The objective of communication is to transfer information from person to person.
Unfortunately, miscommunication can occur due to differences in environments, cultures, and
experiences. LaRay M. Barna developed a list of six barriers which focus on ways to recognize
and avoid breakdowns in communication. Assuming similarity instead of difference is one of six
barriers developed and refers to a person assuming their culture is similar to any other culture,
resulting in miscommunication.
While people realize very quickly a difference in verbal language among different
cultures, they don’t always think about things such as nonverbal symbols, signs, or signals. It’s
easy for a person to hear someone speak a different language and know immediately there may
be a communication barrier, but not so easy to recognize why a person may act or react to non
verbal communication. A person’s cultural upbringing determines how an emotion will be
displayed or suppressed, as well as which moments they will react to and to what degree a
reaction will be.
In this paper I interviewed two friends, Mazin, from Iraq, and Tami, from the United
States. They have been dating for the past two and a half years and have examples of how
assuming similarities instead of differences have shown up in their lives and relationship.
Mazin moved to the United States from Iraq when he was 29 years old. He has lived in
the United States for 5 years and told me how the internet formed his assumptions of what living
in the United States would be like. Based on what he saw on television and on the internet he
assumed everyone in the United States was rich, took lots of vacations, and didn’t have to work
very hard. He thought everyone lived like the Kardashians. Five years later, he is still confused
by the American work ethic. Once again he assumed working in the United States would be
similar to working in Iraq. What he found are very few job opportunities for international
citizens outside of working in a warehouse. He thought he would be able to open up a small
market like the one he owned in Iraq. He also said he had a lot more freedom from his job in Iraq
then he does in the United States and feels he has no personal time for himself because he works
6 days a week, 10 hours a day. He says if he were back in Iraq he would be out with friends
every night enjoying life like he thought everyone in the United States was doing.
Language was barrier Mazin and Tami had to overcome in the beginning. When they first
met, Mazin didn’t speak a lot of English and often had a difficult time explaining what he meant.
Tami would ask Mazin how long he would be gone when he left to go to the gym. He would
always tell her “two hours half”. While she knew he meant two and a half hours, she would tell
him the English translation was actually “he would be at the gym for one hour” based on how he
said it. Mazin was eager to learn, so once she explained the problem, he worked on fixing it.