The twenty-first century world is increasingly global, and the ability to deal effectively with others who are culturally different has become a daily necessity. We may not travel the globe, but the world has come to us. Daily we have to deal with international issues and with people from other countries and cultures.
Despite rapid modernization, culture is slow to change. For the foreseeable future, cultural differences will remain a key factor in interpersonal interactions.
In order to get a sense of your current level of cultural intelligence, ask yourself how well the following statements describe you: (write YES or NO after each statement)
I am aware there are different cultures in the world.
I can give examples of these differences from my personal experience, reading, and so on.
I enjoy talking with people from different cultures.
I have the ability to accurately understand the feelings of people from other cultures.
I sometimes try to understand people from another culture by imagining how something looks from their perspective.
I can change my behaviour to suit different cultural situations and people.
I am aware of the cultural knowledge I use when interacting with someone from another culture.
I think a lot about the influence that culture has on my behaviour and that of others who are culturally different.
I am aware that I need to plan my course of action when in different cultural situations and with culturally different people.
The more these statements describe you, the higher your level of cultural intelligence is likely to be.
In addition to educating yourself on other people’s cultures you can also master the three components of Cultural Intelligence:
Use your head to observe and learn about others. Look for clues to a culture’s shared understandings. The culturally intelligent person has knowledge of culture and of the fundamental principles of cross-cultural interactions. This means knowing what culture is, how cultures vary, and how culture affects behaviour. For example, suppose you are about to take part in a series of meetings with a group from another country. During your early encounters with members of the group, observe their use of language, gestures, etc.
Use your body to emulate others. Seventy percent of communication is through body language. Practice mirroring the customs and gestures of people from other cultures. Practice mindfulness by paying attention in reflective and creative ways to cues in cross-cultural situations. For example, do they greet each other with handshakes or with a kiss to both cheeks? Do men never shake women’s hands and vice versa? While chatting, are they close up and personal or do they stand several feet apart?
Use your heart to believe you can learn about others. Embrace the notion that you are capable of understanding people from other cultures. In the face of obstacles, setbacks, or outright failure, strive with even greater vigor to familiarize yourself with others’ cultures, and follow their norms when you’re in their territory. Develop cross-cultural skills to become competent in a wide range of situations.