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.
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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.