Ethnocentrism is the tendency to evaluate the values, beliefs, and behaviors of your own culture as being more positive, logical, and natural than those of other cultures. Although normally thought of negatively, ethnocentrism has its positive aspects. For example, if a group is under attack, ethnocentrism will help create cohesiveness. It has also been argued that it forms the basis of patriotism and a willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of the group.
But ethnocentrism also can create obstacles to communication with those who are culturally different from you. It can also lead to hostility toward outside groups and may blind you to seeing other perspectives, other values, other ways of doing things.
Ethnocentrism exists on a continuum. People aren’t either ethnocentric or not ethnocentric; rather, most of us are somewhere between these polar opposites. Of course, your degree of ethnocentrism varies, depending on the group on which you focus. For example, if you’re Greek American, you may have a low degree of ethnocentrism when dealing with Italian Americans but a high degree when dealing with Turkish Americans or Japanese Americans. Most important to recognize is that your degree of ethnocentrism (and we are all ethnocentric to at least some degree) will influence your communication interactions.
There is no easy way or quick formula to reduce your ethnocentrism. Yet, a few suggestions may be in order:
• Learn about the other culture. The more you know about other cultures, the more likely you are to see value in other ways of doing things and in other beliefs. And, at the same time, the less likely you’ll be to think only of your own culture.
• Become mindful of your thinking whenever it concerns intercultural issues. Ask yourself if you’re being ethnocentric.
• Interact with members of other cultures while withholding evaluations.
• Talk with members of other cultures about their culture—simply as a way of understanding each other.