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The central objective of public relations and communication is to promote relationships between different types of people, cultures and races. This relationship is sometimes elusive because of the differences in culture and origins. The fact that people serve both as an individual and a member of a group contributes to the differences by fostering individualism and collectivism. According to Martin and Nakayama, relationships should be put at the center of communication as opposed to promoting culture specifics in intercultural interactions (14). They state this because they are aware of the differences and problems that may arise as a result of focusing on the culture, individualistic or collectivistic aspects (Weaver and Bardhan 51). This essay will focus on the problems that result from individualism and collectivism.
One of the problems posed by the two cultures is the power distance struggle. Power distance refers to the situation when a less powerful member is expecting and accepting that power is distributed unequally (Nakayama 47). The collectivistic cultures value large power distances and the relationship between the power and the subject is very formal, whereas the opposite is true for individualism. The struggle arises when a minority rises to the helm of any institution or organization (Eccles para. 4). Individuals who focus on themselves may seem to be jealous of others because they focus on competing between self and others. They conflict a lot with others or their bosses because they are only concerned with saving their face. They are very ambitious and are ready to do everything possible to get to the top. On the other hand, people from collectivistic cultures mind the interests of a particular group and even speak in their mother-tongues to exclude others (Eccles para. 3).
The collectivistic culture tends to diminish a personal identity of an individual, because the individual is always thinking about the good of the community. Every individual is governed by the goals and views of the society and failure to follow that leads to exclusion from the community. This makes the individual advancement to be slow, almost to the point of stagnation. The individualistic culture, on the other hand, fosters a rapid advancement but retains a few ties with the society. The richer they become, the more they turn into being independent and thus, individualistic (Weaver and Bardhan 52).
Martin, for instance, presents a class incidence where the whites showed Indians as being primitive with broken English and long noses whooping around in circles. The bias is that Americans are very individualistic as compared to the Asians. They think that they retain the right to be viewed and characterized as individuals, while their view of Asians and other communities is marked with stereotypes. Collectivism makes one vulnerable to being stereotyped according to his/her culture (Cooks and Simpson 128).
The white students also pretend that the culture or color difference does not exist, thus denying the racial difference. This is mostly an individualistic view and it may foster conflict in the sense that fail to understand or appreciate the culture of others and think that all people around the world conform to the same cultures and practices (Cooks and Simpson 128).
The collectivistic culture creates a problem for the individuals practicing it in communication styles. This is because they cannot be able to explain clearly what they want or need. They have been brought up in collectivistic cultures for long so they have only learned to speak on behalf of the society. They might, therefore, seem not knowing what they want and are at risk of being labeled as people without a purpose. On the other hand, the problem fostered by individualism is the risk of being labeled as a self-centered person. This is because their sentences are characterized by such words as me, I and myself (Eccles para. 2).
The individualists have a monochromatic view of time. They perceive that time can be made, lost and wasted. It is important for the individualist to turn up for an interview or arrive at work on time. The collectivist view of time is polychromic, and they perceive that many things can be performed at the same time. This creates the problem of one culture working in the culture of the other. They find it hard to fit and one is labeled as a latecomer or a workaholic (Eccles para. 2).