March 15, 2020
Let’s Rethink How We Engage Interculturally
Our world is becoming increasingly more global; our businesses, educational institutions, hospitals and cities are drawing people and talent from all over the world. We meet people from all over the world and eat food from all over the world. We’re exposed to music and art from all over the world and we connect online with people from all over the world.
In the past we connected with each other because of geography (I visit ‘them’ or ‘they’ move into my neighborhood). These days, technology connects us. I can buy a plane ticket today in Dubai and be in Dallas tomorrow morning. I can host video conferences with people on every continent. At KnowledgeWorkx we have 550+ ICI practitioners in 70+ countries and we could have a meeting with them any day of the week.
In life we meet these incredibly interesting people with their own unique stories – people who often have global and interculturally colorful stories.
But by and large, humanity still insists that culture is first and foremost something that starts with nationality or with ethnic heritage. We still want to treat culture by starting with the question, “Where are you from?” or “Where is your family originally from?” – as if those questions settle the issues of culture, as if that gives me enough information about you so that I can put you in a convenient cultural box. How delusional we are. How much of their story do we overlook when we put people in a box like that!
I believe there is a richer way to connect with each other, a more beautiful way to deeply and meaningfully build relationships in our global and interculturally complex world.
For that we need to elevate our thinking and equip ourselves to explore the beauty of each person’s unique cultural story and wiring; I call it “Self-Cultural Analysis.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you can, on the fly, figure out the unique cultural wiring of the person in front of you. And once you do, be able to utilize that understanding to build bridges of trust and respect. It creates a whole different conversation around who we are as cultural beings. It allows us to show deep, meaningful and pragmatically important interest in one another.
It is beautiful to use self-cultural analysis in intercultural relationships with loved ones, with our kids who grow up in a different world than our own (Third Culture Kids), to create unique memories while on holiday in far away places, build bridges with our neighbors and the supermarket owner around the corner.
But self-cultural analysis can also be pragmatically powerful in relationships with colleagues at work, in customer engagement and in developing team and organizational cultures. It allows me to connect your unique cultural wiring to my unique cultural wiring. This creates a new playing field where I can build a more beneficial relationship, sell product, resolve conflict faster, develop a high-performing intercultural team and equip myself to be a better leader who is interculturally smart and agile.
I personally have been on this journey for 27 years. The first few years, I was ill-informed, a bit arrogant and blind to the cultural nuances of what was happening around me. The last 20 years my clarity has grown, my successful moments in relationships have mostly outweighed my failures. The pure joy of engaging deeply and meaningfully with people from all over the globe is like a drug; and I don’t mind admitting, “I am addicted!” At the same time I am more than ever aware of the vast amount of learning I still need to do.
What a feast, what beauty in this never-ending journey of learning and discovering how to connect my cultural story and wiring to your cultural story and wiring!
I truly know and believe that this will make the world a better place – one relationship at a time.
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