, based on more abstract categories and generalizable skills, is the intercultural equivalent of “etic” cultural analysis. For Matsumoto and Juang (2008), the etic approach deals with universal psychological characteristics across cultures, but for Helfrich (1999) is too simplistic an approach. In taking an etic approach, Helfrich argues that the “descriptive system” used must be “equally valid for all cultures” and provides for the “representation of similarities as well as differences between individual cultures”. In Helfrich’s use of etic, the measures used are “equivalent” and the definitions of the variables under study are operationalized so that what is being measured across cultures. The results of these studies, because all variables and all measurement tools are equivalent, allow for comparisons between the cultures. In this way, according to Helfrich, culture becomes a factor which can explain the differences between the cultures, as well as allowing for the ability to determine which “psychological results can be generalized from one cultural environment to another”. In this way, culture is seen as “an external factor whose effects on the individual must be examined” (Helfrich, 1999). Emic constructs are accounts, descriptions, and analyses expressed in terms of the conceptual schemes and categories that are regarded as meaningful and appropriate by the members of the culture under study. Am emic construct is correctly termed “emic” if and only if it is in accord with the perceptions and understandings deemed appropriate by the insider’s culture. The validation of emic knowledge thus becomes a matter of consensus–namely, the consensus of native informants, who must agree that the construct matches the shared perceptions that are characteristic of their culture. Note that the particular research technique used in acquiring anthropological knowledge has nothing to do with the nature of that knowledge. Emic knowledge can be obtained either through elicitation or through observation, because it is sometimes possible that objective observers can infer native perceptions. Etic constructs are accounts, descriptions, and analyses expressed in terms of the conceptual schemes and categories that are regarded as meaningful and appropriate by the community of scientific observers. An etic construct is correctly termed “etic” if and only if it is in accord with the epistemological principles deemed appropriate by science (i.e., etic constructs must be precise, logical, comprehensive, replicable, falsifiable, and observer independent). The validation of etic knowledge thus becomes a matter of logical and empirical analysis–in particular, the logical analysis of whether the construct meets the standards of falsifiability, comprehensiveness, and logical consistency, and then the empirical analysis of whether or not the concept has been falsified and/or replicated. Again, the particular research technique that is used in the acquisition of anthropological knowledge has no bearing on the nature of that knowledge. Etic knowledge may be obtained at times through elicitation as well as observation, because it is entirely possible that native informants could possess scientifically valid knowledge. Emic knowledge is essential for an intuitive and empathic understanding of a culture, and it is essential for conducting effective ethnographic fieldwork. Furthermore, emic knowledge is often a valuable source of inspiration for etic hypotheses. Etic knowledge, on the other hand, is essential for cross-cultural comparison, the sine qua non of ethnology, because such comparison necessarily demands standard unit and categories.
5. Language are sets of words tied by rules, and learning a foreign language or second language is the simple but tiresome process of replacing words and rules to get the similar meaning with a different tool. Language is a “system of representation” for perception and thinking and it also serve as a tool for communication. Language also provides us with verbal categories and prototypes that guide our formation of concepts and categorization of objects. Not only that, language directs the way we experience reality. The most critical component of language is the linguistic structure. For example, Japanese and Trukese(a Micronesian language) have many different counting systems while American English has only one way to count things(one, two, three,etc).In Trukese, one(long) thing is counted with different words from one(flat) thing or one(round) thing in Trukese. In general, experience of objects is much richer in cultures where language gives meaning to subtle differences in shape. Appreciation of objects among Japanese is more developed when compared with of Americans whereby the English language has relatively simple linguistic structures to represent shapes. Another critical component of language is the grammatical representation of space. In American English, things can be either “here” or “there,” with a colloquial attempt to place them further out “over there.” In the Trukese language, references to objects and people must be accompanied by a “location marker” that specifies their position relative to both the speaker and listener. A pen, for instance, must be called this (close to me but away from you) pen, this (midway between us) pen, that (far away from both of us but in sight) pen, or that (out of sight of both of us) pen. We may assume that Trukese people, who live on islands, experience “richer” space than do Americans, whose language does not provide so many spatial boundary markers and for whom space is therefore more abstract. Language syntax also guides our social experience. The best known example is the “status markers.” Thai, Japanese, and some other Asian languages have elaborate systems of second-person singular (you) words that indicate the status of the speaker relative to the listener. In Thai, there are also variable forms of I to indicate relative status. Thus, I (relatively lower in status) may be speaking to you (somewhat higher in status) or to you (much higher in status), using a different form of I and you in each case. As for American culture, the English provides only one form of you. European cultures, most of whose languages have two forms of you, indicating both status distinctions and familiarity, may represent the middle range of this dimension. Europeans are more overtly attentive to status than are Americans, but Europeans are no match for Asians in this regard. The previous examples given indicate a relationship between language syntax and the experience of physical and social reality. The relationship between language and experience can also be found in the semantic dimension of language. Languages differ in how semantic categories are distinguished and elaborated. For instance, several stages of coconut growth are described with separate words in the Trukese language, while English has only one word to describe the nut. On the other hand, English has an elaborate vocabulary to describe colors, while Trukese describes only a few colors and does not distinguish between blue and green.
