Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication in Conflict

Communication is an essential human practice that supports the sharing of ideas and information and resolution of conflicts. It can take place at the intrapersonal, intercultural, or interpersonal level. The purpose of this paper is to define interpersonal and intercultural communication, describe challenges associated with intercultural communication, and their influences on Emirati culture. It goes further to offer the unique differences between these cultures: American and Emirati.


One of the common forms of human interaction is that of interpersonal communication. Ackerman (2019) defines it as the process of exchanging information between two or more persons throughout the utilization of nonverbal or verbal cues. It usually takes place face-to-face and makes it possible for individuals to share their feelings, meanings, and ideas. The term “intercultural communication” is complex since it focuses on the nature of communication between individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds or races.

Intercultural Communication and Challenges

Intercultural communication is essential since it encourages human beings to interact, work in the same departments, and pursue common goals despite that they have diverse cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, the presence of diverse expectations, languages, cultural values, and behaviors increases chances of different challenges. Firstly, individuals from cultures that promote individualisms will find it hard to communicate effectively with those that pursue collective ideologies (Al Mazrouei & Pech, 2015). Secondly, anxiety remains a major challenge when two people from different cultural regions have to share ideas.

Thirdly, ethnocentrism remains a unique barrier whereby individuals from a specific cultural heritage might view others as inferior. A good example is when a typical citizen from Britain would feel uncomfortable when communicating with someone from Nigeria (Zhang, 2015). Fourthly, language barrier might affect the nature and effective of any communication between two people from different regions. A good example is that of a Chinese who is unable to interact and share ideas with someone from a Western country. Fifthly, cultural relativism is a unique barrier that emerges when two people from different regions try to engage in intercultural communication (Al Mazrouei & Pech, 2015). It refers to a scenario whereby those from a majority race ignore other people’s attributes and values.

Emirati Culture: Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication

Interpersonal and intercultural communication processes are essential since they empower employees and citizens from different regions to pursue their common aims. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), these practices tend to have significant implications on the established culture. For example, many emerging enterprises force workers to pursue the power of a static culture (Ackerman, 2019). This means that individuals should promote the concept of cultural relativism whereby they have to stick to their social positions.

When the nature of established Arab culture, many expatriates working for other companies or foreign employees tend to feel disengaged due to the established static culture. Consequently, the level of intercultural communication is affected accordingly. Interpersonal communication is pursued using nonverbal and verbal cues. For example, gestures and body movements are critical and resonate with the attributes of the UAE and the wider Arabian culture (Al Mazrouei & Pech, 2015). When these people are interacting with immigrants, the communication process might be affected significantly.

Emirati vs. American Culture

The American society supports a low-context culture while the Emirati one is high-context. This is the case since many Americans will engage in explicit or short communication sessions without even having adequate information about the other person. For the Emirati culture, people will take long before trusting others or establishing meaningful relationships (Martin & Nakayama, 2010). Consequently, many Americans will able to share ideas while Arabs from the UAE will not.

The Emirati culture is associated with the use of more nonverbal communication cues while Americans prefer verbal cues. Many American citizens promote individualistic ideas and are risk-takers. They pursue actions and aims that can be realized within the shortest time possible. For the Emirati culture, the concept of collectivism guides people to collaborate and work hard to prevent future challenges or risks (Martin & Nakayama, 2010). The level of intimacy in this culture is quite low and high for Americans.

Males and females from these two cultures will consider diverse ways to deal with possible conflicts. For example, Americans promote a practice whereby both genders confront issues and the best solutions. For the Emirati culture, females embrace the concept of avoidance. However, some males might be willing to promote negotiations to address them. According to the zones of communication, those from the American culture will be intimate and social when conversing with others. For Emiratis, individuals will be less intimate and prefer to communicate with others when in public areas. Americans pursue a horizontal managerial model in their families and companies (Martin & Nakayama, 2010). On the other hand, the Emirati culture promotes a vertical managerial model whereby those in power make decisions and provide guidelines.

The UAE has a class-based social system whereby people belong to different statues while America does not have such a model. Emirati men prefer wearing kandura while women embrace headscarf. Visitors should be responsible and promote the required etiquette. These aspects are not common in the American culture since people prefer casual clothes and suits (Sibani, 2018). Some Americans might see conflicts as destructive while people from the UAE might view them as new opportunities for transforming performance.

In the United States, key dialects do not influence communication unlike in the Emirati culture. Stereotypes are common in both cultures due to the presence of people with diverse backgrounds. Americans view role of power as an opportunity for being involved and pursuing team-based goals. In the Emirati culture, power is a source of direction and leadership. The four zones of communication describe the interpersonal distances between two people. In terms of the four zones of communication, American culture promotes intimate and personal space while UAE citizens consider social and public space (Zhang, 2015). These spaces are essential and will depend on the relationship between every two individuals.

Contextual symbolic patterns of meaning that involve emotions are widely used in the UAE. Nonverbal cues and specific words are used to invoke or suggest specific emotions. For example, hugs and shaking of hands are symbolic. In the West, these attributes do not have much meaning since verbal communication is taken seriously. When it comes to learned patterns of group-related perceptions, Americans do better in than their UAE counterparts (Zhang, 2015). This is the case since individuals in the U.S. will be willing to form teams with common values. The opposite is quite true for the Emirati culture. Using the subjective vs. objective model, people of the UAE tend to be subjective since their feelings inform various decisions. In America, ideas and resolutions are usually objective in nature.


The above discussion has identified interpersonal and intercultural communication as essential for both citizens and businesspeople. Some challenges might emerge when individuals with diverse backgrounds decide to engage in communication. Americans are usually individualistic and engage in social interactions while Emiratis are collective in nature, avoid being intimate, and embrace nonverbal communication cues.


Ackerman, C. E. (2019). Interpersonal effectiveness: 9 worksheets & examples (PDF document). Web.

Al Mazrouei, H., & Pech, R. (2015). Working in the UAE: Expatriate management experiences. IJBTS International Journal of Business Tourism and Applied Sciences, 3(1), 20-28.

Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2010). Intercultural communication in contexts (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Sibani, C. M. (2018). Impact of Western culture on traditional African society: Problems and prospects. International Journal of Religion and Human Relations, 10(1), 56-72.

Zhang, Y. (2015). Intercultural communication competence: Advising international students in a Texas community college. NACADA Journal, 35(2), 48-59.

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