OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Cultural Barriers to Effective Communication

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Effective communication with people of different cultures is especially challenging. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking--ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting the world. Thus the same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the "same" language. When the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases.

Stella Ting-Toomey describes three ways in which culture interferes with effective cross-cultural understanding. First is what she calls "cognitive constraints." These are the frames of reference or world views that provide a backdrop that all new information is compared to or inserted into.

Second are "behavior constraints." Each culture has its own rules about proper behavior which affect verbal and nonverbal communication. Whether one looks the other person in the eye-or not; whether one says what one means overtly or talks around the issue; how close the people stand to each other when they are talking--all of these and many more are rules of politeness which differ from culture to culture.

Ting-Toomey's third factor is "emotional constraints." Different cultures regulate the display of emotion differently. Some cultures get very emotional when they are debating an issue.  They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the "rational" or factual aspects of the situation.

All of these differences tend to lead to communication problems. If the people involved are not aware of the potential for such problems, they are even more likely to fall victim to them, although it takes more than awareness to overcome these problems and communicate effectively across cultures.


Links to Examples of this Problem:

Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy
Cohen examines the effects of cultural differences on international negotiations and diplomacy.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (U.S. - India Diplomacy)
This essay (the three that follow) gives an example of the ideas Cohen discussed in the earlier article.
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (Cultural Differences)
(see Cohen, above)
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The 1971 U.S. - Japan Monetary Crisis)
(see Cohen, above)
Raymond Cohen--Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy (The Astoria Affair)
(see Cohen, above)
A Beginner's Guide to International Business Negotiation
This is a discussion of the cultural impact in a very different setting--international business negotiations.
Rethinking the Culture-Negotiation Link
This article reviews four different approaches to understanding the impact of culture on negotiation.
Managing Communication
This short piece illustrates that culture is a broader concept than nationality, language, or ethnicity-it can also refer to  professional roles which make people see the world differently from others.
**TOUR (Try 1st)** Andrea Williams - Resolving Conflict in a Multicultural Environment
This is an article which illustrates the way in which cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings.
Roger Fischer, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Schneider - Explore Partisan Perceptions
This is a short but effective illustration of how people with different pre-dispositions can be   unaware of the possibility that others might see the same situation differently.
John Paul Lederach -- Building Peace, Introduction and Framework
This book, by an expert in cross-cultural issues discusses the interplay between culture and conflict.
Letty Cottin Pogrebin -- The Same and Different: Crossing Boundaries of Color, Culture, Sexual Preference, Disability and Age
This article explores the problems of and the adjustments that are required to forge cross-cultural friendships.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

**TOUR (Try 2nd)** Cross-Cultural Communication Strategies


Dialogic Listening

Active Listening



Links to Related Problems:

Failure to Understand an Opponent's Perspective

Language Differences

**TOUR (Try 3rd) **   Differences in Values

Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu