The 7 Don’ts of Multicultural Communication #3 – DON’T Assume a Culturally Different Person is an Expert about His or Her Cultural Group
A common mistake I have often observed in diverse work settings is asking a culturally different person to speak as a representative of his or her cultural group (especially if that person is a ‘minority’). It is usually done innocently yet still poses two problems. First, it puts the person on-the-spot, which may create a significant level of discomfort. This in turn, will diminish the effectiveness of the cross-cultural interaction. Second, it inaccurately assumes that one individual can speak for an entire group of people. Always remember, no one is a spokesperson for his or her cultural group. No matter how knowledgeable or well-spoken that person may be. It is fine to get to know more about your colleagues and this may entail learning about one’s cultural background; however, never assume a person can speak for anyone but him or herself.
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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.