The world is a big and small place, all at the same time. Beyond the geography, it is vast in diversity. The Internet and means of transport obliterated time and geographic divides. We now get to meet more people from places and cultures than generations before us. As a result, we’re all talking but don’t always understand each other. This makes creating understanding in diversity critical.
The world is more diverse now than before. Not because different cultures never existed, but because we interact more. This calls for cultural intelligence. You know, our awareness and sensitivities to other cultures. How we understand and negotiate interactions and understanding of each other.
We could be talking but not saying the same thing. Different gestures and expressions mean different things. Subtle nuances we may not be aware of have the potential of causing great offense and tension.
This collision of cultures demands we have a framework for conversation and interaction. Some tips and ideas for creating understanding in diversity:
Different is not bad; it is just different. We need to remember the diversity of the world. Not all people grow up the same or look at the world in the same way.
This can also apply even to people who come from the same cultures and locations. Keep in mind that not everyone will understand what you say and mean in the same way.
When you have understood something, ask. “What do you mean?” has saved me from embarrassment.
- “Did I say something offensive or inappropriate?” or “Did I say or do something I shouldn’t have?” These two questions have saved me from being misunderstood and damaging relationships.
- “I want to make sure I haven’t misunderstood you. From what you said, do you mean …?” and “May you please say that but in a different way?” These and other similar phrases have helped me build strong bridges.
Using questions and asking for feedback will protect you and others from misunderstandings.
When you interact with people from diverse cultures and worldviews, create a feedback loop to avoid misunderstandings, offense, and hostility.
Questions are good things; use them.
Deal With The Awkward
Prepare for awkward. It will happen at some point. When you interacting with someone, especially from a different culture, acknowledge. Create a framework for a pleasant and productive interaction.
Some useful things to say:
· Hey, where I come from people are weird. I will do my best to behave. Please let me know if I say or do something that might be offensive. Even close to offensive or inappropriate.
· We may misunderstand each other, so please feel free to ask questions.
· I want to make sure that we understand each other. Is it OK if I ask questions and give feedback to make sure we understand each other?
It’s never too late to say sorry. The moment you discover you’ve gone over a line or even skirted close to it, apologise. It is never too late to say sorry.
Take The Hit
In our selfishness, pride and self-centeredness can of hurt people in profound ways. People should always matter more than your culture. Be gracious when you deal with people from other cultures.
I’d rather err on the side of being gracious. Don’t we all want others to do the same for us. Giving grace is great foundation for also receiving it when we need it. Be prepared to be the first to be considerate.
Let’s not be too quick to judge or take offense. After all, making allowances is a cornerstone of building relationships.
Also, see these related posts:
Have you misunderstood or been misunderstood? What tips or ideas in creating understanding in diversity do you have? Please share your experiences or thoughts in the comments.