Nonverbal communication is behavior, other than spoken or written communication, that creates or represents meaning. In other words, it includes facial expressions, body movements, and gestures. Nonverbal communication is talking without speaking a word. It is very effective, maybe even more so than speech. In my opinion, I feel that there are differences in non- verbal communication between races in Malaysia. For example, Malays are not allowed to shake hands with their opposite gender when greeting them. The Chinese handshake is light and may be rather prolonged. Men and women may shake hands, although the woman must extend her hand first. Many older Chinese lower their eyes during the greeting as a sign of respect. For Indians, Indians shake hands with members of the same sex. When being introduced to someone of the opposite sex, nodding the head and smiling is usually sufficient. Indians also will join their hands (palm) together and say vanakam when they meet up with other Indians. For Malays, they will hold another person hand in their hand and kiss it. When an Indian smiles and jerks his/her head backward — a gesture that looks somewhat like a Western “no” — or moves his head in a figure 8, this means “yes.” As for all races, it is rude to point with the index finger. It is also quite common to see men slapping each other on the back or draping their arms on somebody’s shoulder and it is not related to their sexual preferences.
Linear style communication is where the communication is conducted in a straight line, moving in a linear way toward the main point. “Getting to the point” is very important and the point is stated explicitly. Not getting to the point quickly is seen as a time waster. According to Bennett, European Americans, particularly males, tend to use a linear style that marches through point a, point b, and point c, establishes links from point to point, and finally states an explicit conclusion. In many school systems, this style has been established as the only one indicative of clear critical thinking. It is, however, a culturally rare form of discourse. People who uses linear style communication will be brief with their points, provide only as much explanation as the other person needs and be explicit about the main point. There is a low reliance on context and a strong reliance on words in this style of communication. Contextual or circular style communication is a way of communication where discussion is conducted in a circular manner, telling stories and developing a context around the main point, which is often unstated because the listener will get the point after the speaker give them all the information. This style is preferred by many people of Latin, Arab, and Asian cultures. This contextual approach also is more typical of women than of men. Communication is conducted in a circular manner around the main point. The point may be left unstated because the verbal and nonverbal information provided is sufficient for understanding and stating the point explicitly is seen as insulting the other person. This style of communication will let the other person infer the meaning of the comments from the story told. From the Bennett story of the incident in Malaysia, I can conclude that Malaysians are indirect and tends to be subtle in their way of communicating. Malaysians may hint at a point rather than making a direct statement, since that might cause the other person to lose face. Rather than say “no”, they might say, “I will try”, or “I’ll see what I can do”. This allows the person making the request and the person turning it down to save face and maintains harmony in their relationship. I don’t really agree with Bennett’s interpretation on this matter because not all people will try to stop others from losing face. People nowadays are more advanced and direct to their point and this seems to be contradicting. They reject something they like on the spot because they feel not to have any troubles later on by doing something they don’t like.
Ethnocentrism can be defined as the preferencing of an individual’s culture over the cultures of any other group. It also can be best described as judging other groups from our own cultural point of view and making false assumptions about others’ ways based on our own limited experience. Ethno relative is opposite to ethnocentrism. It is acknowledging that another’s values and beliefs, and resulting assumptions and behavior, are logically connected, and that there is no absolute position from which to judge morals, knowledge and truth. It refers to being comfortable with many standards and customs to having an ability to adapt behavior and judgments to a variety of interpersonal settings. Bennett identified six stages of development.
