I start many of my multicultural communication training programs with a brief activity called 60 Second Introductions. It’s very easy to do. I have all the participants pair up with someone they do not know or don’t know very well. I then give them 60 seconds to discuss their similarities (i.e., the things they have in common). After that, I give them another 60 seconds to identify their differences. After everyone returns to their seats, I pose a single question to the group: what did you learn? Almost universally, the response is “we had many more similarities than differences.” That’s true for most cross-cultural interactions. We tend to have far more similarities with culturally different persons than differences; however, we often focus on the differences and allow those differences to interfere with the relationship-building process. You can overcome this tendency by consciously seeking common ground between yourself and others. Always remember, no matter what the differences are, you will always have more similarities with your colleagues and co-workers. Focus on identifying these similarities and using them as a means to better understand your differences. Keep this in mind as you enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!
Next Post: January 13, 2016 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #6
The comfort zone. It’s the place we inhabit where we feel secure, relaxed and at ease. It’s a low-stress area where we find contentment because it consists of family, friends and other familiar faces. In cultural terms, the comfort zone is the place we find people we perceive to be most like us in terms of values, beliefs, customs and worldview. While the comfort zone is a nice place to be, it does not boost cultural competence. That’s because the comfort zone doesn’t offer differing viewpoints and perspectives. It doesn’t offer different ideas or solutions to problems. It doesn’t make us think outside the box. It doesn’t challenge us to consider the impact of our values, perspectives and behaviors or the notion that different people may see the world in diverse ways. If you want to increase your cultural competence and improve your ability to communicate across cultural differences, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. This is what allows us to better understand the values, beliefs and behaviors of people who are culturally different.
The simplest way to step outside of your comfort zone is to experience things culturally different people experience on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, I gave you some examples of how to do this, which include going to diverse places of worship, visiting different cultural events, going to various social activities, visiting different ethnic restaurants, talking to different people at work or doing anything else that puts you in direct proximity with people you don’t normally interact with. Actions like these will help take you out of your comfort zone and give you a better understanding of why culturally different people might think or act in certain ways.
Next Post: December 16, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #4
This might be the most difficult tip for human beings to follow when it comes to improving cross-cultural communication. That’s because it is natural to evaluate others. We do it all the time. For many of us, it’s our job to assess, evaluate and stand in judgment of others. For example, managers, supervisors, team leaders, teachers, doctors and coaches are constantly assessing the behavior and performance of others. However, while judging work, school or health-specific behavior may be useful, judging people based on differences is not and it can create many communication problems. Therefore, you should consciously strive to be non-judgmental, even when you disagree with the person or in situations where your values are different. One way to do this is to say to yourself, “There is always value in difference, even when I have to look hard to find it!”
Next Post: December 9, 2015 - The 7 Do’s of Multicultural Communication #4
Dr. Tyrone A. Holmes is an author, speaker, coach and consultant. He helps his clients develop the skills needed to communicate, resolve conflict, solve problems and improve performance in diverse organizational settings.