There are many different facets to effective communication, and effectively communicating is often considered a great asset for businesspeople. Communicating effectively across barriers like culture, language, race, or political affiliation is something that takes diplomacy, empathy, and intelligence. There are many different theories regarding effective communication, particularly regarding intercultural communication; intercultural communication is particularly difficult because the way in which certain situations should be handled are unique to the cultures that are interacting. Even interacting and communicating effectively across subcultures within one particular culture can be incredibly difficult.
What does this mean for individuals who are attempting to communicate across difficult cultural or ethical boundaries? It means that these individuals much be well-versed in both speaking clearly and listening well (“Communication Problems”). An individual who speaks clearly but does not listen well will run into problems nearly as readily as an individual who cannot speak coherently and concisely.
There are many examples of communication conflicts in mainstream American media today. Mainstream media often makes a point to showcase debate on various topics, boosting ratings by highlighting the divisiveness of a particular issue. Nowhere is this divisiveness as pronounced as in the debates that exist between Democrats and Republicans, particularly in election years.
Democrats and Republicans are the cats and dogs of the American political system. They are often portrayed as polar opposites by the media, leading to a variety of issues and breakdowns in communication. During the recent 2012 presidential election, the election and the debate was framed less in terms of who the candidates were, and their personal beliefs, and more in terms of what party each candidate belonged to and what that would mean for the country.
Although the republican candidate Mitt Romney was more conservative than the incumbent, Barack Obama, both have political views centrist enough to appeal generally to the masses ("Democrat vs Republican - Difference and Comparison”). There are exceptions to this general statement-- particularly Romney’s stance on abortion and gay marriage, both of which are generally supported by the public but not by Romney-- but the majority of his ideas were mainstream and centrist. However, the media still chose to portray Romney as a very conservative candidate, while Obama was portrayed as a very liberal one.
Obama’s time in office has not been spent enacting particularly liberal policies, however-- he has maintained a centrist approach to politics and policy. The important distinction here is that politicians, particularly federally-elected politicians, do not make radical policy changes because they fear alienating the centrists. However, the media still portrays Democrats and Republicans as two sides of a political coin ("Democrat vs Republican - Difference and Comparison”).
One of the biggest problems that this breakdown in communication causes is a legislative standstill in the American Congress (“Democrat vs Republican- Difference and Comparison”). Democrats and Republicans within the American legislative branch sometimes have difficulty cooperating on different policy issues because they see the other side of the debate as an enemy rather than someone to cooperate with. An ideal example of this type of breakdown in communication is the fact that Republicans in the House and Senate have done as much as possible to block President Obama’s proposed legislation, even if that legislation is by and large supported by their constituency (“Democrat vs Republican- Difference and Comparison”).
Of course, the reality of policymaking is much more complex than the mere dichotomy between Democrats and Republicans, or conservatives and liberals; however, the breakdown in communication and the active denial of common ground makes it much more complicated and difficult for the two groups to interact effectively. Instead of framing political issues with “Democrat” points-of-view and “Republican” points-of-view, it would be more efficient and more intellectually honest to provide policymakers with the relevant information and allow them to make decisions based off the information, without excessive pressure from interest groups or outside sources.
Another common issue arises in the American public sphere when atheists and fundamentalist Christians begin to discuss hot button issues. John Draper writes, “If you look at how these people interact with each other and the world, it becomes clear that the volatile factor that leads to violence is the Fundamentalism, whether it be religious or atheist. Looking from another viewpoint, it's not Religion or ideology or beliefs that cause wars, torture and terror - it's a personality or way of viewing the world - or if you like, their beliefs of how they should interact with others” (Draper). This discussion will revolve around fundamentalists and their interaction with non-religious or only marginally religious individuals; it is not meant to define all religious individuals or Christians as a group.
This problem that often arises when non-religious individuals interact and communicate with fundamentalists is the issue of differing personal ethics. When two groups have completely different personal ethics, communication can be incredibly difficult if both sides refuse to recognize and respect the other’s opinion and personal morality (Draper). These conflicts can be seen in the issue of abortion, for instance; fundamentalist Christians often believe that abortion is murder, while others believe that it is a woman’s right to choose (Draper). Instead of communicating effectively, fundamentalists often use inflammatory language and images to attempt to communicate their point to their opposition; instead of being an effective way of communicating, however, this just serves to further isolate the two groups and breaks down the communication between them.
As stated previously, good communication comes from listening as well as speaking. Communication becomes increasingly difficult when one group goes on the attack; when a group or individual feels threatened or feels as though their morality is being questioned, they will often shut down and become unwilling to communicate or work with the group that is acting in the inflammatory way.
Conservative media personalities and Hispanic-rights advocates are having similar problems in many of the United States’ border states in recent years. Arizona, for instance, has passed a few pieces of legislation that are aimed at illegal immigrants, usually of hispanic origin. These pieces of legislation are designed to keep illegal immigrants out, but they have had the secondary consequence of allowing officials to racially profile individuals based upon their race (Draper).
Conservative media personalities have some legitimate concerns regarding illegal immigration and the problems that it can cause in border states, but alienating an entire racial group is an ineffective and irresponsible way to go about dealing with the issue. Instead of working with advocacy groups to find long-term solutions to illegal immigration and the problems that it causes, these media personalities are causing more divisiveness regarding the issue.
Media personalities in particular are concerned with ratings, and divisiveness and drama increase a station’s ratings. No one should expect a particularly balanced discussion from media personalities, but balanced discussion and open communication should be demanded from people like policymakers and politicians. These individuals should be expected to rise above such petty tactics as ad hominem attacks and refusals to cooperate.
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