First of it all is the denial stage. People in the denial stage do not recognize the existence of cultural differences. They are completely ethnocentric in that they believe there is a correct type of living (theirs), and that those who behave differently simply don’t know any better. Next is the defense stage. Those in the defense stage are no longer blissfully ignorant of other cultures; they recognize the existence of other cultures, but not their validity. They feel threatened by the presence of other ways of thinking, and thus denigrate them in an effort to assert the superiority of their own culture. Minimization refers to the condition whereby people in the minimization stage of ethnocentrism are still threatened by cultural differences, and therefore try to minimize them by telling themselves that people are more similar than dissimilar. They still have not developed cultural self-awareness, and are insistent about getting along with everyone. Because they assume that all cultures are fundamentally similar, people in this stage fail to tailor their approaches to a cultural context. The following stage is the acceptance. People in the acceptance phase can be thought of as “culture-neutral,” seeing differences as neither good nor bad, but rather as a fact of life. They know that people are genuinely different from them, and accept the inevitability of other value systems and behavioral norms. They do not yet adapt their own behavior to the cultural context, but they no longer see other cultures as threatening, wrong, or inferior. Adaptation refers to the phase whereby people begin to view cultural differences as a valuable resource, and thus relish the differences. Because differences are seen as positive, people consciously adapt their behaviors to the different cultural norms of their environment. The final stage is the integration stage. In this stage, people accept that their identity is not based in any single culture. Once integrated, people can effortlessly and even unconsciously shift between worldviews and cultural frames of reference. Though they maintain their own cultural identity, they naturally integrate aspects of other cultures into it. As for me, I agree with all the stages but I feel that the final stage is seldom attained because there are always some minute cultural differences between all of us and we won’t give up on that. Stage six requires in depth knowledge of at least two cultures (one’s own and another), and the ability to shift easily into the other cultural frame of reference.
There are some differences in the pattern of the communication styles between races in Malaysia. The way an Indian communicate with another Indian and Indian communicating with a Chinese usually differs. Every race has their own style of communicating. For example, when an Indian meet up an Indian, they usually uses English as their medium and not Tamil. Tamil will be only spoken with whom are uneducated and elderly people. Mostly, Indians uses English to communicate with others and Bahasa Malaysia will be used for people of other races in the case whereby the other party can’t understand English. As for Chinese, they always use Mandarin to communicate with other Chinese wherever they are. They always value their mother tongue so much. But when an Chinese talks with an Indian or Malay, the preferred language usually is Bahasa Malaysia. This is because they feel people understand more of their Bahasa Malaysia compared to English because of their slangs. For Malays, they usually talks in Bahasa Malaysia in an informal situation. The frequency of them talking in English with people of other races usually happens whereby the opposite side people don’t understand Bahasa Malaysia. This usually rarely happens and only happens during any business meeting.
There are some hiccups in our Malaysian Intercultural communication. The major setback in our Malaysian Intercultural communication is that the Malaysians are very indirect. They are polite and often indirect, with care being taken not cause another person to “lose face”, by humiliating or embarrassing them. Malaysians try to avoid outright refusals or criticisms in order to maintain harmony. For foreigners, they can’t really understand what is the meaning behind their indirectness and they might assume the meaning wrongly. To avoid this, they should ask assistance from any locals to know what they really mean. They are also very reserved type. Some Malaysians also judge other races based on the stereotypes for each races. They make false assumptions about that person until they know him personally. Malaysians also tend to lump people into a category and this might lead to misconception. Malaysians also pick the people they choose to be polite to, as opposed to Europeans, who pick the people they choose to be rude to. So, they don’t give face to everybody and sometimes will behave rude. This problem can be solved by teaching all citizens with cultural differences and make intercultural communication as one of the subject in schools. This will help the young generation to appreciate the differences and practices of other religion.
Personally, I believe in 1 Malaysia ideology which was coined by our current prime minister, Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak. The ultimate goal of this cncept is the national unity. In other words, 1Malaysia is a concept to foster unity amongst the multi-ethnic citizens of Malaysia, substantiated by key values that every Malaysian should observe. The approach is not independent of the Government’s policies thus far; instead it complements them to further reinforce our solidarity in order to guarantee stability towards achieving higher growth and development for Malaysia and the people. This means that 1Malaysia is a formula conceptualized as a precondition in ensuring the aspirations of the country to secure a developed status by 2020 are met, if it is inculcated in the minds of the citizens and practiced by the entire community. This definition is built upon the argument that in order achieve the status of a developed nation in the predetermined time frame, the key requisite is a strong and stable country, which can only be achieved when its people stand united. As for me, I feel that 1 Malaysia concept requires both the government and its citizens to move towards the same direction in order to achieve its goals. A change can only happen if there is a change within us as citizens. Where there is a common purpose or vision, it is heartening to see Malaysian united.
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