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Intercultural Communication Competence: A Waikato Management School Case Study

In New Zealand, as in our globalized world, diverse cultures are in closer contact than ever before and the ability to communicate across this cultural diversity, to build relationships and to achieve shared goals, is becoming a necessity. Yet the presence of cultural diversity does not automatically lead to competent intercultural communication. What does it mean to be effective and appropriate in culturally diverse local and global contexts and what are the opportunities and challenges for developing intercultural communication competence? These are the questions motivating this study which develops a contextualised theory and perspective about intercultural communication competence by using a Waikato Management School (WMS) case study. It also has a broader focus and interest by exploring a relational theory of intercultural communication competence in an Aotearoa New Zealand context. The case study involves 19 interview participants; 10 students, 6 alumni and 3 academic staff representing a cross section of departments within the Waikato Management School. Bias toward native English language speakers and those from western culture has regularly occurred in previous research therefore this study intentionally includes those who speak languages other than English (14 out of 19 participants) with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and experiences. Key findings of the research show that being effective and appropriate in culturally diverse local and global contexts is demonstrated by cultural humility, reflected in progressively deeper attitudes from openness and awareness, through to respect, empathy and ultimately friendship. Cultural knowledge, including knowledge of cultural values, beliefs and practices, and knowledge of cultural communication differences in order to deal with offense are also identified as integral. Intercultural experience gained through engaging in intercultural situations either in New Zealand or overseas is part of what it means to have intercultural communication competence. Language proficiency, both language specific to the intercultural situation and more generally learning of any language in order to develop intercultural communication competence is a necessity. Findings show that developing cultural communication skill and understanding is a high priority. Some believe the dominant focus should be on Māori culture, others feel the dominant focus should be cultures in close proximity to New Zealand such as Pacific and Asian culture. Historical tensions which give rise to negativity around learning Māori worldviews and ways are observed as are the importance of reflecting on self and in particular to become aware of one’s own white privilege. Ignorance and stereotyping are identified as significant barriers to intercultural communication competence. Part of overcoming stereotypes is by improving knowledge. Findings also show that it is highly important to develop positive cultural interaction by removing segregation and enhancing community. Willingness to interact and ongoing English language development for non-native English language speakers is also vital so that positive intercultural interaction can occur. The research has practical applications and recommendations for WMS strategic planning regarding the development of graduates who are competent in culturally diverse local and global contexts. It also develops a Meaningful Intercultural Relations (MIR) model which extends previous models by identifying special cultural knowledge necessary given the specific New Zealand context. It also makes a contribution to theory by centralising meaningful intercultural relations as an integral dimension of each of the four contributors to intercultural communication competence: cultural humility, intercultural experience, cultural knowledge and language proficiency. It is also outlined as an integral dimension of each of the four inhibitors of competence: lack of willingness/segregation, stereotyping, white privilege/offense taken and received, and language inadequacy.
Type of thesis
Perry, A. K. (2016). Intercultural Communication Competence: A Waikato Management School Case Study (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10636
University of Waikato
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