Gettin' good players is easy. Gettin' 'em to play together is the hard part~ Casey Stengel

Monday, February 1, 2010

Observation of team behavior: intercultural and interpersonal communication

In the recent weeks, there has been an ongoing “Allah” dispute in Malaysia which I believe many of you are well-aware of. It was mainly due to a court verdict that allowed non-Muslims to use "Allah" as a translation for "God" in the Malay language which has led to violent exchanges mainly between the Christians and Muslim.

The scenario above is a distinct example of conflict arising from the difference in beliefs of two different sub-cultures as well as lack of interpersonal and intercultural communication in resolving the issue at hand. However, I felt that this conflict could have been resolved or even avoided if both sides had adopted a cultural relativism approach instead of ethnocentrism towards the issue .

If we were to place the crux of the above problem in the context of a team with members from various cultural backgrounds, I believed that possessing intercultural communication skills is the key to success in a team. This is because different cultures may have contrasting beliefs and perspective pertaining to different issues which may lead to a clash of ideas in a team and possibly evoke a conflict. However, if we are able to practice intercultural sensitivity and tolerance, we can then mediate any differences amicably that may prevent the team from functioning at its optimal level.

Personally, I have also committed a grave blunder recently by teasing my friend, calling her a “pig”. It was only then that I realized I had forgotten she was a Malay, but she was kind enough not to take it to heart. Upon reflection, I realized the importance of the need to be aware of certain taboos when we are communicating with people from a different cultural background and it is only when we develop intercultural and interpersonal skills can there be effective communication.



  1. Hi Roger,

    I believe the recent usage of the name "Allah" has created an uproar in Malaysia. Indeed it is extremely unpleasant that such things had to occur. Cultural or religious sensitivity is a prevalent issue in many countries and i believe from these issues many from the international community will be mindful about it.

    The words we used will during conversation has an impact on the individual hence we have to always be mindful about it.

    It's great that you raised both communication issues on a personal and regional level.


  2. Hi Roger,

    I agree with you that "cultural relativism" is a good way to prevent or resolve conflicts arising from intercultural issues.

    The McDonald's Doraemon toy incident illustrates the cultural tolerance displayed by the Muslim community in Singapore. While pig is a symbol of sin and sickness for Muslim, it is also one of the twelve animals that forms the Chinese zodiac. Hence, it is heartening to see that through this, we are one step closer towards achieving "cultural relativism".

    I look forward to your next post.

    Ying Cong

  3. Hey!

    Firstly it's nice that you have brought about the problems due to differences in culture, religion, etc both at a personal level and otherwise.

    I also believe that interpersonal and intercultural communication skills are the key to teamwork since it's not always possible that we end up among people belonging to the same culture.

    I feel that you are right to state that knowledge is key to communicate but personal feelings affect decisions and related arguments more. Looking at it from a different perspective, we cannot expect everyone to have knowledge of all cultural beliefs, but we can try to increase tolerance, which I feel is a more amicable solution in the present situation. The more we add value, probably by moral education, to a human from childhood, the more tolerant he/she becomes. Knowledge is secondary (to me) only because it is not easy to teach everyone everything.

    But I feel the overall approach and language is very appreciable...


  4. Hey roger!

    Nice post! I really liked how you narrowed your scope from a rather bigger issue. The examples you used were appropriate and well linked to our topic. I also feel that indeed this issue could have either been resolved quickly if everyone was sensitive to others' culture.

    Also,together with your examples you mentioned ways to help fix the problem of intercultural and interpersonal communication. Overall your post covered the topic given to us well.

    Lastly, I really loved the cartoon you used to illustrate your point. It was catchy, funny but also managed to put the message across!

    Great Job!


  5. Dear Roger

    A summation thanking the readers and a principle for us to remember?